Assessing Dallas Cowboys' Notable UDFAs' Chances of Making Final Roster
The Dallas Cowboys signed 24 undrafted free agents following the 2014 NFL draft, and due to the current construction of the team, a number of them have a decent chance of making the final 53-man roster.
One of the things the Cowboys do well with their undrafted free agents is to take chances. The cost to them is basically nothing—we aren’t dealing with first-round picks here—so there’s no reason to not seek out pure upside. That’s one of the reasons Dallas has hit on undrafted free agents like Tony Romo and Miles Austin in the past.
Examining the team’s undrafted signings, here’s a look at the chances of a few notables making the roster. The probabilities were determined using a subjective combination of player talent (through measurables and college production) and team needs.
L’Damian Washington, WR, Missouri
Now the bad: He’s light (just 198 pounds) and never really dominated in college. You also have to wonder about his explosiveness because, other than the 40-yard dash, his measurables are lackluster (such as a 32-inch vertical jump).
In Dallas, Washington’s biggest obstacle is that, in addition to the veteran wide receivers, he’s also going to need to compete with rookies Devin Street and Chris Boyd.
Probability of Making Roster: 20 percent
J.C. Copeland, FB, LSU
I had Copeland making the final roster in my initial 53-man projection because there isn’t much competition for him. He’ll basically just need to beat out Tyler Clutts, and those who study tape argue that Copeland is the superior blocker.
The Cowboys aren’t going to use a fullback a lot, and they really just need one for short-yardage situations. Actually, you could argue that Copeland’s main competition is himself since it’s very possible that the Cowboys don’t need a fullback at all.
Probability of Making Roster: 40 percent
Jordan Najvar, TE, Baylor
For Baylor tight end Jordan Najvar to make the roster, he’ll either need to beat out James Hanna or the Cowboys will need to keep a minimum of four tight ends. The latter scenario is pretty likely, given the team’s ongoing fascination with “12” personnel that they don’t really use all that much.
Najvar had only 35 career catches and four touchdowns at Baylor, according to Sports-Reference.com, so he’s basically a full-time blocker. The Cowboys could probably benefit more from just bringing another lineman on the field over Najvar, but he does offer a skill that the Cowboys’ other tight ends don’t possess in that he’s an elite blocker.
Probability of Making Roster: 70 percent
Chris Boyd, WR, Vanderbilt
Looking at the Cowboys’ three rookie receivers, Boyd is the most polarizing. He has good size and took 16.0 percent of his college catches for touchdowns, according to Sports-Reference.com, but he also ran a 4.73 in the 40-yard dash. The 40 isn’t terribly important for wide receivers, but you still need to cross a certain threshold of speed, and that isn’t it.
His lack of speed suggests Boyd 1) was either unhealthy when he ran or 2) could be limited as a red-zone specialist in the pros. Washington is the more interesting undrafted free agent, but I have a feeling the Cowboys like Boyd a bit more.
Probability of Making Roster: 25 percent
Cody Mandell, P, Alabama
If there’s a position that can come in as an undrafted free agent and immediately contribute, it’s punter. Mandell averaged 47.1 yards per punt last year at Alabama—more than Chris Jones’ average of 45.0 yards. There’s little downside to going with the younger leg.
Probability of Making Roster: 80 percent
Davon Coleman, DT, Arizona State
Coleman is in a good spot as an undrafted free agent given how thin the Cowboys are at defensive tackle. He’s a really interesting prospect because despite being only 6’1” with short 31.25-inch arms, Coleman was productive in college. In 2013, he recorded 8.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss at Arizona State, which is really good for a defensive tackle.
One of the main concerns is that if you’re going to gamble on a player with short arms, he should make up for it with elite quickness (such as Aaron Donald). Coleman doesn’t have that. Nonetheless, he was certainly worth the gamble as an undrafted free agent due to his college production.
Probability of Making Roster: 15 percent
Dustin Vaughan, QB, West Texas A&M
At 6’5” with 8.9-inch hands, Vaughan has one of the worst height-to-hand-size ratios I’ve ever seen. If you think that hand size is a minor thing, think again; hand size is one of the best predictors of success for quarterbacks.
The quarterbacks who have thrived despite hands below the league average in length (9.6 inches) have typically been mobile (Michael Vick, Aaron Rodgers and even Tony Romo to an extent). Vaughan has “very average mobility,” according to NFL.com, so I’m not sure the upside is really there. This isn’t a player who has a lengthy history of production at a major college, and quarterback is one of the only positions where BCS players continually outperform small-school prospects in the pros.
Probability of Making Roster: 5 percent
Combine stats courtesy of NFL.com.