5 Undrafted Cowboys Players Who Could Prove to Be Gems
This offseason the Dallas Cowboys signed 24 undrafted free agents (as compiled by SB Nation), and needless to say, the majority of them won’t make the team’s final roster. In the past the Cowboys have excelled in emphasizing the right sort of traits in undrafted free agents, and that has allowed them to land players like wide receiver Miles Austin and quarterback Tony Romo.
In the draft the ‘Boys seem to trust their scouts over combine measurables to such a strong degree that they’re basically looking for exceptions to the rule. Take Joseph Randle, for example. We know that running backs who are slower than 4.50 in the 40-yard dash have a really difficult time in the NFL. We also know that weight is a predictor of success for backs. Nonetheless, in 2013 the Cowboys drafted Randle—with his 198 pounds and 4.63 speed—because they thought they could find an exception to the rule. That’s one example among many.
But when it comes to undrafted free agents, the Cowboys' strategy completely flips.
The Cowboys again landed some undrafted free agents with big potential in 2014 because they emphasized measurables and other predictors of NFL success over “the eye test.” Here are the top five undrafted Cowboys who could prove to have huge upside.
WR Chris Boyd, Vanderbilt
When former Vanderbilt wide receiver Chris Boyd ran a 4.73 40-yard dash before the draft, his chances of getting selected took a tumble. Dallas took a chance on him as an undrafted free agent because, at 6’4”, 206 pounds, Boyd has good size.
Since Boyd didn’t perform other drills before the draft, we don’t know if his 40-yard dash time is completely representative of his explosiveness. If it is, he’s probably in trouble. If not, he can certainly help the Cowboys, particularly in the red zone.
WR L'Damian Washington, Missouri
The problem is that Washington weighs only 198 pounds, and, as explained by Jonathan Bales of Rotoworld, weight is more strongly correlated to wide receiver success than height. If Washington can add some bulk—something that seems very possible given his lanky frame—he should be in a better spot.
Even so, he’s my favorite of the Cowboys’ rookie receivers because he has the greatest upside. He’s a poor man’s Terrance Williams.
FB J.C. Copeland, LSU
The Cowboys signed former LSU fullback J.C. Copeland for one reason and one reason only: to knock defenders back in short-yardage situations. It’s a limited role, but if Copeland can prove to do it effectively, he could earn a roster spot.
Chances are that Copeland will actually be competing with a tight end for a spot on the Cowboys. His biggest competition might actually be fellow undrafted free agent Jordan Najvar, a blocking tight end. Because of the limited skill set of each player, the decision should be fairly easy for Dallas: Who is most dominant in the running game as a lead blocker?
Though Copeland won’t get many snaps even if he does make the roster, his role—no matter who fills it—is an important one for Dallas to keep drives moving and convert red zone trips into scores.
P Cody Mandell, Alabama
The player on this list with the best chance to make the roster could actually be punter Cody Mandell. The former Alabama standout averaged 47.1 yards per punt in 2013—more than Chris Jones’ average of 45.0 yards (and net of 39.1) for Dallas.
Given the difference in age (Mandell is two years younger than Jones), it only makes sense for the Cowboys to retain the younger player who seems to have a stronger leg as well.
TE Evan Wilson, Illinois
Undrafted tight end Jordan Najvar has gotten more attention, but it’s former Illinois tight Evan Wilson who has the most potential. Wilson didn’t catch a lot of passes in college—just 27 during his career—but he made the most of them. Wilson scored eight times on those receptions, a rate of 29.6 percent.
At 6’6”, 253 pounds, Wilson has good length and could be yet another red zone threat at the tight end position for Dallas. The downside is that the Cowboys don’t properly utilize what they have now in Gavin Escobar and James Hanna, so Wilson will really need to impress to even make the roster.
Wilson has 4.85 speed and jumped 35.5 inches vertically, according to NFL Draft Scout, so there’s some explosiveness there.