Dallas Cowboys

5 Players Who Might Find Themselves on Dallas Cowboys Practice Squad in 2014

Jonathan BalesAnalyst IJune 30, 2014

5 Players Who Might Find Themselves on Dallas Cowboys Practice Squad in 2014

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    As the talent gap closes in the NFL, the value of practice squad players increases, so it’s more important than ever for the Dallas Cowboys to stash the right talent. While it’s inevitable that the majority of practice squad players won’t pan out, there’s always hope that one or two can mature and develop into something special.

    The Cowboys signed 24 undrafted free-agent rookies this year, so there are going to be a whole lot of practice squad candidates in 2014. Even if it seems trivial, it’s important for Dallas to identify the players who possess the most upside to make sure it can retain their rights moving forward.

    Here are five players who are likely practice squad candidates for Dallas.

Ben Malena, RB

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    Former Texas A&M running back Ben Malena is a 5’8”, 194-pounder with moderate 4.61 speed. Malena’s unimpressive 9’03” broad jump suggests he’s truly not an explosive player. In terms of making a long-term impact, there’s not much to get excited about here.

     

    Why Practice Squad

    The Cowboys clearly like something about Malena. With Joseph Randle’s roster spot not completely safe and the injury history of both DeMarco Murray and Ryan Williams, Dallas will probably want to retain depth at the position.

     

    How He’d Make Roster

    Malena isn’t going to make the Cowboys’ 53-man roster, especially after the team signed Williams. His only hope would be if Randle gets cut and someone ahead of him gets injured. But even then, his chances of sticking on the team are slim.

Chris Boyd, WR

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Former Vanderbilt wide receiver Chris Boyd probably would have gotten drafted if it weren’t for character concerns. He’s a 6’4”, 205-pound wide receiver who caught 13 touchdown passes in two seasons of college ball.

     

    Why Practice Squad

    Boyd will need to compete with fifth-round receiver Devin Street and fellow undrafted rookie L'Damian Washington for a roster spot. Normally, I’d like his chances of making the roster, but given the numbers, the practice squad could be the most likely landing spot.

     

    How He’d Make Roster

    Boyd’s future is in his own hands; if he’s impressive in training camp, the Cowboys probably won’t risk losing him by placing him on the practice squad, where another team can sign him. If Boyd severely outplays the other two rookie receivers, he has a very good chance to make the 53-man roster.

Jordan Najvar, TE

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Jordan Najvar is a big 6’6”, 260-pound tight end out of Baylor. He isn’t much of a receiving threat, catching 35 total passes in three collegiate seasons, and will act as a blocking tight end in the NFL.

     

    Why Practice Squad

    Najvar isn’t going to beat out either Gavin Escobar or James Hanna for a spot behind Jason Witten, so he’ll have to make the roster alongside them as a fourth tight end. That’s certainly a possibility, but he’ll also need to outplay the Cowboys' fullbacks too, as they could be competing for the same spot.

     

    How He’d Make Roster

    Najvar could make the roster by showing versatility. Namely, he needs to prove he can act not only as a tight end, but also as a lead-blocking fullback. If he can prove he can block from a variety of positions, he could be retained as a short-yardage specialist. There’s certainly a role for that type of player.

Dontavis Sapp, LB

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    L.G. Patterson/Associated Press

    Dontavis Sapp is a 6’4”, 234-pound linebacker out of Tennessee who had 108 career tackles. He didn’t come on until his senior season, when he recorded 66 tackles, eight of which were for a loss. Sapp ran a 4.70 in the 40-yard dash and jumped 30 inches in the vertical, according to NFL Draft Scout.

     

    Why Practice Squad

    Sapp is a practice squad candidate because of the competition ahead of him. Even after the Sean Lee injury, the Cowboys still have Bruce Carter, Kyle Wilber, DeVonte Holloman, Justin Durant, Anthony Hitchens, Cameron Lawrence, Orie Lemon, Will Smith and Joe Windsor at the linebacker position.

     

    How He’d Make Roster

    Given his lack of college production, lackluster measurables and the competition at linebacker, it seems unlikely that Sapp can make the roster this year. He’d need a heck of a training camp, along with a possible injury or two ahead of him.

Dustin Vaughan, QB

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    TIM SHARP/Associated Press

    Dustin Vaughan is a big 6’5”, 235-pound quarterback out of West Texas A&M. There are a few different reasons to be bearish on him. One is that, although non-BCS players typically offer value at most positions, it doesn’t seem to be true at quarterback; big-school quarterbacks have found the most NFL success.

    Second, Vaughan’s hands are incredibly small for his height at 8.9 inches. Hand size is incredibly important for quarterbacks; it helps them control the football and throw it accurately. In comparison, the average hand size for quarterbacks in the NFL is 9.6 inches.

     

    Why Practice Squad

    It doesn’t seem likely that Dallas will use a roster spot on Vaughan, even if Kyle Orton isn’t on the team. The Cowboys have historically retained just two quarterbacks, and Vaughan probably isn’t a popular candidate to be signed elsewhere.

     

    How He’d Make Roster

    Vaughan probably won’t make the roster, even if there’s an injury, as the Cowboys would probably just sign a veteran to fill in. The only way he’ll make it is if Dallas thinks he'll be signed by another team if he's placed on the practice squad.

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