Projected Dallas Cowboys' Final 53-Man Roster, Pre-Training Camp Edition

Jonathan Bales@thecowboystimesAnalyst IJuly 16, 2014

Projected Dallas Cowboys' Final 53-Man Roster, Pre-Training Camp Edition

0 of 11

    LM Otero/Associated Press

    Never before has projecting the Dallas Cowboys’ 53-man roster been such a difficult task. Outside of just a couple positions, we’re really not sure which direction the team will head in with their roster decisions. When adding up the “sure thing” players, one could argue that just under half of the 53-man roster is still up in the air at this point, which is pretty incredible.

    One of the unavoidable aspects of projecting a final roster is the “butterfly effect,” where each decision can have a number of consequences that greatly affect the overall roster. Keep an extra offensive lineman and that will affect the depth at another position, which could affect the decisions made at another, and another, and so on.

    With that said, here’s my best guess for what the Cowboys’ 53-man roster will look like come opening day.

Quarterback

1 of 11

    LM Otero/Associated Press

    1. Tony Romo

    2. Brandon Weeden

     

    The quarterback position isn’t really a difficult one to project anymore with the release of Kyle Orton, as reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter. Brandon Weeden will be Tony Romo’s backup, and it’s unlikely the Cowboys keep a third quarterback on the team.

    If they do, the choice would be between Caleb Hanie and undrafted free-agent Dustin Vaughan. The latter option is a practice squad candidate, and it’s improbable Dallas will “waste” a roster spot on a third quarterback without a quality “Romo-esque” developmental project on the team.

Running Back

2 of 11

    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    1. DeMarco Murray

    2. Lance Dunbar

    3. Ryan Williams

    4. J.C. Copeland (FB)

     

    At tailback, the Cowboys’ big decision will come down to Ryan Williams versus Joseph Randle. That choice could be made for the team based on Williams’ health, but if he doesn’t get injured during camp, I expect him to beat out the Cowboys’ second-year back.

    The Cowboys will also need to decide whether or not they want to keep a fullback. I think they’ll retain one for short-yardage blocking purposes, and it seems like rookie J.C. Copeland will overtake Tyler Clutts for that spot.

Wide Receiver

3 of 11

    Tim Sharp/Associated Press

    1. Dez Bryant

    2. Terrance Williams

    3. Cole Beasley

    4. Devin Street

    5. Dwayne Harris

    6. Chris Boyd

     

    I’ve gone back and forth at the wide receiver position because, if they can somehow justify it from a special teams standpoint, I think there’s an outside chance the Cowboys keep seven receivers. That would be unprecedented, but it makes sense if viewing multiple players as special teams guys with wide receiver upside. If that’s the case, L’Damian Washington would be added to this list.

    The top five players are probably locks—Devin Street because of his draft slot and Dwayne Harris because of his return ability—so the sixth spot will likely come down to Washington versus Chris Boyd. I like Boyd to win that battle because of greater size and a higher ceiling as a scorer.

Tight End

4 of 11

    Tim Sharp/Associated Press

    1. Jason Witten

    2. Gavin Escobar

    3. James Hanna

     

    The tight end position is pretty much set, although Dallas could keep four tight ends if they want to hold on to Jordan Najvar, an undrafted free agent who would be used as a blocker. Najvar might be fighting with the fullbacks on the team for a roster spot, though, so I’m guessing both he and Copeland can’t make the team together.

    It’s also theoretically possible that Dallas might cut James Hanna, although they typically want to use more tight end-heavy sets entering each season. Hanna is a weapon they haven’t yet utilized.

Offensive Line

5 of 11

    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    1. Tyron Smith (LT)

    2. Ronald Leary (LG)

    3. Travis Frederick (C)

    4. Zack Martin (RG)

    5. Doug Free (RT)

    6. Mackenzy Bernadeau (LG)

    7. Darrion Weems (OT)

    8. Uche Nwaneri (OG)

     

    Things are going to get interesting along the Cowboys’ offensive line, not just in terms of whom they keep, but how many total players. A lot of the team’s interior linemen, especially, can play multiple positions. Rookie Zack Martin could theoretically play anywhere along the line, for example, which limits the need for depth elsewhere.

    I could see the team keeping just seven offensive linemen without much trouble. In reality, the roster spots for Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, and (probably) Doug Free are the only ones that are guaranteed.

Defensive Line

6 of 11

    LM Otero/Associated Press

    1. George Selvie (DE)

    2. DeMarcus Lawrence (DE)

    3. Henry Melton (DT)

    4. Terrell McClain (DT)

    5. Tyrone Crawford (DT/DE)

    6. Jeremy Mincey (DE)

    7. Ben Gardner (DE)

    8. Ben Bass (DT)

    9. Davon Coleman (DT)

    10. Martez Wilson (DE)

     

    The big missing name on this list is defensive end Anthony Spencer, who could still begin the season on PUP, according to Rainer Sabin of The Dallas Morning News. If Spencer is out, I think the Cowboys will try to compensate with depth along the line. Ten total linemen is a lot to keep, but the Cowboys have so many question marks at each spot that it makes sense.

    Note that veteran defensive tackle Nick Hayden isn’t making the team in this scenario. With Henry Melton and Terrell McClain likely starting inside, it doesn’t make sense to keep a backup with limited upside when so many other high-ceiling players are in the mix.

Linebacker

7 of 11

    LM Otero/Associated Press

    1. Bruce Carter

    2. Justin Durant

    3. Kyle Wilber

    4. DeVonte Holloman

    5. Anthony Hitchens

    6. Rolando McClain

     

    The addition of Rolando McClain really opens things up at the linebacker spot. I think the top five names on this list are all at least near locks to make the team, but McClain’s presence would probably steal a roster spot from someone like rookie Will Smith.

    Both Cameron Lawrence and Dontavis Sapp are other names to consider, and their chances of making the team will skyrocket if the Cowboys keep seven linebackers, which is certainly possible.

Cornerback

8 of 11

    Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    1. Brandon Carr

    2. Orlando Scandrick

    3. Morris Claiborne

    4. Sterling Moore

    5. Terrance Mitchell

     

    The Cowboys are a lot weaker at cornerback than people think. Brandon Carr should bounce back, at least partially, but Orlando Scandrick probably overachieved last year, and there’s good reason to think that the 5’11”, 190-pound Morris Claiborne won’t ever achieve greatness.

    Dallas will likely retain Sterling Moore as their dime cornerback, with the fifth spot—if they keep five cornerbacks—coming down to rookie Terrance Mitchell and second-year man B.W. Webb. I’m giving Mitchell the nod due to youth and no NFL experience, which probably helps him in this situation.

Safety

9 of 11

    Evan Vucci/Associated Press

    1. Barry Church

    2. J.J. Wilcox

    3. Jakar Hamilton

    4. Matt Johnson

    5. Ahmad Dixon

    6. Jeff Heath

     

    This is another situation where the Cowboys could try to counteract a lack of elite talent with depth. Only Barry Church is a surefire starter, with everyone else on the roster at the safety position a legitimate candidate to get playing time alongside him.

    Matt Johnson is the player who interests me the most, and I think he’s a sure thing to make the team if he stays healthy. There’s a decent chance that he won’t be able to stay on the field, though.

    Jeff Heath’s presence here is due solely to his physical measurables. He’ll need to prove he has the upside to stick around after struggling mightily in 2013.

Specialists

10 of 11

    LM Otero/Associated Press

    1. Dan Bailey (K)

    2. Cody Mandell (P)

    3. L.P. Ladouceur (LS)

     

    Kicker Dan Bailey is a sure thing. Long snapper L.P. Lacouceur will need to compete with Casey Kreiter this year, although I don’t think the Cowboys will move away from someone who has been basically perfect at his job.

    Cody Mandell will battle with Chris Jones to be the Cowboys’ punter in 2014, and I expect the rookie out of Alabama to win.

Final Roster

11 of 11

    LM Otero/Associated Press

    QB

    1. Tony Romo

    2. Brandon Weeden

     

    RB/FB

    1. DeMarco Murray

    2. Lance Dunbar

    3. Ryan Williams

    4. J.C. Copeland (FB)

     

    WR

    1. Dez Bryant

    2. Terrance Williams

    3. Cole Beasley

    4. Devin Street

    5. Dwayne Harris

    6. Chris Boyd

     

    TE

    1. Jason Witten

    2. Gavin Escobar

    3. James Hanna

     

    OL

    1. Tyron Smith (LT)

    2. Ronald Leary (LG)

    3. Travis Frederick (C)

    4. Zack Martin (RG)

    5. Doug Free (RT)

    6. Mackenzy Bernadeau (LG)

    7. Darrion Weems (OT)

    8. Uche Nwaneri (OG)

     

    DL

    1. George Selvie (DE)

    2. DeMarcus Lawrence (DE)

    3. Henry Melton (DT)

    4. Terrell McClain (DT)

    5. Tyrone Crawford (DT/DE)

    6. Jeremy Mincey (DE)

    7. Ben Gardner (DE)

    8. Ben Bass (DT)

    9. Davon Coleman (DT)

    10. Martez Wilson (DE)

     

    LB

    1. Bruce Carter

    2. Justin Durant

    3. Kyle Wilber

    4. DeVonte Holloman

    5. Anthony Hitchens

    6. Rolando McClain

     

    CB

    1. Brandon Carr

    2. Orlando Scandrick

    3. Morris Claiborne

    4. Sterling Moore

    5. Terrance Mitchell

     

    S

    1. Barry Church

    2. J.J. Wilcox

    3. Jakar Hamilton

    4. Matt Johnson

    5. Ahmad Dixon

    6. Jeff Heath

     

    Specialists

    1. Dan Bailey (K)

    2. Cody Mandell (P)

    3. L.P. Ladouceur (LS)