Realistic Expectations for Every Dallas Cowboys Rookie
After the Cowboys' 2016 draft, it'll be hard for the 2017 draft class to even come close to its predecessor. But that doesn't mean the Cowboys are expecting a lot out of their new rookie class. While each player's expectation is different, the goal of the class is to contribute in some way this season.
But as we all know, where a player is selected determines their expectations not only for their rookie seasons, but also for their career.
While hope is high for every player at this time of year, here are some realistic expectations for every Dallas Cowboys rookie.
Any time a player is a first-round pick in Dallas, the expectations are always going to be a little higher among the fanbase.
In the case of 2017 first-round pick Taco Charlton, many are expecting him to come in and "fix" the Cowboys' pass rush or at least become the team's best edge rusher as a rookie. That is not fair to him nor the Cowboys. So what is fair and what should we expect from the 6'6", 270-pound pass rusher from Michigan?
Not as much as you would think.
However, it is fair to expect that Charlton will start in Week 1. Every single Cowboys' first-round pick from 2010 to 2016 has started on opening day for the team. But what position Charlton will start at is another story. Most likely it will be at right defensive end, but that could quickly change if Demarcus Lawrence is healthy or if the team feels that Charlton is a better fit at left defensive end.
As for his statistical expectations, four sacks would be where I would set the over/under for Charlton. Typically, rookies don't produce much in their first season, especially rookies who are drafted at the end of the first round. Where I do expect Charlton to perform better is against the run. His size and length should allow him to become a solid run defender right away.
While the Cowboys rotate their defensive linemen very frequently, it wouldn't be a shock if Charlton led the defensive ends in snaps in 2017. I expect Charlton to play early and often. However, I don't expect him to become a dominant edge rusher, but instead, another key cog in Rod Marinelli's group of "rushmen."
Second-round pick Chidobe Awuzie is in an interesting spot heading into his rookie season.
He's competing with third-round pick Jourdan Lewis to be the team's fourth cornerback on the depth chart. Meanwhile, veterans Orlando Scandrick, Nolan Carroll and Anthony Brown are all currently ahead of him as they head into the summer.
However, the Cowboys love to get their high draft picks on the field. So what will happen to Awuzie in his first season? Will he earn a role in a camp or will he be forced to sit and learn in his rookie year? My guess is that he finds the field sooner, rather than later.
Defensive backs coach Joe Baker said that Awuzie has been playing corner, nickel and dime for the team. Because of his versatility, Awuzie will find a spot on the field. He may start the year as the team's swiss-army knife of sorts. He may not be listed as a starter, but it's fair to expect him to play close to starter snaps.
People are going to compare Awuzie's rookie season to that of sixth-round pick Brown from 2016, but he's going to be asked to do a lot more than what Brown was asked. Expect Awuzie to play a variety of positions for the Cowboys in 2017, including some snaps at safety. He's going to be a solid player in his first season, just don't expect stardom. Not yet, at least.
The second defensive back that the Cowboys selected in the 2017 draft was cornerback Lewis out of Michigan.
The 21-year-old was primarily an outside cornerback in college, but that's not where he's likely to see most of his snaps as a rookie. Lewis' goal this season will be to challenge starter Scandrick for playing time in the slot. If he outplays Scandrick in camp and takes that job in his first year, he will exceed expectations for most.
Like Awuzie, I expect Lewis to be used all over the field as a rookie. Lewis will most likely open the season as the team's fifth cornerback, but he will see the field in some capacity. He's not likely to play major snaps or put up big stats in his rookie year, but it won't surprise me at all if he's the best rookie in this class from the first day of camp. He's got that much skill.
The expectation for Ryan Switzer heading into training camp is fairly clear. Fans expect him to be the next Cole Beasley. Whether it's fair or not, he's going to be compared to Beasley throughout training camp, the preseason and all during the regular season.
However, that doesn't mean he's going to replace Beasley on the field. Instead, I expect Switzer to be the team's primary punt returner and Beasley's backup. I do expect Switzer to see time on the field with Beasley, as well as out of the backfield as a running back. He could take over some of Lance Dunbar's snaps from 2016.
Don't expect Switzer to put up big numbers on offense in his rookie year. Instead, look for him to make a bigger impact on special teams. I expect him to play less than 100 snaps on offense during the year unless something were to happen to Beasley. Switzer will be one of the more fun players to watch during the preseason.
For a sixth-round pick, Xavier Woods' expectations may be the highest we've ever seen. A pre-draft love by many, including myself, Woods enters training camp as the team's fourth safety, behind Byron Jones, Jeff Heath and Kavon Frazier.
Woods is a versatile safety who can play all over the field, but far too many are expecting him to "save" the Cowboys' secondary as a rookie. I believe in time that Woods could challenge for a starting spot, but asking a sixth-round pick to start for the Cowboys would be quite a stretch.
Instead, Woods first needs to show that he's worth a roster spot and that he's good enough to be active on gameday. A realistic expectation for Woods is that he will compete with Frazier for the third safety spot during training camp and in the pre-season. If he can find the field at all on defense in his rookie year, that would be a major win for the Cowboys.
Woods is a talented player, but expecting him to contribute much in year one isn't wise. However, he should be able to find a role as a special team's player as well as depth in their secondary. He's one to keep an eye on during training camp.
Marquez White has been the forgotten man from the Cowboys' draft. After the team selected two corners in the second and third round, White just hasn't garnered the same hype as Awuzie and Lewis.
The most realistic expectation for White this season is that he competes with Leon McFadden to be the team's sixth cornerback. If the team decides to keep just five cornerbacks on the active roster, White will spend the season on the practice squad.
Long term, I think White could develop into a starting cornerback on the outside in a zone-heavy scheme, but he needs time to learn the Cowboys' defensive scheme and improve his overall quickness.
If White can show that he belongs in the NFL during the preseason and stays on the practice squad during his rookie season, consider that a win for the Cowboys this late in the draft.
Defensive tackle Joey Ivie was a Marinelli special in the seventh round, but that certainly doesn't mean he's a lock to make the roster. In fact, the odds are greatly stacked against him.
Ivie is best as a one-technique in a 4-3 defense, but Dallas already has two on the roster in Cedric Thornton and Stephen Paea. It's unlikely that they would keep a third or that Ivie would be able to beat out the two veterans.
Instead, Ivie will be competing for a spot on the team's practice squad. If he performs well enough in camp, Dallas could stash him for a year and then possibly move on from Thornton in the future.
I expect him to be a high-energy player in camp and give the second- and third-team offensive line problems. He's a player to keep an eye on in 2018 and beyond.
The Cowboys have a deep receiving unit, and the plan is to keep only five (as they've done for the past several years) heading into the season. For Noah Brown to make the roster, he would need to beat Brice Butler in training camp. While that's not impossible, it does seem unlikely for a seventh-round pick.
Instead, a more realistic expectation for Brown is that he competes for a spot on the practice squad. Brown has the size to play outside, but also the physicality and the blocking ability to give the team some different looks in practice.
I expect Brown to stay on the practice squad for the season and then compete for a spot on the 53-man roster in 2018. He's got the talent and the size that the Cowboys covet, but he needs a year to really learn the position and get his body right for the NFL.
Much like Ivie, Jordan Carrell has an uphill battle to make the roster. His best fit is as a disruptive 4-3 defensive tackle, but it's a spot in which the Cowboys have a lot of depth.
Like a typical Marinelli defensive linemen, he's athletic with a really good motor. He can also play multiple positions, a key to making the roster as a late-round pick.
However, Carrell will likely be among the Cowboys' final cuts and will have to start his career on the team's practice squad, providing he's good enough. He may be competing with Ivie for a spot on the practice squad, but it would be a major surprise if Carrell ever saw the field in 2017.