Cowboys Rookies Who Will Make Instant Impact in 2021 Season

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistMay 5, 2021

Cowboys Rookies Who Will Make Instant Impact in 2021 Season

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    The Dallas Cowboys took in a serious influx of talent over NFL draft weekend. In total, they picked 11 rookies in the talent grab and signed another 10 in the undrafted free agent free-for-all. 

    In reality, only a handful will actually make their presence felt in the first season. With 21 total rookies fighting for roster spots and the number of active players sitting at 97, there simply isn't enough room for many of them to make it through camp. 

    The team will be calling on a handful to be difference-makers in Year 1, though. The Cowboys made five selections in the top 100 picks, and it should be expected that most of those guys will carve out some kind of role on the team. 

    Here's a look at the three who should make the biggest impact and an early attempt to quantify what they will bring to the table in their first year. 

LB Micah Parsons

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    Steve Luciano/Associated Press

    The Cowboys made a bit of an unexpected move with their first-round pick. While a corner was widely considered the top target, that possibility went out the window when Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II went at picks eight and nine, respectively. 

    Instead, Dallas owner Jerry Jones swung a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles who moved up to take DeVonta Smith. The Cowboys wound up with the 12th pick which they used to take Micah Parsons

    The Penn State linebacker opted out of the 2020 season but has the tantalizing athletic profile of an elite linebacker, and Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy sees a player who can do a bit of everything. 

    "He's a multi-positional player. He can play off the ball, on the ball, pressure player. Not only is he an excellent fit for our defense, but he's a great fit for our whole team," he said, per the team's website

    That versatility showed up in his stat line in the Big Ten. In his sophomore 2019 campaign, he had 109 tackles, 14 TFL, five sacks, five passes defended and four forced fumbles for the Nittany Lions

    Parsons' athleticism and ability to cover should see him getting plenty of snaps early and the production that goes with it. 

    Early Stats Prediction: 102 tackles, two sacks, four passes defended, two forced fumbles

CB Kelvin Joseph

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    Bryan Woolston/Associated Press

    The Cowboys went to the cornerback well in the second round with the selection of Kelvin Joseph at No. 44 overall. The former LSU and Kentucky player wasn't that high on our big board. He was the 20th-ranked corner and 162nd player overall. 

    But Jones and Co. must have seen something they liked to take him that early. His size and speed combination is hard to ignore. At 5'11" and 197 pounds, he's big enough to play run support on the outside and his 4.34 40-yard dash shows the kind of long speed that helped him get a 9.02 relative athletic score

    The 21-year-old did show an ability to break on the ball and create interceptions with four in his final season with the Wildcats. However, on a target-by-target basis, he gave up a little more than you'd like to see. According to PFF, opposing quarterbacks were 19-of-34 for 271 yards and four touchdowns with four interceptions in 272 coverage snaps. 

    For someone with that much speed that's a lot of big plays to give up. However, Dan Quinn will have time to perfect his craft and make improvements. The fact that Joseph had to sit out a year due to transfer rules actually gives hope his ceiling is higher as he develops. 

    He'll have to be a quick study, though. The Cowboys need someone to pair with Trevon Diggs on the outside and won't have time to wait on him. 

    Early Stats Prediction: 45 tackles, two interceptions, five passes defended

LB Jabril Cox

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    Michael Woods/Associated Press

    The Cowboys didn't stop drafting defensive players after the first two picks. All five of their Day 1 and 2 picks were on the defensive side of the ball, but they may have found another immediate contributor in LSU linebacker Jabril Cox

    Cox was the 132nd player and 11th linebacker on our big board, but that was lower than consensus. He was 48th overall and a projected second-round pick, according to NFL Mock Draft Database's aggregated data. 

    The linebacker transferred from North Dakota State after three seasons to play his final year at LSU. Regardless of where he was playing, it was his coverage abilities that stood out. According to PFF, he played 1,114 snaps of pass coverage at both schools and only gave up two touchdowns while picking off two passes. 

    The knock on the 23-year-old, and the reason why he's a tough evaluation, is his run defense. He is much more likely to attempt to run around blocks and rely on his athleticism to make the play instead of engaging and shedding blockers.

    Given Dallas' run defense last season, that may keep Cox off the field on run downs. But his ability to cover is going to be the ticket on to the field in situational football.

    Early Stats Predictions: 32 tackles, two interceptions, three passes defended