It doesn’t matter what level of football you’re talking about, when the pads come on, it’s a different game. The energy changes for both players and coaches. Things start to get real. As cliché as it sounds, this holds true in the NFL. And now that the Dallas Cowboys’ pads have come on in training camp, things are about to heat up.

Things are even more exciting for the Cowboys because their rookie class is so different. They drafted five players in the first three rounds and went all-in on defense while adding OL help in the late rounds.

But getting drafted in the NFL doesn’t guarantee a roster spot. These are the three Dallas Cowboys rookies with the most interesting battles to make the 53-man roster.

iOL Matt Farniok

Matt Farniok’s chances of making the 53-man roster are helped by the lack of more competition at guard/center. Despite having a lot of depth at the outside offensive line, the Dallas Cowboys have little going on behind their starting interior offensive line. Other than Connor McGovern and Farniok himself, there’s no other strong candidate to make the roster at the position.

However, the Cowboys have been giving unexpected reps as the backup center to starting left guard Connor Williams. The former Longhorn played tackle in college, but trying out the center position was an experiment that began in the spring. But it might turn out to be the Cowboys’ real plan for the season as well.

“What began as an experiment seems today like a firm plan. The Cowboys’ primary backup center in 2021 likely will be a starter, as Williams can slide from left guard in the event of a Biadasz exit.” – MICHAEL GEHLKEN ON WILLIAMS.

If the starting left guard is the Cowboys’ true backup at center, you can’t help but wonder whether or not Matt Farniok will be on the team when the season begins. With so many tackles the Cowboys might be interested in keeping, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the seventh-round draft pick gone.

S Israel Mukuamu

Although he played mostly as a cornerback in South Carolina, the Cowboys’ plan with Mukuamu has always been to play him at safety. The front office said right after the NFL Draft and what we’ve seen on the playing field has been consistent with their message.

Before Malik Hooker was signed to the Cowboys, Mukuamu’s chances looked way better. Now, one extra spot is taking at the position.

Only three players are virtual locks to make the 53-man roster at safety. Damontae Kazee, Malik Hooker, and Donovan Wilson. With Wilson taking over as the Cowboys’ box safety, Kazee and Hooker will compete for snaps at free safety. Other than that, nothing is guaranteed for the rest of the team.

Darian Thompson, Jayron Kearse, and Mukuamu will compete for those final (or final) spots. However, Mukuamu might have to convince John Fassell he’s worth it on special teams instead of getting to stay for his work on defense.

OT Josh Ball

Usually, fourth-round draft picks make the roster. But Josh Ball is not in a usual offensive tackle room. Behind Tyron Smith and La’el Collins, the Cowboys have good depth at the position. Despite the backups not being able to step up when both starters were gone in 2020, things are different in 2021.

Ty Nsekhe was signed, and he could be the team’s go-to swing tackle. But most importantly, they have a couple of developmental players they’re interested in. Terrence Steele and Brandon Knight are still guys the Cowboys likely like more than the fanbase. If they’re unwilling to move on from any of them, Ball could be headed to the practice squad.

On the other hand, Ball’s raw talent be too attractive for other teams to pass on and maybe the Cowboys aren’t willing to risk losing him. Whatever the case may be, the controversial fourth-round draft pick will have to earn his spot in training camp.

Featured image via Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports