The Dallas Cowboys will likely make some moves before training camp, but with the NFL Draft in the rearview mirror, it’s time for my way-too-early 53-man roster projection.
Here are a few notes before we get started:
- More than a predictive article, think of this as an exercise to get to know the roster a little bit better. Also, one to point out some fun battles we’ll witness early in training camp.
- No, I don’t hate your favorite UDFA. But it’s an uphill battle for every one of those players. I have only two on this early projection, but I know some will be legit contenders for a 53-man roster spot.
Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush
I wondered if the Cowboys would throw a fifth-round dart at a quarterback during the Draft, but it didn’t happen. Will Grier could put up a fight for QB2, but right now Cooper Rush looks like the early favorite.
Running Back (2)
Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard
The Cowboys have carried two running backs before, don’t be surprised if they do it again. Nick Ralston and Ryan Nall are solid options if Dallas wants to carry a fullback. Sewo Olonilua was recently released by the team.
Wide Receiver (5)
CeeDee Lamb, Jalen Tolbert, James Washington, Simi Fehoko, Noah Brown
I’m an optimist, but it really doesn’t sound like Michael Gallup will be out there in Week 1. Stephen Jones mentioned weeks ago that he could miss 4-6 weeks after having ACL surgery in the offseason.
Assuming Gallup starts on PUP, that’d leave Fehoko and Brown fighting guys like T.J. Vasher for the final spots in the WR room.
It’s early and things could change, but it’s looking like Lamb, Tolbert, and Washington are your Week 1 starting wide receivers.
Tight End (3)
Dalton Schultz, Jake Ferguson, Sean McKeon
The Cowboys believe in 12 personnel. McKeon and Ferguson will feature a fun battle for TE2 in training camp. Both should be expected to make the roster, though.
Offensive Tackle (4)
Tyron Smith, Terence Steele, Josh Ball, Matt Waletzko
After the Cowboys picked Waletzko in the fifth round, Jerry Jones boldly claimed Dallas was done looking for a swing tackle. They will not target the position in free agency anymore. Josh Ball didn’t make a lot of noise last year as he dealt with injuries, but he has the talent to be a swing tackle in the league.
Waletzko, who had the highest athletic score among the Cowboys’ draft picks, is a diamond in the rough. It’s still unclear if he will adapt to the pros.
You might think four offensive tackles is too little, but keep in mind Tyler Smith could provide position flex even if the plan is to develop him for the long run.
Offensive Guard / Center (6)
Zack Martin, Tyler Smith, Tyler Biadasz, Matt Farniok, Connor McGovern, Isaac Alarcón
Although he hasn’t played guard since high school, I’m jotting the Cowboys’ first-round pick down as a guard because he’s the clear-cut favorite to man the left guard spot left vacant by Connor Williams.
Matt Farniok has received praise from the coaching staff and looks like a legit candidate to be the starting center over Biadasz. That will be an electric camp battle to watch. Some have questioned McGovern’s standing on the team after struggling last year, but I still see him as part of the team.
Now, Isaac Alarcón might be a surprise to many, but humor me for a moment. He’s clearly a prototypical athlete at 6-7 and 320 pounds. He played well in the 2021 preseason, especially in the Hall of Fame game versus the Steelers. He’s worked with Duke Manyweather for multiple years now and started out as a tackle before moving inside.
It would appear Alarcón has a shot at making the 53-man roster with his main competition being undrafted free agents.
Defensive End (6)
DeMarcus Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong, Dante Fowler Jr., Sam Williams, Chauncey Golston, Tarrell Basham
Expect Armstrong, Fowler Jr., and Williams to rotate opposite DeMarcus Lawrence. Since the Cowboys will not have a three-down edge rusher I’m betting they’ll go long at the position and keep Basham around for depth.
Defensive Tackle (5)
Osa Odighizuwa, Neville Gallimore, Carlos Watkins, Trysten Hill, John Ridgeway
Carrying two true nose tackles would be a surprise given how the Cowboys have approached the position in recent years. John Ridgeway might have been the lesser athlete from the class, but he received a third-fourth round draft grade from Dane Brugler. I’m giving him the edge over Quinton Bohanna.
Micah Parsons, Jabril Cox, Leighton Vander Esch, Luke Gifford, Devin Harper, Aaron Hansford
Perhaps the thinnest position on the roster today. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cowboys add a veteran in free agency. Luke Gifford led the team on special teams snaps in 2021, but we have seen very little of him defensively. This could be a big year for him as lack of opportunities shouldn’t be an issue.
Devin Harper and UDFA Aaron Hansford provide much-needed athleticism for special teams. Damone Clark will likely start off in IR.
Trevon Diggs, Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis, Kelvin Joseph, Nahshon Wright, DaRon Bland, C.J. Goodwin
We know little about Kelvin Joseph’s future, but we know he’s still working out with the team. For now, he has a spot on my roster projection. Wright could grow into a bigger role after a year of development under Dan Quinn and DB Coach Al Harris.
Goodwin is John Fassel’s special teams ace and should be back on the roster.
Jayron Kearse, Donovan Wilson, Malik Hooker, Israel Mukaumu
I’m rooting for UDFA Markquese Bell to make the team, who ended up getting a $200,000 guarantee on his salary, per Michael Gehlken from Dallas Morning News.
This is a deep safety room, though, and I’m leaving him out of my way-too-early projection. I figure he’ll battle with the roster bubble guys more than with the above safeties.
As for the rest of the group, watch out for Israel Mukuamu’s versatility as it could earn him a bigger role this season.
Bryan Anger, Jonathan Garibay, Jake McQuaide
The battle to watch here will be Jonathan Garibay vs Chris Naggar. Although young and inexperienced in the NFL, both have promising traits that made them priority free agents in their respective rookie years.
Featured image via Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports