There's a common myth among NFL outsiders - fans and media alike - that draft status gives players an unfair advantage in sticking to a roster.
There is, of course, a logical explanation for the perception that teams hang on to draft picks too long. It's a simple truth that draft picks typically survive roster cuts more often than UDFAs. This is not because draftees are overvalued treasures being hoarded by teams, but rather because draftees are typically more talented players than those who went undrafted.
Corroborating this observation is the fact that, every season, a few draftees find themselves cut - replaced, at least indirectly, by a UDFA signee who steps up to the bottom of the roster. But what about those cases where a draftee is performing terribly for all to see while a talented UDFA is filling up stat sheets all through August, and yet the draft selection makes the roster while the UDFA is forced out? Clearly this showcases teams' favoritism towards their own draft choices, confirming the myth; does it not?
More than anything, I believe it showcases the naivety of those making the claims. The coaches, and the front office player personnel department, have access to more information than casual observers; they see all of the practice sessions (and far more), and, along with that, a treasure trove of additional information about the players on their roster. They may have appeared to cut a more talented player in order to hold on to a draftee. In reality, they simply knew the players far better than us outsiders, and therefore had a knowledge of who the better player was (and will be) based on more than simple appearances.
The moral of this story is that NFL draftees receive no special treatment in the construction of a team's final roster; their advantages are why they were drafted, not because they were drafted.
With that in mind, let's take a look at four of the Cowboys' former draft selections that may be cut from the team in the coming days.
Last year's seventh-round pick missed the season due to a torn Achilles during the offseason. He stuck with the team, recovered, and re-made his body to accommodate the new defense he hoped to become a part of. Although McSurdy has improved his speed since he was drafted, his position hasn't changed much from last year. In 2012, McSurdy was viewed as a long-shot to make the roster because he was too slow for the 3-4 front's ILB spot; this year, a faster McSurdy is playing in a faster defense and is still, relatively, too slow. His speed deficiency shows up most when he allows space in coverage (which is common for linebackers to do) and then allows the receiver to get to the edge and start running North-South (which is something that will get you cut).
He might have hope to hit the practice squad based on his dedication to self-improvement, but I personally believe he has his best chance to catch on as the SILB in a 3-4 front where his speed is less important than power and effort.
2012's fifth-round pick, Danny Coale, was already cut last year, but is back in Dallas after rehabbing a torn ACL in hopes of winning a job at receiver. The problem for Coale is that he hasn't received an opportunity to play healthy snaps for the Cowboys yet. His ACL injury, though sufficiently recovered to allow him to take the field, seems to still be causing him minor problems (a common occurrence as one learns to 'trust' the repaired ligament), especially when attempting to separate from DBs on sharp cuts.
Coale may once more hit the practice squad, but that seems to be his ceiling for now as he doesn't appear to be any more than the 7th-best receiver on this team, to this point.
Last year's 4th-rounder, Matt Johnson, is another player who ended up unable to contribute to the Cowboys' 2012 season. The sad fact is that he appeared to be a passable safety during the moments when he was on the field this preseason (a few snaps against Miami), and this explains his ability to stick to the roster last season (albeit on injured reserve). This season, the Cowboys have two experienced safeties in starting roles, a third-round pick as a key backup, and an emerging UDFA who will be a tough guy to cut when rounding out the roster. Johnson's chances of making the 53 appear to be slim. His chances of clearing waivers, depending on the severity of his injury, may also be slim.
I don't believe a healthy Matt Johnson would survive on the practice squad; he'd be poached rapidly. If his injury seems lengthy, then a repeat of last year's IR-designated-to-return may be his best bet to continue to wear a star on his helmet.
Lissemore is the most experienced player in this bunch, though he was only a late 7th-round selection in the 2010 draft. The fact that he's managed to be such a productive player for Dallas these past few years underscores how valuable he has been, as a late-round pick, to the Cowboys' defensive line. In a 3-4 front, Lissemore flashed the potential to be a very disruptive players. He was adept at standing up his man and then shedding when the ball was near to make the play. In Kiffin's 4-3, however, he hasn't been able to show the skills required of full-time pass-rushing tackles. His initial penetration, after years of standing his man up, is lacking, and he appears to be in a very real competition for the fourth defensive tackle spot with Landon Cohen (who may also be cut if/when Jay Ratliff returns).
Lissemore has had a good stretch here in Dallas, including signing a small contract extension while playing for Rob Ryan's unit. His current concussion doesn't help his case to make the roster, as healthy depth will be key against the Giants in Week 1.