This is Part III of a series ranking each player on the roster at specific positions. You can read the other installments at the links below. A brief reminder that this is a ranking based on the likelihood of making the 53-man roster, not a ranking of pure talent. I’ve included the assumptions again at the bottom of the article.
Part I: Offensive skill positions | Part II: Offensive line
Part III is for the defensive front seven. This one was also tough, because the Cowboys are going to move some players around, and Greg Ellis’ injury complicates the overall picture. Plus, it’s hard to place some of these guys in a specific position because they are going to rotate a few DE’s in as the backup NT, and see if one of them can handle it.
So I took some liberties in placing guys in their positions.
Jason Ferguson (Lock) – Fergie isn’t the problem, finding him a backup is.
Jay Ratliff – Ratliff is another player who is close to being a lock, but he hasn’t found a position quite yet. The Cowboys have discussed him playing NT often over the past couple of weeks, and that may end up being his calling on this defense. He’ll make the roster; I’m just not ready to lock it yet.
Montavious Stanley – Last year’s 6th-round pick has already been released twice by teams in a year. He needs a good training camp to secure a position.
Ola Dagunduro – He’s an UDFA, so he comes in at the bottom, but I kind of hope he makes it just because of his cool-sounding name.
Chris Canty (Lock) – The Cowboys are keen to see Canty in the new defense. The hope is his play will finally reach his potential.
Jason Hatcher (Lock) – I moved Hatcher ahead of Spears and also made him a lock because the Cowboys are excited about his play in his rookie year, and there’s no way he’s going anywhere. He’s a physical specimen who could emerge as a force this year.
Marcus Spears (Lock) – It’s a put-up or shut-up year for Spears. No more Tuna to blame, he must prove himself this year.
Stephen Bowen – He’s in a log-jam at DE, so the Cowboys will also try him at NT.
Remi Ayodele – Frankly, I don’t know if Akin’s little brother is an end or nose tackle. Either way, it’s unlikely he sticks on the 53-man roster.
Akin Ayodele (Lock) – Only in the second year of his FA contract and played pretty well last year.
Bradie James (Lock) – Big contract extension signed last year, but James has some holes in his game that he must improve on.
Bobby Carpenter (Lock) – I moved Carpenter to the inside because I just get the feeling that is where he’ll end up playing the majority of the time. But he could stay at OLB, or be a swing player at both positions. Either way, the Cowboys need to find a way to get him on the field.
John Saldi – I think he’s an ILB, but I could be wrong. It probably doesn’t matter; there are quite a few players ahead of him.
Dedrick Harrington - Standard issue UDFA who needs an unbelievable camp to stick.
Blair Phillips – Standard issue UDFA who needs an unbelievable camp to stick.
DeMarcus Ware (Lock) – Next.
Anthony Spencer (Lock) – The Cowboys paid some draft picks to get the guy, they will see what he can do.
Kevin Burnett – I have Burnett ahead of Ellis because of the injury situation. Burnett is another guy who just hasn’t found his niche yet. This is a very important year for him. Can also swing to the inside linebacker position.
Greg Ellis – If Ellis was healthy, he’d be a lock. With the injury, his age, and the talent at the position, he needs to prove he can still play this year at a high level.
Junior Glymph – Junior is hanging on, but is a guy on the bubble. His specialty is rushing the passer, so he might find a home in the new, aggressive Phillips 34.
Marcus Smith - Standard issue UDFA who needs an unbelievable camp to stick.
Alex Obomese - Standard issue UDFA who needs an unbelievable camp to stick.
The floor is now open. These are just guesses at a very early part of the offseason, so don’t hold me to them once training camp arrives. A lot of these players I haven’t seen play in person, and some of them I’ve never even seen on TV. But it should make for some fun discussion.
I might have missed a few bottom-of-the-roster players who were signed along the way, so if I did, remind me and I’ll up date the post.
Some ground rules for my rankings.
I moved some players around based on things that the coaches and Jerry have said, plus the needs at the position, and plain old gut feel. Not all of them will happen, but I tried to make educated guesses.
Draftees get more benefit of the doubt. If a draftee is competing with a back-up veteran, sometimes the draftee gets the nod even if the vet might be the better player at this moment.
This isn’t a direct ranking of each player’s talent level; other factors sometimes play into the ranking. For example, I think that Terrell Owens is our most talented receiver by a small margin over Terry Glenn, but Glenn has already been paid his bonus while Owens has not. This makes Glenn just a little more of a lock than Owens to make the 53-man roster, so he comes in ahead of Owens, but both are locks in my opinion.
Don’t get too mad at me if I slay one of your pet cats by putting him at the bottom of a ranking. I’ll readily admit I don’t know a lot about UDFA’s and some of out draftees, so I just ranked them on gut feel, need at the position, or by throwing darts at a chart with their names on it.
Be forewarned, I have an unfair bias in favor of veterans over the UDFA’s right now. Until I see some of these guys at camp, if they were one of the last guys signed and not drafted, then they’ll probably rank at the bottom.