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Ranking the roster: Offensive skill positions

Minicamp. It’s a wonderful thing. A chance to get a first look at our new toys. Also, a chance to look at some returning players who need to show something. It marks the start of position battles as players get shifted to new positions and the draft picks will push some older players down in the pecking order.

In the spirit of minicamp, I’ll do what any respectable journalist would do, speculate like a blind man in a minefield. In a 5-part series, I’ll discuss segments of the roster and try to project who is a lock, who looks like they are in good shape, and who should be using Expedia to book flights out of Texas in August. I’m not going to try and predict the 53-man roster, but merely rank the players at each position in terms of making the roster. It will all depend on how many players Wade wants to keep at each position.

Some ground rules for my rankings.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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 still locks in my opinion.
  1. 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 our 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.  
  1. 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.

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 update the post.

Let’s open this series with the skill positions on offense.

Tony Romo (Lock) - He’s the QB.
Brad Johnson (Lock) – The Cowboys want experience if something happens to Romo and Johnson is that guy.
Matt Baker – I’m giving him the nod because he was with the Cowboys last year. But it’s even questionable that they’ll keep three full-time QB’s. It’s even possible that Isaiah Stanback could be the emergency 3rd QB.
Matt Moore – Ron Jaworski loves him, so I’ll give him a shot. In reality, he and Matt Baker are probably even for the third spot.
Brock Berlin – He knows Jason Garrett, so he at least gets an opportunity.

Marion Barber (Lock) – While not the starter (as far as we know), MB3 gets the nod over JJ only because of JJ’s name constantly popping up in trade rumors.
Julius Jones (Lock) – He’s the incumbent starter and only ranks second to MB3 because of the trade rumors. But it looks like the trade rumors are past and JJ is a lock.
Tyson Thompson – With the emergence of Miles Austin as a kick returner, and with the FB position coming back into vogue for the Cowboys, TT should be a little nervous. A combo FB/RB could be in the plans for the third RB.
Alonzo Coleman - Don’t know much about him, so he rounds out the list.

Oliver Hoyte – I give him the nod because of his bone-crunching blocks, but he lacks some of the other skills for a regular FB. This position is one of the most wide-open on the roster, and Hoyte is no lock, but I’m guessing he’ll be there.
Deon Anderson – He gets points because teams hate to give up on draft picks, and the scouts say he has the two qualities that you want in a FB, good lead blocker and good hands in the passing game. This was a tough call, but I jumped him ahead of Polite in terms of making the roster.
Lousaka Polite – He’s a vet and he’s done an OK job in his time, but his time might be running out. He’s definitely fighting for a spot again this year.
Jackie Battle – A lot of readers really like this kid and think he could be a combo RB/FB. I haven’t seen him play, so it’s really hard for me to judge, but the scouting reports are very good. Once I see him in training camp, I might change my mind real quick, but for now, as an UDFA, he’s at the bottom.

Terry Glenn (Lock) – They paid him his bonus, he’s a lock
Terrell Owens (Lock) – They haven’t paid him his bonus yet, but he’s still a lock.
Patrick Crayton (Lock) – The Cowboys trusted 3rd WR just signed a new one-year deal.
Isaiah Stanback – I almost want to put a lock on him for one reason. The Cowboys knew that he was recovering from a foot injury and they know that he might not be 100% by training camp, but they still drafted him. The organization is raving about him, so I think they will be very patient with his development, meaning they will keep him around for this year at minimum.
Miles Austin – Showed good skill in returning kicks last year and still has a lot of upside because of his physical gifts.
Sam Hurd – The feel-good story of last training camp. Hurd has some of the best hands on the team. But the arrival of Stanback complicates things for him.
Jamel Richardson – Signed in free agency from the CFL, the kid has some physical attributes - we’ll see if it translates into anything material at camp.
Jamaica Rector – Anybody ranked here or lower stands very little chance of making the 53-man roster.
Jerheme Urban
Mike Jefferson
Jerard Rabb

Jason Witten (Lock) – ‘Nuff said.
Anthony Fasano(Lock) The Cowboys need at least two TE’s, and Fasano will get another year to prove his worth.
Tony Curtis – Has the upper hand as the #3 TE.
Rodney Hannah – It’s a tough road, but anybody could jump in at #3 after Witten and Fasano.

The floor is now open. These are just guesses at a very early point in 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.

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