There are many keys to success. One of my favorites: Look for good ideas and steal them unabashedly.
OCC was kind enough to point out an article over at our sister SBN site Buffalo Rumblings, where the author looked at which draft picks still with the team were roster locks. Actually, when I read through it, the real focus was on which of those players were actually in jeopardy of losing their roster slot. The most interesting thing was that it did not just look at this year's picks, but all draft picks (well, at least going back three years) currently on the 90-man roster who had to fight for the right to stay with the team.
So, as OCC suggested, I am going to apply this idea to the Dallas Cowboys. After eliminating all the drafted players that are certain to be on the roster to start the season (barring an injury between now and then), I'm going to look at all the drafted players the team has that are not locks to be on the team. The Buffalo Rumblings article only looked at the past three years, which is the tenure of their current GM. Since our GM has been around for a bit longer, I am looking at every current player on the Cowboys who Dallas spent a draft pick on.
In order of when they were drafted, these are the players that I am sure will be on the team this year:
Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, Jason Hatcher, Anthony Spencer, Doug Free, Felix Jones, Mike Jenkins (if he does not manage to get himself traded), Orlando Scandrick, John Phillips, Dez Bryant, Sean Lee, Sean Lissemore, Josh Brent, Tyron Smith, Bruce Carter, DeMarco Murray, and Morris Claiborne.
Eighteen names. To fill a 53-man roster. That in itself says a little something about the drafting futility of the mid to late 00's.
So whose fate remains uncertain? Take the jump to find out.
Here, again in draft order (year and round noted for each), are the players that face a challenge to stay with the Cowboys.
Marcus Spears (2005 Rd 1) He is fighting his age, a new draft pick, and the numbers game on the defensive line. He has a decent chance of staying with the team, aided by the fact that Kenyon Coleman is seen as more likely to be cut, but he may also fall victim to the Jason Garrett youth movement.
Pat McQuistan (2006 Rd 7) Do I need an asterisk here? Does a player who has left the organization and came back count? But technically, he is a Dallas draft pick fighting for a spot. He is not likely to survive the Turk. His role, as I understand it, was mostly to shore up the backup tackle position for training camp so Stephen McGee and Rudy Carpenter would not be trying to prove themselves while lying flat on their backs. If he makes it, it will be because the team believes it needs a second backup tackle to go with Jermey Parnell. And that McQ is better than the UDFA options on the team.
Stephen McGee (2009 Rd 4) The worst part of doing this whole article is that I have to really look at the infamous and hated 2009 "special teams" draft. McGee may be a perfect example, a player who never has gotten it all together. This is his last chance to show the team that he has value, that he can develop and be more than an emergency backup quarterback. I don't like his chances of being on the roster for the first game. Unless Stephen shows a lot more than I expect him to in the pre-season games, I think the team will part ways with him and take a flyer on someone else's castoff, or possibly Rudy Carpenter will make a move.
Victor Butler (2009 Rd 4) The second of the Cowboys' fourth-round picks that year has been the most successful of the 2009 draftees, backing up DeMarcus Ware and showing some pass rushing skills. He is one of the players that is pretty likely to keep his job, but he is going to be challenged, most likely by UDFA rookie Adrian Hamilton. Alex Albright may also be a factor as part of the numbers game, although not necessarily a direct competitor at weakside OLB. Butler's biggest issue: He is seen as strictly a pass rushing specialist, and limited to obvious passing situations.
David Buehler . . . no, I'm just jerking you around. I bet a lot of blood pressures just spiked through the roof, though.
Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (2010 Rd 4) Not happening. Just don't see him making it this time. I think there is too much other talent in the secondary for AOA to be around this year.
David Arkin (2011 Rd 4) A player that is highly at risk. His fate is going to depend on how he performs, and how the competition stacks up. Right now, I see him behind Nate Livings, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Bill Nagy, and Ronald Leary at guard, and Phil Costa is ahead if Arkin is considered at center. Kevin Kowalksi is the only player I do not see having a definite lead over Arkin in this race - and I could be wrong about that. He is going to have to make a move to remain with the squad.
Dwayne Harris (2011 Rd 6) Another young guy caught in a log jam. I have a less clear picture of how the wide receivers are stacking up, and this will have to work itself out on the field. His main competition: Kevin Ogletree, Andre Holmes, Danny Coale, Raymond Radway and Cole Beasley. A decision by the team to sign a veteran wide receiver would also likely push him off the final roster.
Shaun Chapas (2011 Rd 7) I see Lawrence Vickers delivering some crushing blows this year. The first is to Chapas' hopes to make the 53-man roster. A return to the practice squad is his best bet.
Bill Nagy (2011 Rd 7) The last Dallas pick that year, I see him in better shape than Arkin. He has experience as a starter, and may also be the primary backup at center. I seriously doubt both these interior offensive linemen will make the team, and there is a chance both might fall by the wayside - but I suspect Nagy will survive.
Tyrone Crawford (2012 Rd 3) Many would argue that Crawford is almost as certain to make the team as Morris Claiborne, and there is a certain justification for that argument - but that "almost" is still in there. I think his chances are somewhere around 90%, and he is a huge threat to both Coleman and Spears, depending on how many linemen the team keeps. If that hammy heals up, anyway.
Kyle Wilber (2012 Rd 4) Another "almost certain" pick. If he shows much at all, the team will be looking to groom him at strong OLB for next year, when Anthony Spencer is "almost certain" to seek greener pastures. Spencer will be a big loss, but I do not think Dallas can afford the contract it will take to keep him. I may be wrong, and Stephen Jones and company make work some accounting magic to afford Anthony. Most likely, however, they will need to put the dollars they save by having a second year player fill the slot somewhere else. That makes Wilber a very likely keeper.
Matt Johnson (2012 Rd 4) If I had to add one more name to the "locks", the man taken with Dallas' compensatory pick is who I would chose. I didn't put him up there because this is largely a gut feeling, not something based on a great deal of objective data. But the little gathered from his one day of availability at the minicamp indicates that he may be the real deal, and a quality safety is one thing the Cowboys really need to add to the roster.
Danny Coale (2012 Rd 5) This is my pet cat. My only pet cat, for reasons most of you are familiar with. If he is healthy to start camp, I am certain he will claim one of the wide receivers spots, possibly the much debated third (although I think Andre Holmes is going to maintain his perceived leader status). But I have faith he will make the team. Unless he is on the PUP list. Which would probably be my fault, somehow.
James Hanna (2012 Rd 6) Hanna is the only one of this year's draft picks that I do not have a good feeling about. The reports out of the OTAs and minicamps were a bit lukewarm, particularly regarding his hands. I think Dallas is going to be looking hard at the tight ends released by the other teams unless Hanna comes on very strong in the pre-season.
Caleb McSurdy (2012 Rd 7) Despite having the best football name in camp, McSurdy is up against some strong competition at ILB. With Lee, Carter and Dan Connor having three slots locked up, McSurdy is going to have to prove he is better than Orie Lemon and possibly Alex Albright. Albright is an interesting case, since the possibility of him being able to serve as a backup both inside and outside give him the "multiplicity" that the team values. He could in essence be two for the price of one as a reserve. McSurdy is going to have to prove he is a special teams ace to make the team. I don't put that beyond him - but it is still a pretty steep road ahead.
Just as a bit of a side note, I am expecting four or five of the 2012 picks to make the final 53, with any who do not going to the practice squad if the team can get them through waivers. Five would be quite good, and even four would be some evidence of sustainability in the draft. Looking back, the team has four solid players from 2010 (counting Josh Brent, acquired in the supplemental draft, with that group). It is also looking like the 2011 class will also yield four solid players, with two definite starters and a third possibly starting at least by the end of the year, plus one backup guard. If the staff can continue to do that, especially if the "keepers" are more skewed to the earlier rounds, it will show the team has turned the corner from the dismal drafts that came just before 2010.
But a lot of that depends on how these players defend their spots on the Cowboys roster.
See any evaluations here you disagree with strongly?