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Dallas Cowboys 2013 UDFAs: A Look At The Elite Athletes

The Cowboys snagged some elite talents in this year's UDFA crop, a number of them defensive backs and accomplished returners. Five of them stood out to me in particular as exceptional athletes.

Brendan Maloney-US PRESSWIRE

The NFL Draft is over. UDFA season has begun.

There's something I like about undrafted free agents. They chose to be Cowboys - or, rather, to have a chance to become Cowboys. Draft picks, no matter what they say, might not always want to go to the team that signs them. And that's understandable.

Could you imagine being, for example, a Defensive Tackle in this year's draft? As a Cowboys' fan, you know you'd be able to help the team that you love. Through some twist of fate, however, you're signed by the Eagles. Would you be ecstatic? Compound that feeling for guys in the sixth and seventh rounds, who really won't be earning much more than those who go undrafted, but still are forced to play for the team that purchased their rights.

I know, it's an extreme scenario, and you'd likely be happy for the paycheck no matter where it came from. For UDFAs, though, who don't receive significantly less money than seventh-round picks, perhaps the ability to choose who to play for has some value.

I'm happy to say that some premier athletes have made that decision - signing with the Cowboys. There isn't much available on these players, as is commonly the case with undrafted free agents, but I've compiled some information on those that interested me most due to uncommon athleticism.

Allow me to explain what I mean by uncommon athleticism:
40 yard dash below 4.5 seconds
Vertical leap of 40+"
Short shuttle below 4 seconds
3-Cone drill below 7 seconds

These are numbers that are completely arbitrary, chosen only because I thought they looked good on paper. I won't claim that these numbers will translate to stardom; in most cases they won't.

Disclaimers aside, here are the five players that stood out to me:

Jakar Hamilton, FS, South Carolina State

Qualifying measurables:
40.5" vertical
6.93s 3-Cone

Before I say anything about Jakar Hamilton, I'll let Jakar Hamilton say something about himself:

"I bring character to the locker room. I want to achieve, be a Hall of Famer, win a championship. I can help on the run, cover the inside slot guy or deep. God gave me ability and strengths that I have and I'm going to use them. I just want to come in, be successful, learn the plays and contribute any way I can to get a ring."

Hamilton has plus athleticism in the right areas for a safety. His issues are mostly lack of size (5'11, 186), speed (4.56 forty, though not terrible for a safety), and strength (7 reps). His change of direction is somewhere between good and excellent (his short shuttle was 4.33).

Hamilton's vertical leap and 3-cone intrigue me as I consider safeties to grow into future players in Kiffin's defense. At the very least, his athleticism compares favorable to Barry Church as far as covering ground, changing direction and leaping are concerned.

Did I mention he used to play for Georgia?

Dustin Harris, CB, Texas A&M

Qualifying measurables:
4.46s forty
6.75s 3-Cone

Harris' small stature (5'10-3/4", 177lbs) hasn't prevented him from making a big impact in the Aggies' return game. He owns the SEC record for most punt return yardage in a game, with 246 yards including a 96-yard touchdown against Jakar Hamilton's South Carolina State team.

In an interview with NewEraScouting, Harris had the following to say about himself:

One strength that really sticks out to me is my return ability. I have been returning kicks and punts from pee-wee to college and that is one area I really strive to excel in.

I want to do things right. I want to be dependable whether that is as a return man or at the cornerback position or whatever is asked of me.

I feel I can play in any system in the NFL as I can adjust well to whatever a team needs me to do.

After watching his highlights, I have to agree that he looks good with the ball in his hands, whether after an interception (which he was fairly good at in college, as well) or on a punt return. His coverage seems solid, but I haven't seen him matched up with elite wideouts in order to truly evaluate it.

Devin Smith, CB, Wisconsin

Qualifying measurables:
4.49s forty
3.99s short shuttle
6.6s 3-Cone

Smith's numbers really leave nothing to be desired. He's slight of frame at 5'10-3/8" and 182 pounds, but won't be pushed around after putting up 17 reps of 225. He also had a respectable vertical - 35.5" - and broad jump - 10'3".

Dane Brugler's brief scouting report gives the following description:

Although he lacks the long speed to hold up in man coverage on the outside, Smith is quick-footed with a good feel in coverage to possibly find a home in zone coverage.

He'll need to develop his man coverage skills, but his highlight reel gives me hope that his ability to find the ball will earn him a place on the team.

Kendial Lawrence, RB, Missouri

Qualifying measurables:
4.33s forty
6.94s 3-Cone

Lawrence is clearly the speediest of our new additions, and that's a real boon for a running back. His explosiveness stands out as well, having put up 19 reps in the bench press and posting an impressive 37" vertical leap.

A report on Lawrence from The Sports Xchange contained an interesting tidbit:

His stop-and-start running style makes him a good fit for Missouri's offensive line, which has struggled with consistency this year.

He's good behind an inconsistent offensive line? Consider me intrigued.

He's also built similarly to a UDFA from last year that I was particularly fond of, Lance Dunbar. Lawrence's measurables seem to be superior, so it will be interesting to see who comes out on top of the upcoming camp battle.

Pay attention to the state of the offensive line when he receives the ball. It's much worse than even we are accustomed to seeing.

Jeff Heath, SS, Saginaw Valley State

Qualifying measurables:
4.48s forty
6.88s 3-Cone

One thing that truly sets Jeff Heath apart from the other guys on this list is his size. He's just over 6'1", and weighed in at 209 pounds. His explosiveness is great, as well, with 22 reps (that's more than our first round lineman) and a 37" vertical.

Clearly, Heath has the physical tools to be a very good safety for this team. He still has to make that happen for himself, though, and he's aware of that:

I know what I have to do. I'll get into a camp, and then I'll just have to pretty much make it on special teams and do all that kind of stuff.

Unfortunately, the only tape I could find was from his high school (published in 2010). Clearly, in this footage, he was a man among boys.

These are the five athletes that caught my eye so far. We also have a pair of 6'3 receivers running in the 4.5 range, but they narrowly missed my cutoff points.

So, BTB, who are you keeping your eyes on this offseason? Who of these five will make the team? Let us know what you think in the comments! The fun has officially begun.

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