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Assessing The Cowboys Roster: Mid-Preseason Edition: Ranking Players, Regardless Of Position

Who are the best (and worst) players on the Cowboys roster, regardless of position? After four weeks of camp and three preseason games to gather information, a ranking the current roster, from one to eighty-seven.

Dez reacts to being told he tops Ol' Rabble's list
Dez reacts to being told he tops Ol' Rabble's list
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Back in late May, I revisited a favorite roster assessment mode, which is to rank all the players, regardless of position. As you know, most standard roster assessment posts look at the top players by each position group. This is a reasonable methodology, but it doesn't offer the clearest of pictures about the talent distribution across the team. For example, as the most recent camp has shown us, the fifth tight end can be better than, say, the backup left tackle. And, while organizations certainly look at the various position groups as they prepare for difficult roster cut decisions, they must also rank the entire roster if they are to, as Jason Garrett says, "keep the best 53."

Ranking all the players currently on the Cowboys roster not only shows us how strong our Beloved 'Boys are at some positions but also where they will need be relying on duct tape, baling wire and a few hosannas. More importantly, it offers insight into the disparity that exists between the various position groups.

This is a good time to conduct this experiment; back in May, I allowed that ranking 2012's major contributors was easy, but slotting the newcomers and draft picks was much more difficult, largely because we had seen little to nothing of them. As a result, all I could offer then were educated guesstimates; now, after two weeks at camp and a thorough re-watch of each of the three preseason games that have been conducted thus far, I have a much better handle on the newbies.

A note before we begin: my rankings reflect the players on Ourlads' depth charts as of Monday, with a quick cross-check of the Mothership's most recent roster. My calculations show the Cowboys roster currently has 87 players, including Tyrone Crawford, who will be designated injured reserve at the end of the month - hence the asterisk next to his name. Okay, here we go:

Player Ranking in May
1 Dez Bryant, WR 1
2 DeMarcus Ware, DE 4
3 Dan Bailey, K 5
4 Jason Hatcher, DT 13
5 Jason Witten, TE 8
6 Sean Lee, MLB 7
7 Tony Romo, QB 3
8 Anthony Spencer, DE 2
9 Miles Austin, WR 9
10 Bruce Carter, OLB 10

Thoughts: the top ten has remained firm, with the exception of Jason Hatcher, who joins the top tier after being arguably the best defensive player in camp not named DeMarcus Ware. Hatcher is playing with speed and power, and is going to thrive in Monte Kiffin's 4-3 front. As before, this section of the roster is populated by Pro Bowl caliber players...and a couple of future Hall of Famers. Not a bad place to start.

Player Ranking in May
11 Brandon Carr, CB 12
12 Tyron Smith, OT 6
13 Barry Church, S 16
14 Mo Claiborne, CB 11
15 DeMarco Murray, RB 14
16 Orlando Scandrick, CB 19
17 Travis Frederick, OC 17
18 Jay Ratliff, DT 15
19 Doug Free, OT 21
20 Lance Dunbar, RB 49

Thoughts: the offseason's biggest surprise has been Dunbar, who seemed a down-roster afterthought at the end of 2012 but has emerged as the team's number two running back, displaying startling speed and quickness. So, I've placed him at #20, which admittedly might be an over-ranking. So sue me.

Also noteworthy is that Tyron Smith falls out of the top ten after a solid but unspectacular camp. Admittedly, he was going up against Ware, who makes the very best tackles look bad, so Smith's ranking may soon rise if he shows he can dominate mortal competition. Until then, he sits in the second tier. He's not alone: like Smith, high picks Murray and Claiborne have been merely okay; they need to make bids for the top ten if this team is to fulfill its potential.

Player Ranking in May
21 L.P. Ladouceur, LS 30
22 Will Allen, S 34
23 Justin Durant, OLB 20
24 Ernie Sims, LB 44
25 *Tyrone Crawford, DE 18
26 Chris Jones, P 46
27 James Hanna, TE 25
28 Sterling Moore, CB 37
29 Dwayne Harris, WR 29
30 Nick Hayden, DT 58

Thoughts: as was the case in May, this is where the roster is softest. Ideally, this tier would be populated by recent draftees who were pushing the older guys for playing time. While there are a couple of those types on the above list, the standout names are those of three vets - Allen, Sims and Hayden- who had surprisingly good camps, playing their way to the positions at which you've found them. Hopefully, some of the youngsters in the next tier will begin to push them by midseason.

And: despite all the injuries the team has suffered, the only one of any real consequence was Crawford's torn Achilles on camp's first day. Its particularly painful given that he was likely to be one of the cats making a bid for top-ten status.

Finally: after making some questionable free agent signings in 2012, look where 2013's two FAs are located. As they say, simpler is better.

Player Ranking in May
31 Ron Leary, OG 35
32 Phillip Tanner, RB 51
33 Dante Rosario, TE N/A
34 Kyle Wilber, DE 38
35 J. J. Wilcox, S 39
36 Terrance Williams, WR 40
37 Sean Lissemore, DT 28
38 Phil Costa, OC 31
39 David Arkin, OG 54
40 DeVonte Holloman, LB 62

Thoughts: here is where we see several recent draftees who are on the rise. Leary, Wilber, Wilcox, WIlliams, and Holloman have all flashed periodically in camp and in the preseason skirmishes. All, however, remain inconsistent, and are therefore works in progress. As they begin to clean up their games, they can exert some much-needed upward pressure on the roster.

And: one of the reasons Hayden has risen so sharply is the dropoff in Lissemore's play. Yes, Hayden has been a pleasant surprise, but Lissy certainly left the door open for him. In the offseason, I wrote that Lissemore might be one of the players who is a bad fit for Kiffin's scheme (the other was Alex Albright, who was waived/ injured yesterday). While Crawford's injury (which might necessitate SDE snaps for Ben Bass) will help to keep Lissemore on the roster, I wouldn't be surprised if he gets cut; he looks ponderous next to the rest of the defensive linemen.

Also: Dante Rosario debuts at #33. When I did this exercise back in May, the player he replaced, Paul Freedman, sat at number 81. That's a significant upgrade, and some mighty fine work by the Cowboys pro personnel guys.

Player Ranking in May
41 George Selvie, DE N/A
42 Mackenzy Bernadeau, OG 33
43 Kyle Orton, QB 23
44 Gavin Escobar, TE 36
45 Ben Bass, DT 42
46 Joseph Randle, RB 43
47 Andre Smith, TE 63
48 Nate Livings, OG 24
49 Cole Beasley, WR 41
50 Anthony Armstrong, WR 67

Thoughts: a mixture of disappointing 2012 free agent pickups (Bernadeau, Orton, Livings) and youngsters with upward pointing arrows (Escobar, Bass, Randle). The old guys inhabit positions where the team has yet to upgrade through the draft; indeed, this is one of the benefits of this exercise: it reminds us that the team is still one good draft away from being complete (with both lines and backup QB being the targets). Best case scenario: the team gets the players it wants and none of the three above-named greybeards is on the roster in 2014.

And: speaking of fine personnel work: George Selvie has been superb. He flew in, jumped right in to practice that day, and has been acquitting himself with aplomb ever since. He may not make the team (he's looked better at RDE, where Kyle WIlber is entrenched as Ware's backup), but he's done everything he can to show the coaches he deserves to.

Player Ranking in May
51 Jerome Long, DT N/A
52 Brandon Magee, LB 64
53 B. W. Webb, CB 27
54 Jermey Parnell, OT 32
55 Landon Cohen, DT N/A
56 Jared Green, WR N/A
57 Eric Frampton, S N/A
58 Danny McCray, S 22
59 Caleb McSurdy, LB 56
60 Edawn Coughman, OT-OG 68

Thoughts: as I wrote in May, its in this tier where Jason Garrett's roster overhaul is most evident. There are a lot of good players here, and in the next tier. As a result, there has been (and will continue to be) fierce competition for the final eight roster spots. I can envision any of the guys I've ranked 55-62 making the team - and could just as easily imagine each of them being cut.

Player Ranking in May
61 Matt Johnson, S 26
62 Kevin Kowalski, OC-OG 50
63 Ray Dominguez, OG 72
64 Danny Coale, WR 48
65 Ryan Cook, OC-OG 45
66 Jeris Pendleton, DT N/A
67 Jeff Heath, S 83
68 Tank Reed, LB 59
69 Tim Benford, WR 69
70 Colin Cochart, TE 71

Thoughts: a lot of guys here who fought valiantly but just weren't good enough (Dominguez, Cook, Cochart), or got caught in a nasty numbers game at a deep position (Reed, Benford). To be clear: I think Matt Johnson makes the roster. I've ranked him here because that's what he's shown us. Also, Jeff Heath has done a really nice job in working himself up from roster obscurity to a place where he may have earned a practice squad spot.

Player Ranking in May
71 Thaddeus Gibson, DE N/A
72 Brandon Underwood, CB 66
73 Anthony Amos, WR 84
74 Alex Tanney, QB N/A
75 Demetress Bell, OT N/A
76 Darrion Weems, OT 55
77 Xavier Brewer, CB 74
78 Eric Rogers, WR 75
79 Micah Pellerin, CB 70
80 Nick Stephens, QB 78

Thoughts: a collection of guys who didn't ever really have a chance, with a couple of exceptions: keep an eye on Thaddeus Gibson, a recent pick-up. Reports are that he's flashed some professional pass rush moves, good burst and the all-important bend. Look for either Tanney or Stephens to be on the practice squad.

And: don't be surprised if the team keeps Demetress Bell. Yes, he looks like an over-inflated dirigible. But he was good player as recently as 2011; because of this, I wonder if the team sees another Marc Colombo in him: a long-term restoration project that could pay big dividends if Mike Woicik can work his magic.

Player Ranking in May
81 Cam Lawrence, LB 76
82 Deon Lacey, LB 80
83 Jakar Hamilton, S 53
84 Jabari Fletcher, DE N/A
85 Kendial Lawrence, RB 60
86 Dennis Godfrey, OG N/A
87 Brett Maher, K N/A

Thoughts: a collection of disappointments (oh, Jakar, when has a pet cat fallen so far, so fast?) and guys who were all-but invisible in Oxnard. To their credit, all competed hard. But in their cases, it didn't really matter; they just weren't good enough.


Okay, that's it for now. I'll do a version of this exercise again at the end of the preseason, as we gear up for final cut-downs. In the meantime, what rankings do you like? With which ones do you vehemently disagree? Go to the comments section and let it all hang out, people!


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