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The Top Five Pitfalls Of Preseason 53-Man Roster Projections

Roster projections early in preseason are best approached with caution. We identify the five most common pitfalls as we look back at Cowboys roster projections from 2012.


Last year, immediately after the first preseason game against the Oakland Raiders, and after two weeks of training camp, we looked at four different 53-man roster projections here on BTB: Tim MacMahon had published one for ESPN Dallas and David Moore had done one for the Dallas Morning News. The quartet was completed with projections from Rabblerouser and yours truly.

Today, we’re going to look back at those four roster projections to see what the pitfalls in early roster projections are, something that should come in handy as we review the next batch of roster projections that are likely to hit us next week.

The table below summarizes the four 53-man roster projections for the Cowboys from last year. Note that the players are not necessarily shown in the order in which they were originally published, as I reordered them in some instances to make the projections more transparent across the four sources. Green denotes starters on the opening day of the 2012 season, the other players on the season-opening 53-man roster are marked in yellow. Players who did not make the 53-man roster are marked in red.

POS MacMahon, ESPN Moore, DMN rabblerousr, BTB OCC, BTB
QB Romo Romo Romo Romo
Orton Orton Orton Orton
RB Murray Murray Murray Murray
Jones Jones Jones Jones
Tanner Tanner Tanner Tanner
Dunbar Olawale
FB Vickers Vickers Vickers Vickers
TE Witten Witten Witten Witten
Phillips Phillips Phillips Phillips
Hanna Hanna Hanna Hanna
WR Austin Austin Austin Austin
Bryant Bryant Bryant Bryant
Holmes Holmes Holmes Holmes
Beasley Beasley Harris Harris
Coale Coale Ogletree Coale
Veteran TBD
OL Smith Smith Smith Smith
Livings Livings Livings Livings
Costa Costa Costa Costa
Bernadeau Bernadeau Bernadeau Bernadeau
Free Free Free Free
Arkin Arkin Arkin Arkin
Parnell Parnell Parnell Parnell
Dockery Dockery Dockery Backup C, TBD
Leary Leary Leary Leary
McQuistan McQuistan
DL Ratliff Ratliff Ratliff Ratliff
Hatcher Hatcher Hatcher Hatcher
Spears Spears Coleman Coleman
Lissemore Lissemore Lissemore Lissemore
Crawford Crawford Crawford Crawford
Brent Brent Brent Brent
Geathers Geathers Bass Bass
ILB Lee Lee Lee Lee
Carter Carter Carter Carter
Connor Connor Connor Connor
Albright Albright Albright Albright
Lemon Lemon Lemon Lemon
OLB Ware Ware Ware Ware
Spencer Spencer Spencer Spencer
Butler Butler Butler Butler
Wilber Wilber Wilber Wilber
Hamilton Hamilton
CB Carr Carr Carr Carr
Claiborne Claiborne Claiborne Claiborne
Jenkins Jenkins Jenkins Jenkins
Scandrick Scandrick Scandrick Scandrick
Butler Butler Butler Butler
S Sensabaugh Sensabaugh Sensabaugh Sensabaugh
Church Church Church Church
McCray McCray McCray McCray
Johnson Johnson Johnson Johnson
K Bailey Bailey Bailey Bailey
P Jones Jones Jones Jones
LS Hughlett Ladouceur Hughlett Ladouceur

If you started summing up the colored cells to figure out who "the winner" ended up being, you shouldn’t have. Because somewhat to my surprise, all four of us correctly predicted exactly 47 of the 53 players who eventually made the roster. Rabble and I had all 22 starters in our projection, MacMahon and Moore came up one starter short because they did not have Kenyon Coleman on their rosters, but Rabble and I did.

Chalk that up as a small victory if you will, but the really interesting thing in these projections are the players we missed on, and they can be broadly classified in the following five categories:

The "Progress Stopper"

"Progress stopper" is a term Bill Parcells introduced to Cowboys Nation. The term has stuck around and is mostly used for veteran players with no upside who fans and media alike believe should leave to make room for an exciting young talent they believe has almost unlimited potential. But coaches don’t always think in terms of potential. Instead, they see reliability versus lack of experience, and will often take the former over the latter. It’s not sexy and it’s not what fans and the media want, but it’s what coaches do.

All four of our projections made a choice between Kenyon Coleman and Marcus Spears in order to get either Ben Bass or Clifton Geathers onto the roster. The Cowboys didn’t oblige us and kept the two veterans while relegating the two pups to the practice squad.

Similarly, rabble was the only one to pick Kevin Ogletree out of our panel, but the Cowboys kept Ogletree as their No. 3 receiver over other "exciting" WR prospects. Another example is L.P. Ladouceur, whom two projections had losing out to no-name rookie Charlie Hughlett, probably for no other reason than that the new is more exciting than the old.

As you look at roster projections, look closely at where there’s a tradeoff between a middle-of-the-pack veteran and a young (and unproven) player. The veteran may have the edge more often than you think.

The Guy With A Story

Sometimes, a player joins the roster whose story is just so compelling, you want him to make the roster, and don’t look too closely at his performance in camp. Adrian Hamilton joined the Cowboys from out-of-the-way Prairie View A&M with 22 sacks in his senior season. Surely he was going to be the next DeMarcus Ware! Except he couldn’t stop the run. The Cowboys saw it and didn’t even want him for the practice squad, but two of us had him on our 53-man roster.

Ronald Leary was touted by the Cowboys as a third-round talent who fell due to knee issues. Talk quickly surfaced about how Leary could possibly be starting by the end of the year. All four of us had him making the roster. But he didn’t.

Remember how Danny Coale was supposed to always be open? Three of us fell for that.

Watch out for underdog fever. You know, guys with impressive youtube videos or something like that.

The You-Can-Never-Have-Enough-Players-At-His-Position Guy

Orie Lemon showed up on all four projections but didn’t make the roster. We all thought the Cowboys would go with 5 linebackers, and Lemon was supposed to be our fifth guy. The Cowboys went with four.

Building the roster is not a color-by-numbers exercise. Beware of the guy who tells you that you can’t have enough linebackers, you can’t have enough corners, you can't have enough linemen. Of course you can.

The System Guy

Remember TE Colin Cochart? Well, neither did any of us as we put together our projections. Cochart is the only player to not show up on any projection, but still make the roster. If you want to run plays out of 12 or even 13 personnel, you need tight ends. The coaches knew it, we didn’t.

The Pet Cat

Everybody has a pet cat. And whether we do it knowingly or not, we construct our projections to some way, some how fit in that one player we’ve taken a linking to. Because deep in our hearts we know that if we close our eyes and wish for something really, really hard, it is bound to happen. I know this because I watch a lot of Hollywood films, so it must be true. Tanney, Tanney, Tanney …


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