Pro Football Focus, via ESPN, recently took the time to grade every presumed starter on every NFL roster for the 2014 season, then based on that gave the entire starting roster a collective rating. The Cowboys ended up ranked at #18. At first, as a Cowboys fan, this felt low. But that is likely because I'm an eternal optimist about the team, always giving Dallas players the benefit of the doubt when I can. But, consider the Cowboys recent run of 8-8 records, the fact that we picked 16th (and it could have been 17th if we lost a coin flip) in the last draft; a ranking of 18th doesn't really seem out of order.
Although that lower ranking does fly in the face of one constant charge made against the team, that we have a talented roster that is wasted by inept coaching and bad front-office management. How many times have we heard that complaint? Maybe it is that we just have a mediocre roster.
Below is the color key chart for the rankings and then the Cowboys individual roster rankings with description.
18. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys' defense had its problems before star inside linebacker Sean Lee suffered a torn ACL last week in OTAs. Lee was a high-quality starter, and only his history with injuries prevented him from being a legitimate blue-chipper. Without him, the team looks even more threadbare on that side of the ball.
Henry Melton was a nice addition in free agency, but when you look at what else has departed in the same offseason, it does little to stem the bleeding. There is a lot of money invested in the secondary, but neither Morris Claiborne nor Brandon Carr has come close to justifying it yet. The offense is what keeps this roster afloat, with Tony Romo and Dez Bryant headlining talent that runs deep across the skill positions. The Cowboys look likely to be involved in plenty of shootouts this year.
By the numbers: Tony Romo is among seven projected starters on offense (58.3 percent) who are graded good or better, with only Ronald Leary at left guard ranking below average. On defense, things are a different story entirely, with only Melton grading out as above average. The loss of Lee robs the team of its fifth high-quality starter and the only one on defense.
Looking at their rankings, I have a few changes, or at least debates, to be made. One, I believe Dez Bryant is absolutely elite. His numbers from last year and his overall skill put him in the "elite" category. Two, a case can be made for Tony Romo to be a "high quality" starter instead of a "good starter." I can't put Gavin Escobar as an "average starter" yet, I need to see more. On defense, Orlando Scandrick could certainly be considered a "good starter," and you could probably make a case for Barry Church.
Okay, that's my thoughts. Now let's have your thoughts in the comments section.