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Assessing The Cowboys Roster, Early Camp Edition: Ranking Players, Regardless Of Position

Who are the best (and worst) players on the Cowboys roster, regardless of position? After a week and change of camp to gather information, a ranking the current roster, from one to ninety.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Cowboys best player!
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Cowboys best player!
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Last year at camp, 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, and it's how we began the assessment process for this exercise, but there is a crucial drawback: it doesn't offer the clearest of pictures about the talent distribution across the team; as those of you who have studied this iteration of the Cowboys' roster know, the fifth wide receiver 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.

It was with this in mind that my podcast partner, Landon McCool and I set about to rank this year's players from 1-90, since Landon is here for both camp practices this weekend. This was no easy task; we spent two and a half hours with index cards spread across one of our beds making agonizing decisions: Is Dwayne Harris better than Cole Beasley (we agreed he was)? If so, by how much (not by a lot, we figured).

This is a good time to conduct this experiment. We are a week into camp, and so there is considerable more clarity than there was July 23rd. Just those few days ago, it was a relatively simple endeavor to rank last year's draft class, but slotting the 2014 draft picks and UDFAs was much more difficult, largely because we had seen little to nothing of them. As a result, all I could offer pre-camp were educated guesstimates; now, after eight camp practices, and several tete-a-tetes with other careful observers, we have a much better handle on the newbies. Okay, here we go:

Rank Player
1 Dez Bryant, WR
2 Tyron Smith, OT
3 Dan Bailey, K
4 Tony Romo, QB
5 Jason Witten, TE
6 DeMarco Murray, RB
7 Travis Frederick, OC
8 Henry Melton, DT
9 Zack Martin, OG
10 Orlando Scandrick, CB

Thoughts: the top ten has changed a lot since the last time I did this exercise. Gone are DeMarcus Ware (#2); Jason Hatcher (#4); Sean Lee (#6); and Miles Austin (#9). The list was once populated by veteran Pro Bowlers; now, it's led by the future of the franchise: youngsters Bryant, Smith, Frederick, and Martin. As this suggests, the new list reflects the superiority of the Cowboys offense, which has the top seven players and eight of the top ten. Here's the next group:

Rank Player
11 Doug Free, OT
12 Barry Church, DS
13 Terrance Williams, WR
14 Mo Claiborne, CB
15 Lance Dunbar, RB
16 Tyrone Crawford, DE
17 Dwayne Harris, WR/ KR
18 Cole Beasley, WR
19 Brandon Carr, CB
20 George Selvie, DE

Thoughts: The 11-20 section of the roster shows the effects of the disturbances in the top ten. Several players who were in last year's second tier are now in the upper echelon. If you are wondering about the quality of the Cowboys' roster, look no further than this section for an (unsettling) answer: there are a lot of soft spots here.

Rank Player
21 Kyle Wilber, OLB/ DE
22 Mackenzie Bernadeau, OG
23 Gavin Escobar, TE
24 Bruce Carter, OLB
25 DeMarcus Lawrence, DE
26 J.J. Wilcox, DS
27 Jeremy Mincey, DE
28 Terrell McClain, DT
29 Rolando McClain, MLB
30 DeVonte Holloman, OLB

Thoughts: This is where the starters and key substitution players should be found. While there are several of these in this ten, it's populated largely by potential that lacks a consistent history of production. Players like Wilber, Escobar, Lawrence, and Holloman are some of the draftees from the last couple of drafts that the team is relying on to take important steps forward. Every one of these guys could end up in the top 20 by year's end. If they do, think of the positions that will be improved: defensive end, safety, one-technique DT, all three linebacker spots. Frankly, the success of the 2014 season will depend on a shakeup of that magnitude taking place.

Rank Player
31 Ron Leary, OG
32 Justin Durant, LB
33 L.P. Ladoceur, LS
34 Anthony Spencer, DE
35 Davon Coleman, DT
36 Jakar Hamilton, DS
37 Brandon Weeden, QB
38 Jeff Heath, DS
39 James Hanna, TE
40 Joseph Randle, RB

Thoughts: A really interesting hodge-podge of salty veterans (Spencer, Durant) and youngsters who are just trying to make a professional roster for the first time. Now that Leary is over his hamstring issue, the hope is that he will rise quickly up the list. Although not every one of this ten-some has been awesome in camp, none has done anything to make us think they won't make the final 53.

Rank Player
41 Tyler Clutts, FB
42 Devin Street, WR
43 Uche Nwaneri, OG
44 Nick Hayden, DT
45 Sterling Moore, CB
46 Terrance Mitchell, CB
47 Ben Bass, DT
48 Ken Bishop, DT
49 Chris Jones, P
50 Darrion Weems, OT

Thoughts: Hodge-podge, part II. Another mixed group comprised of a guy who has surprised a bit (Clutts); veterans who have been invisible, or worse, in camp (Nwaneri, Bass, Weems), and promising rookies who are making a push (Bishop, Street). And, of course, there is Nick Hayden. We debated long and hard about him - could we justify placing a starter this low on our rankings? - before deciding that he's a player that the team wants to replace. Still, several of these guys could easily end up on the final roster. As could several from the next decade:

Rank Player
51 LaRon Byrd, WR
52 Jeremy Parnell, OT
53 Ryan Williams, RB
54 Martez Wilson, DE
55 Jamar Newsome, WR
56 Dartwan Bush, DE
57 Anthony Hitchens, OLB
58 Ronald Patrick, OC
59 Tyler Patmon, CB
60 Caesar Rayford, DE

Thoughts: Several candidates here capable of pushing Hayden and his brethren in the 41-50 group off the Cowboys roster. To our minds, the most likely candidates are Byrd, Wilson, Bush and Hitchens. We have a feeling the last O-lineman on the roster will be Patrick, who they are working hard to develop as a backup center. Of course, there are players in the final big group below who can join them, but we're far, far less optimistic about their chances. Let's have a looksee:

Rank Player
61 Dezmon Briscoe, WR
62 Matt Johnson, DS
63 B.W. Webb, CB
64 Chris Boyd, WR
65 Cameron Lawrence, LB
66 Ben Gardner, DE
67 Cody Mandell, P
68 Caleb Hanie, QB
69 Brian Clarke, OG
70 Dashaun Phillips, CB
71 Orie Lemon, MLB
72 Ryan Smith, DS
73 Tim Benford, WR
74 Ben Malena, RB
75 Jordan Najvar, TE
76 Will Smith, OLB
77 Ahmad Dixon, DS
78 Dallas Walker, TE
79 J. C. Copeland, FB
80 Keith Smith, LB
81 Amobi Okoye, DT
82 Ben Boatright, DE
83 Adawale Ojomo, DE
84 Joe Windsor, LB
85 John Wetzel, OT
86 Dustin Vaughn, QB
87 Dontavis Sapp, MLB
88 Josh Aladenoye, OT
89 Andre Cureton, OG
90 Casey Kreiter, LS

Thoughts: An ugly final ten. But up at the top of this section are a handful of names who have a very real opportunity to displace someone higher on the list. The coaches still love Matt Johnson, regardless of his inability to stay healthy; in camp, Cam Lawrence has been a core special teams guy, and those guys tend to make rosters; Ben Gardner could make a move once he comes back from his shoulder injury. And, of course, 2014 seventh-rounders Will Smith and Ahmad Dixon will be given every opportunity to stick, most likely on "teams." And then there's B.W. Webb, who has looked better at times this camp; the question is whether he's done it often enough to overcome the fact that he's still been getting burned all too often.


Okay, that's it for now. I'll do a version of this exercise again closer to 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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