Even though the Dallas Cowboys went 4-12 in 2015, it didn't really feel like they were that bad of a team. Mainly because they were without Tony Romo for much of the year and Dez Bryant missed time and then was never completely healthy when he returned. Throw into that a disaster at backup quarterback, and you have a team that crumbled. So while the record said 4-12, the overall talent on the roster didn't, although the defense is still very suspect.
Dallas weren't major players in free agency but they did manage to add some talent like defensive tackle Cedric Thornton, running back Alfred Morris and defensive end Benson Mayowa among others. The draft saw them take Ezekiel Elliott at fourth overall, a move praised by some but dinged by others who thought it was too high for a running back, or that passing on Jalen Ramsey was a mistake. So throw all that in the mix and where do outside observers rank the Cowboys now? A quick survey:
11. Dallas Cowboys 2015 record: 4-12 Post-free agency ranking: No. 13 The NFC East is the Charlie Sheen of the NFL. Used to be huge, hasn't done a thing lately and people remain surprisingly fascinated. So maybe Tony Romo and Dez Bryant come back healthy and Ezekiel Elliott proves worthy of the collective Hall of Fame induction that followed his selection in the draft. If not, there are surely some "Two And A Half Men" reruns on somewhere.
Despite the tortured "Two And A Half Men" analogy, this is a pretty respectable view of Dallas. Almost a Top-10 team? Lofty ranking for sure and ahead of their NFC East competition (Washington 16, Giants 18, Eagles 22).
16 COWBOYS It was hard to love the Ezekiel Elliott pick at first. Not because it wasn't exciting -- it was more the combination of Elliott with second-round selection Jaylon Smith. If the Cowboys had spent their first-round pick on Jalen Ramsey -- a defender who can contribute right away -- then the Smith pick would've made more sense to me. Taking Elliott and Smith means a defense devoid of its top two outside rushers the first four games of the season -- thanks to the suspensions of DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory -- gets no immediate blue-chip bump from the draft. So, while the Elliott and Smith selections were awesome individually ... As a mixture? I'm not so sure.
Here is where most of the concern lies, the Cowboys defense not holding up its end of the bargain. In this view, the Cowboys are not tops in the NFC East (Washington 13, Giants 15, Eagles 25)
12. Cowboys If they get Tony Romo back healthy, they are the team to beat in the NFC East. It looks like he is and getting Ezekiel Elliott will be a nice help. But that defense?
Romo is coming back healthy, but we all hold our breath that he will remain that way. The Cowboys are atop the NFC East in this ranking (Giants 15, Washington 17, Eagles 25).
10. Dallas Cowboys The Cowboys are walking the tightrope between Super Bowl contention and disaster. If their offensive stars, including first-round pick Ezekiel Elliott, stay healthy, an NFC East title, and perhaps much more, is within reach. But those hopes are as flimsy as Tony Romo's thrice-shattered left collarbone. - Woods
I included this one even though The Score is not a big media site because the description of the Cowboys kind of struck home. The Cowboys could be a powerhouse team this year, but if Romo comes up injured again, or the defense doesn't improve, it could go the other direction. BTW, Dallas leads the NFC East in this one, too (Giants 13, Washington 15, Eagles 24).
So BTB, wher would you rank Dallas in the NFC East, and across all 32 teams?