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Preposterously Early Dallas Cowboys 53-Man Roster Prediction

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Hey, if they can do 2017 mock drafts already, we can pretend we have a clue about who does and doesn't make the team this year.

The selection process is about to commence.
The selection process is about to commence.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The draft has just concluded and the Dallas Cowboys have added 15 UDFA signees to go with the nine draftees. At the moment, they have more than 90 players under contract, so there are some cuts coming. And of course, no one has seen the rookies perform as NFL players. So there is way too little information to seriously be trying to come up with a 53-man roster projection.

Not that we are going to let that slow us down even a little bit.

Here is the first of what promises to be many such predictions. And the reality is that this is likely to be much more accurate than, say, your average mock draft was, because we actually know who 40 to 45 of the players are going to be with a fair amount of certainty, barring injury (find the nearest piece of real wood and knock on it until your knuckles bleed).

The commentary is about the players that are involved in some form of legitimate competition. Most of the veteran starters are pretty self-evident and require no real discussion. Also, DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory are not counted in this projection due to their pending suspension. The roster would of course change if Lawrence's appeal is successful.

Quarterback (3)

Tony Romo

Kellen Moore

Dak Prescott

Moore has a vocal minority of supporters, but the emphasis is on "minority". However, it is not likely that Prescott can supplant him as the QB2 by the start of the season, and unless the Cowboys manage to sign a veteran QB at some point, Moore will be Romo's backup. We are, of course, pinning our hopes on Romo staying on the field. Jameill Showers will probably wind up on the practice squad again. He is a good asset for scout work, and provides a disaster option at QB as well.

Running back (3)

Ezekiel Elliott

Alfred Morris

Darius Jackson

It may be a bit overly optimistic, but Jackson has a real shot at winning the third RB spot, especially since Lance Dunbar is expected to open the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list (which means he counts against the salary cap but not against the roster). And Dunbar may have a lot of trouble getting his spot back after Jackson has a minimum of six weeks to prove himself. Noticeably absent is Darren McFadden. With a $500K roster bonus and a total cap hit of $2.15 million against only $100K in dead money, he would have to prove he is indispensable to the team to stick on the roster. And with both Elliott and Morris on the roster, McFadden no longer is needed just to make sure there is a running game. He is a good guy who stepped in and helped the team in 2015, but he will have to hope his 1,000 yard season can get him another chance elsewhere.

Fullback (1)

Rod Smith

Jason Garrett loves him some fullback, no matter how we feel about the position. The news that the Smiths not named Jaylon (his brother Rod and linebacker Keith) were going to be tried at fullback was reported by Mickey Spagnola on Twitter. Projecting Rod to win the job is perhaps more hope than anything, but given his background, he would likely be more than just a lead blocker and could actually contribute to the offense catching passes and maybe even occasionally taking a handoff.

Wide Receiver (6)

Dez Bryant

Terrance Williams

Cole Beasley

Brice Butler

Chris Brown

Ed Eagan

It looks like the Devin Street era is over in Dallas. He would have to have a truly outstanding camp to retain his job, and even then, you have to wonder how much faith the coaches could have in him. He has looked good in camp before but does not carry it into real games. Lucky Whitehead is also teetering on the edge, and will probably be pushed over by one of the UDFAs, which is of course how Whitehead made the team originally. He will probably be offered a practice squad spot if he is not picked up by another team. Dallas goes deep here to provide one placeholder for players who are expected to return later, plus wideouts are good special teams fodder.

Tight end (3)

Jason Witten

James Hanna

Gavin Escobar

Escobar will retain his spot for another year if he is back from injury. If not, this will be a problem for the team. Geoff Swaim showed very little, sixth-round pick Rico Gathers takes the term "raw" to a whole new level, and Austin Traylor may wind up as part of the mix at fullback. If Escobar is a no-go, look for the answer to come from free agency.

Offensive line (8)

Tyron Smith

La'el Collins

Travis Frederick

Zack Martin

Doug Free

Ronald Leary

Chaz Green

Joe Looney

Since the team did not make a trade involving Leary during the draft, he will most likely be the guard backup this year, with Looney primarily backing up center. Green is going to have to hold off a couple of UDFAs in Ryan Mack and David Hedelin, but hopefully we will find out why Chaz was worth a draft pick last year, and Mack and/or Hedelin will probably be practice squad material.

Total offense: 24

Defensive end (4)

Benson Mayowa

David Irving

Charles Tapper

Ryan Russell

Obviously the team has to hold a couple of places for Lawrence and Gregory. Irving could kick back inside when they return, but it is more likely the Cowboys go heavy here after week 4.

Defensive tackle (5)

Tyrone Crawford

Cedric Thornton

Terrell McClain

Jack Crawford

Maliek Collins

McClain, returning from injury last year, may well be the placeholder for when the suspended DEs return, since Irving does have position flexibility and could help out inside if needed. Jack Crawford is probably another candidate to lose his spot on the line if they absolutely have to free up a spot. It would be best if the team can keep Tyrone Crawford at 3T rather than have to use him as an end, to play to his strengths. Rodney Coe and Jason Neill are very interesting UDFA prospects, but likely will have to go to the PS if Dallas wants to keep them.

Linebackers (7)

Sean Lee

Rolando McClain

Jaylon Smith

Anthony Hitchens

Andrew Gachkar

Kyle Wilber

Mark Nzeocha

It looks like the team is planning to have Smith sit out the year, but from what has been reported, if his nerve starts firing again, he can be ready to practice in four to six weeks, so let's just get all giddily optimistic here and assume he is going to be part of the roster to start the season. If he doesn't, then Damien Wilson will likely be on the roster. He was a close call to not make the roster, but the team should be able to offer him a practice squad position. Nzeocha is getting a lot of mentions from some of the beat writers, so he gets the nod over Wilson for the last LB spot.

Cornerback (6)

Brandon Carr

Orlando Scandrick

Morris Claiborne

Anthony Brown

Deji Olatoye

Terrance Mitchell

If there is another spot needed on defense, Olatoye or Mitchell are likely candidates to drop off the roster. They also should both have PS eligibility this year.

Safeties (4)

Barry Church

Byron Jones

Kavon Frazier

Jeff Heath

J.J. Wilcox loses out to Frazier, even though Wilcox has more FS skills. But there have been too many bad angles for that to matter. Heath is a ST ace, plus he can put in some FS work in a pinch.

Total defense: 26

Specialists (3)

Dan Bailey

Chris Jones

L.P. Ladouceur

Duh.

That's the first cut. Only two UDFAs make the list, both wide receivers. The Cowboys have frequently found wide receivers through that route, which is a reflection of the fact it is one position that usually has a large supply of NFL level talent coming out each year. But all the draft picks except basketball convertee Gathers make the 53, which is also normal since the team hates to part with players they spent draft capital on without giving them at least a season.

So what's your take? Any players you feel were left off incorrectly, or that you really want to see gone?

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