Since January, we've focused almost exclusively on the new talent the Cowboys have acquired, first via free agency in March, then via the draft in May and most recently via the college free agent signings.
And while it's great fun to contemplate what all these shiny new toys will bring to Dallas, it's also easy to lose sight of another great source of talent for the Cowboys in 2016: the guys already on the team.
About a month ago, Tom Ryle took a look at five players from the 2015 draft that need to step up for the Cowboys, and a week before that, we asked you to name your pet cats on the 2016 roster. Today, we're going to ask you to nominate your favorite for the 2016 Breakout Player. But before you start typing a response (e.g. "Ezekiel Elliott, Sukkaz!") there are some rules you need to follow. To qualify as a Breakout Player, the following criteria must be met:
• Drafted in the third round or later, or signed as a college free agent
• Entered the NFL between 2013 and 2015
• Fewer than five career games started
The criteria outlined above are based on the Football Outsiders Top 25 Prospects list, in which they nominate the 25 players they think are most likely to have a breakout year. The list is usually released sometime during the preseason, so we don’t know yet which Cowboys player will make their list.
Last year, FO had Joseph Randle coming in at No. 9 overall on their list.
Randle has ability and opportunity, but let's be honest, the latter outweighs the former right now. Having the first crack at a starting job behind the best offensive line in football is a pretty nice ticket to stardom. Randle certainly looked like a future star last year, gaining 343 yards on 51 carries for a remarkable 6.7 yards per carry. But you don't want to put more stock into that than you do the 3.0 yards per carry he put up with 54 carries the year before. The worry about Randle coming out of Oklahoma State was that he didn't have the burst or power to get more than what the line blocked for him. It might be hard to tell if that's still the case should the Cowboys' line blocks as well as it did last year.
For a while, it looked as if Randle would live up to the FO billing, but then everything came crashing down around him.
The year before, FO didn't have a Cowboys player making their top 25, though LB Devonte Holloman did get an honorable mention.
If this list doesn’t appear like something you’d want a Cowboys player to appear on, know that in the 2013 edition, Ronald Leary and James Hanna both got honorable mentions. Since then, the Cowboys got 35 starts from Leary, and 29 starts from Hanna. If the Cowboys can get more production like that this year out of the ranks of their under-the-radar, lower-drafted prospects, then that would be a big success.
The table below summarizes the players on the roster who meet the FO criteria outlined above. The table is split into three categories: Players who have started at least one game, players who have played in at least one game, and players who have done neither. Note that every single on of the players listed below has less than five career NFL starts. You may think some of the players listed below are established veterans and you might wonder why anybody would call them under-the-radar players. Simple: as measured by career starts, none of them is more than a role player. Yet.
|Name||POS||NFL Years||Games||Games Started|
|NFL Starting Experience|
|NFL Game Experience|
|No NFL Experience|
From this list, who do you think could be the 2016 Breakout Player for the Dallas Cowboys?