Yesterday we posted an article referencing Pro Football Focus' recent rankings of all 32 NFL rosters in terms of talent and depth. It was an interesting snapshot of the league based on one organization's advanced statistics mixed with a little contextual editing. It was just a fun, passing fancy meant for a particularly slow time in the offseason. But what caught my eye, and many others, was the part where PFF chose the top five players from each team. In particular, the Cowboys list which did not include Dez Bryant. It's hard to imagine a list of the top five Cowboys players without including Bryant.
So to set the record straight, I decided to create a list of my top fifteen Dallas Cowboys players currently on the roster. Why fifteen? Why not. Really it was because after the top five or so you really have to start making choices. And fifteen starts to play into your own biases. Are you going on production or potential? Does the position they play make one player a higher rank than another? Can you include a rookie even though they only have college production and combine measurements to go on? It becomes an examination of the top of the Cowboys, and an examination of your own biases.
But that never stopped anyone, so it won't stop me - or us. After I post my list I invite you to post your list in the comments. The criteria is whatever you want it to be. Mine was a mix of talent (the main factor for me), production (some realized, some projected) and overall contribution to the team (admittedly a somewhat nebulous category). Enjoy, and then let's see your list.
1. Tyron Smith - Adept at both pass- and run-blocking, he's widely regarded as one of the top left tackles in football, if not the top. And he's still getting better.
2. Dez Bryant - He has everything you need, physical skills and a competitive fire, and he produces. Also very dangerous after the catch.
3. Tony Romo - Criminally underrated by most NFL observers and fans, he's the straw that stirs the drink in Dallas.
4. Sean Lee - I can see some saying this is too high, but when Lee isn't injured, he's as good a linebacker as you will find in the league. A special talent hampered by injuries his whole career.
5. Zack Martin - This could just as easily be Travis Frederick, it's hard to distinguish between the two.
6. Travis Frederick - This could just as easily be Zack Martin, it's hard to distinguish between the two.
7. Jason Witten - The age decline is starting to show, but on third down I'd take him over almost anyone around.
8. Orlando Scandrick - Another Cowboy who should be getting more recognition league-wide for just how good he is at cornerback.
9. Ezekiel Elliott - Sure, it's all projection on potential, but he should be a star and will likely be higher on this list at season's end.
10. Tyrone Crawford - He's better than his stats show, but he still hasn't reached his full potential. This year he will.
11. Dan Bailey - Cash money. He's a kicker, but still makes the list because he's that good.
12. Rolando McClain - So much talent, just can't be consistent and stay healthy. Plus, off-field issues always there.
13. Byron Jones - If he builds on last year and grows, he could be in the top ten easily by next season.
14. DeMarcus Lawrence - Starting to turn into a force, too bad the likely four-game suspension will hamper those efforts.
15. Jaylon Smith - Wait, what? Okay, this is admittedly a little controversial, but at full strength, he has the potential to be a beast. On talent alone, he should make the list.
Honorable mentions - Guys who almost made the list: Randy Gregory, Cedric Thornton, Alfred Morris, La'el Collins and Cole Beasley.