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2017 NFL Draft: Cowboys To Sign 14 Undrafted Free Agents

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As the draft winds down, the next stage of talent acquisition gets into high gear, as teams start to chase down the remaining players they had draftable grades on.

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Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys had nine undrafted free agents on their roster starting at least one game in 2016: Ronald Leary, Barry Church, Benson Mayowa, Cole Beasley, La'el Collins, David Irving, Lucky Whitehead, Keith Smith, and Emmett Cleary all went undrafted and took a sometimes circuitous route to the NFL. Add veterans Tony Romo, Cedric Thornton, Jeff Heath, and Lance Dunbar, along with special teamers Dan Bailey, Chris Jones, and L.P. Ladouceur, and you begin to understand the importance undrafted free agents (UDFAs) have for the Cowboys, who have been quite successful in bringing in UDFAs over the years.

And one of the reasons for the Cowboys' success with UDFAs is that Chris Hall, director of college scouting for the Cowboys and the guy with the long hair on the bottom right of the war room camera over the last three days, doesn’t allow scouts to "come off grade". If they have a grade on a guy before the draft, they have to stick with it after the draft. Which means that after the draft, they try and sign every guy still left on their draft board, as they feel those players effectively amount to extra draft picks.

And that's why we also make a point of tracking these UDFA signings. Full disclaimer here before you go any further: tracking and confirming actual signings of undrafted free agents can be tricky. The sources of these transactions come from all over, Twitter included, and sometimes they are not 100% reliable. Also, all reported deals are agreements, and players could back out of deals over next few days. Although this would be unusual for Cowboys agreements, it happens across the league every year, as the Cowboys found out the hard way two years ago when they thought they had an agreement with RB Thomas Rawls, who ended up with the Seahawks.

On of the reasons these signings happen so fast is that a lot of teams already have deals wored out in advance with prospective UDFAs, as Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst explains.

Have you ever wondered how teams sign so many UDFAs almost the minute the draft has ended?

It's simple -- the deals were worked out earlier this week and many of them are done.

I spoke with more than a dozen agents through Wednesday of last week, and most told me they had deals in the works for players they represent that may end up undrafted.

In some instances agents use the leverage of the deals in hand to get even more for their players. In other instances they use the deals to get the player drafted, telling the team on the other side of the phone, "If you want him you’re going to have to draft him."

So, with that in mind, below is a list of players who have been reported to have signed with your Dallas Cowboys as undrafted free agents, or who have received an invitation for a tryout at the Cowboys' rookie minicamp scheduled for May 12-13.

Refresh often, as we will be updating this thread as news comes out.

Rank Player POS School Height Weight
214
Dan Skipper OT Arkansas 6-10 309
281
Cooper Rush
QB
Central Michigan
6-3
228
286
Blake Jarwin
TE
Oklahoma State
6-5
246
295
Woody Baron
DT Virginia Tech
6-1 275
298
Nate Theaker
OG
Wayne State
6-5
315
319
Michael Coe
C North Dakota
6-1
309
346
Levon Myers
OT Northern Illinois 6-5
309
351
Lewis Neal
DE LSU
6-0
261
352
Joe Jones
OLB Northwestern
6-0
231
394
Kennan Gilchrist
OLB
Appalachian State
6-1
230
411
Lucas Wacha
OLB
Wyoming
6-1
225
508
Jahad Thomas
RB
Temple
5-10
190
580
Austin Appleby
QB
Florida
6-4
230
825
Brian Brown
WR
Richmond
6-1
204
Mini-camp invite
810 Anthony Warrum WR Illinois State 6-1 190
894 Kade Harrington RB Lamar 5-6 184
930 Darnell Leslie
DE
Monmouth
6-2
230
- - Trent Cowan FB Idaho 6-2 224
- - Darrion Millines
S
SMU
5-11
195
Veteran tryout
- - Quinn Epperly QB Princeton 6-1 215
M.J. McFarland
TE
UTEP
6-5
253

'Rank' is per the CBSSports big board

All 14 names in the table above have since been semi-confirmed by DallasCowboys.com. While there has been no official word on the signings yet, DC.com has posted tweets from all 14 prospects announcing they'll be joining the Cowboys.

Dallas Cowboys have not officially announced these particular signings however, most of the expected players have taken to social media to announce their landing spot.

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Gil Brandt posted a ranking of undrafted free agents by position, and seven of the Cowboys' 14 UDFA signings made Brandt's list.

Kennan Gilchrist is No. 4 LB
Jahad Thomas is No. 7 RB
Cooper Rush is No. 9 QB
Lewis Neal is No. 11 DL
Blake Jarwin is No. 11 TE
Nate Theaker is No. 16 OL
Dan Skipper is No. 19 OL

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OT Dan Skipper (per Optimum Scouting Draft Guide)

A four year starter at both right and left tackle, Dan Skipper brings immediate value to his future NFL team. After playing guard in his freshman season (and on special teams, using his 6'10 length), he played right and then left tackle for the Razorbacks.

As such a freakishly tall football player, his bends and movements in general don't look overly sexy all the time, but he's firmly capable of getting to his spots and he leverages his length to protect him from missteps. He's developed a strong trust with his length, and while he doesn't have a devastating initial punch to win immediately, he readjusts well to keep distance, especially for short-area passing plays. Skipper isn't all that fluid when working too far laterally and is best served as an in-line pass protector. He protects his inside shoulder well with wide-based steps without losing positioning, and that's a huge benefit to his lower half length.

He can be a surprisingly effective downfield and in-space run blocker, and his acceleration to the second level in the Arkansas zone blocking makes you forget that he's a 6'10 offensive tackle moving like that. His value in the NFL will be at swing tackle, and in most offensive line classes he'd be considered a worthy Day 3 player. In the 2018 class, he may crash the first four rounds.

QB Cooper Rush (per NFL.com)

NFL Comparison: Kellen Moore

Bottom Line: His body type and lack of functional arm strength will immediately make him a draft reject on some team's boards, but that could be a mistake. Processes as quickly as any quarterback I've studied over the last five years and has the anticipation and accuracy to counter his lack of velocity. Mental makeup and consistency of production make him a legitimate NFL roster candidate.

TE Blake Jarwin (per Dane Brugler's Draft Guide)

A part-time starter at Oklahoma State, Jarwin lined up all over the formation as the "Cowboy" back in Mike Gundy’s spread scheme, spending time inline, slot and out wide. A self-made player, he went from walk-on to regular contributor, but his uninspiring production stands out with only 41 career catches, posting four catches or more only once in 37 games played. Although he requires extensive work as a route-runner and blocker, Jarwin is a good-sized athlete with the physical, want-to attitude to be a development "Y" tight end.

DT Woody Baron (per PFF)

Position fit: 3-technique, flexible usage at VT included at 5, 0 and stand up 7 technique. Size makes his fit unclear at the next level.

Stats to know: Generated 10 sacks, two hits and 35 pressures in his final two years at Virginia Tech.

Baron did not even receive an All-Star invitation this offseason, despite recording first-team ACC honors in 2016. Undersized defensive tackles rarely flourish in the NFL, and franchises always appear more willing to gamble on freakish size than any other trait. Baron is both short and light for a player in his position, yet possesses the athletic skills to expose some of the heavier interior offensive lineman in the pros. His pass-rushing skillset fits the requirements of the modern NFL. The reward should outweigh the risk sometime on Day 3.

OG Nate Theaker (per DraftAnalyst)

Four-year starter who earned First Team All-GLIAC as both a sophomore and a senior. Was voted GLIAC Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2016. Also received All-America honors from D2Football.com, Don Hansen and the AFCA. Played in 42 of the 43 games he dressed for in his career.

Theaker offers the size and mentality to play on Sundays yet is a prospect who must improve his fundamentals to make an active roster.

OC Michael Coe (per Rotoworld)

Coe was named second-team FCS All-American by the coaches this past season. During his pro day work at the end of March, the 6-foot-1, 309-pounder registered 31 reps on the bench press, a 20-yard shuttle of 4.89 seconds and a three-cone drill time of 8.40 seconds. He could potentially see interest in the final two rounds of the draft next week.

OT Levon Myers (per NFL.com)

NFL Comparison: Vaitai Halapoulivaati

Bottom Line: Athletic prospect with potential roster flexibility that could push him up some draft boards. While Myers has the movement ability to play guard in a zone scheme, some teams may also view him as a legitimate swing tackle with the athleticism and length to play either tackle spot. Myers moves well, but he's not a finesse player. In the right fit, he could be an eventual starter and is no worse that a scheme-flexible backup.

DE Lewis Neal (per Dane Brugler's Draft Guide)

A former three-star recruit, Neal initially committed to Ohio State before flipping to LSU once the Tigers offered him. He spent his first two seasons in Baton Rouge as a reserve, totaling 10 tackles. Neal started all 24 games the past two seasons, leading the team in sacks as a junior before seeing his production slip as a senior. He sports a compact, filled-out frame and although he lacks ideal length, he understands how to use his reach to deliver a jarring punch and keep blockers from his body. Neal has coordinated lower body athleticism, but lacks initial burst and arc speed to consistently threaten the pocket from the edge. Although he takes disciplined angles vs. the run, he needs to improve his break down skills in space. His maturity and intelligence will impress during interviews – bought and operates a barber shop and owns a financial investment firm. Overall, Neal wins more with hustle than difference-making skills, which might be enough once in a training camp.

LB Joe Jones (per InsideNU)

Joe Jones will get absolutely get a chance in the NFL. After the performance he put together on his Pro Day, Jones was tagged by ProFootballWeekly as an NFL Draft "Late Riser" and clearly showed that he has the physical talent to play in the NFL. Due to his lack of visibility, he probably won’t get drafted, but who knows — a team may take a flyer on the athletic linebacker in the 7th round. Jones will be on an NFL roster come the summer, and then it will just be up to him to make sure he sticks to at least a practice squad when the fall rolls around.

LB Kennan Gilchrist (per The Gamehaus)

Gilchrist is a good tackler and decent in coverage. He has good games with 10 or more tackles, but also doesn’t show up some games and only has a few tackles. If Gilchrist wants to make it at the next level, he has to show some consistency, or he will be cut.

LB Lucas Wacha (from the comments section below)

Wacha had 108 tackles last season, eight in the Mountain West. His 59 solo tackles and 49 tackle assists each ranked eighth in the conference as well. The team captain had nine tackles for loss, including three sacks, second and tied for third on the team, respectively. Wacha also recovered two fumbles.

As a junior, Wacha had 96 tackles, 46 solo. His 8.7 tackles per game ranked fifth in the Mountain West and were top-50 nationwide. He also had six tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Wacha finished his career with 344 tackles, good for seventh in Wyoming history.

Lucas Wacha tested in the 75th percentile for NFL LBs

RB Jahad Thomas (per NFL.com)

NFL Comparison: Marcus Murphy

Bottom Line: Productive running back lacking in NFL-caliber size and strength but who makes up for it with his quickness and ability to help as a pass catcher and return man. While it's hard to imagine him handling more than just a few carries per game as an NFL runner, his roster flexibility could work in his advantage. With his ability to operate from the slot and as a jet-sweep runner, he could be an interesting toy for a creative play-caller.

QB Austin Appleby (wikipedia)

He was a consensus 3-star high school prospect as a senior. He served the first 17 games of his career as the backup quarterback for Purdue. He was named Purdue's starting quarterback during their 6th game of the 2014 season before being replaced by David Blough. After his graduation in 2015, Appleby transferred to the University of Florida.

On January 4, 2016, Appleby announced his decision to play his final year of college football at the University of Florida as a graduate transfer. Appleby competed with Luke Del Rio for the starting quarterback position, and lost out to Del Rio. After an injury early in the season to Del Rio, Appleby started seven games for the Gators in the 2016 season.

WR Brian Brown (via NFLdraftscout)

In addition to leading the CAA in every receiving category, Brown led the CAA in every receiving category and ranks in the top-five in the nation as well in the same categories. The Richmond, Va. native is currently 17th all-time in FCS history with 3,897 career yards and is just one TD away from tying the all-time program record. - Richmond Football

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Here's the sequence in which the names came in while we were live tracking the signings on Staurday and Sunday.

6:50 PM ET: Lucas Wacha, OLB for the Wyoming Cowboys signs with the Dallas Cowboys. Wacha is a Texarkana, TX native.

7:03 PM ET: Cowboys fill a need at RB with Jahad Thomas. Thomas had a private workout with the Cowboys prior to the draft.

7:08 PM ET: Cowboys get Dylon Cole, the sparqiest linebacker in this draft class (97th percentile).

7:18 PM ET: More wide receivers for Dallas. Brian Brown of Richmond signed.

7:20 PM ET: News of Dylan Cole signing may have been premature, looks like he's going to the Texans.

7:22 PM ET: More linebackers. Kenna Gilchrist out of Appalachian State.

7:29 PM ET: The first QB joins the fray in Cooper Rush from Central Michigan

7:31 PM ET: DE Joe Mathis is reported as a tryout player for Dallas, maybe we'll get a little more clarity over the course of the evening.

7:36 PM ET: The long-awaited tight end signing is here in the form of Blake Jarwin.

7:40 PM ET: LSU fans can finally relax: DE Lewis Neal is a UDFA signing.

7:42 PM ET: Some help for the OL: OC/OG Michael Coe out of North Dakota.

7:45 PM ET: It is now confirmed that Dylan Cole did not sign with Dallas, going to Houston instead.

8:00 PM ET: MOAR linebackers: Joe Jones out of Nortwestern signs in Dallas.

8:03 PM ET: More beef up front: OT Levon Myers signs with the Cowboys.

8:40 PM ET: The Cowboys narrowly missed out on drafting Brad Kaaya, so they now turn to the ranks of the UDFAs, where they found Austin Appleby out of Florida.

9:55 PM ET: Nate Theaker is another addition to the offensive line

10:07 PM ET: DE Joe Mathis has decided to sign with the Texans instead of merely doing a tryout with the Cowboys.

10:56 PM ET: The Cowboys sign Dan Skipper, an offensive tackle of Herculean proportions at 6'10".

8:30 AM ET: Missed this signing yesterday: Virginia Tech defensive tackle Woody Baron is headed to Dallas as an undrafted free agent.

Monday, 8:11 PM ET: RB Kade Harrington is the first name on our list of tryout players.