The Dallas Cowboys have had some notable success stories when signing undrafted free agents over the years in what is considered the eighth round of the NFL Draft. Just recently we have seen names like Miles Austin, Barry Church, Cole Beasley, Jeff Heath - and of course, Tony Romo. This year, it is going to be perhaps a bit harder to make the team as a UDFA, given the influx of talent via the draft. Still, the Cowboys were active again this year. And they may have found some hidden gems again.
Gary Davenport at Bleacher Report graded the UDFA groups of all 32 NFL teams. And while this is just like all the immediate evaluations (far too early to tell), it does find that Dallas had one of the best looking hauls in the league. Davenport gave the Cowboys an A-. Only two teams had an A, and four other teams (including NFC East rivals the Philadelphia Eagles) also got an A-. That speaks to the strength of the scouting department in Dallas. And another thing or two, according to the author.
There may not be an owner in the NFL who catches more flak from fans than Jerry Jones. That Jones has an ego cannot be denied. The Dallas Cowboys are very much Jerry's ballclub.
What's gotten lost in the snickers is that Jones isn't close to being the worst general manager in the NFL, and the Cowboys have one of the better UDFA crops in the league in 2017.
It doesn't hurt to have the star on your hat when selling yourself.
Davenport lists three players he sees as having a good shot at contributing to the Cowboys. One is LSU DE Lewis Neal, who he describes as a bit of a “tweener”. Neal does fit the Dallas profile in being seen as having some position flex, but he faces a tough challenge breaking onto a team with so many defensive linemen. His best hope may be a practice squad spot.
The second name of note is one that has been getting a lot of attention, the “Mountain” of the NFL, Dan Skipper. The ludicrously tall offensive lineman keeps getting mentioned as a living barrier to use when the opponent is trying to kick field goals and extra points, and that may wind up being his ticket to making the team.
But the biggest find for the Cowboys may be someone who has at least a shot of following in the footsteps of a certain neophyte broadcaster.
The coup de grace could be Cooper Rush, who Lance Zierlein of NFL.com wrote, "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."
Rush hardly has a cannon, but he's a four-year starter who is both smart and accurate. With time, he could develop into a long-term backup for Dak Prescott.
Obviously, we don’t want to see Rush making it into the starting job anytime soon (like the next 10 to 15 years), but that QB2 job is certainly one where there is a chance for an upgrade. And, just like Neal and Skipper, he may be headed initially to the practice squad (if the Cowboys can avoid the Matt Moore experience of having him poached off waivers) to develop his skills.
Of course, most of the UDFA signings will not make it very far. But the Cowboys seem to find one or two legitimate NFL players almost every year. We’ll be finding out if they can continue that trend.