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Who Are The Potential Starters Among Cowboys Five Late-Round Picks?

The Cowboys have had starters emerge from the ranks of their late-round picks in the past. Are there eventual starters among the five late-rounders from this year's draft class?

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

In the 10 drafts between 2007 and 2016, the Cowboys selected 30 players in the sixth and seventh rounds of the NFL draft. Of those 30 players, six became eventual starters in the NFL (started 9 or more games in one season), as the table below shows.

Cowboys 6th-rounders
Drafted Player Starter
2007 CB/S Alan Ball 2010 (4th season)
2007 FB Deon Anderson 2009 (3rd season)
2008 LB Eric Walden 2011 (4th season)
2009 TE John Phillips 2012 (4th season)
2012 TE James Hanna 2014 (3rd season)
2016 CB Anthony Brown 2016 (1st season)

Most of the players listed above needed two or three years before they would finally emerge as starters, and last year's sixth-rounder Anthony Brown looks like the exception that proves the rule..

  • Alan Ball started all 16 games for the Cowboys in 2010, though he was probably miscast as a safety.
  • Deon "Cricket" Anderson got nine starts in 2009 for the Cowboys, which is a little unusual for a fullback.
  • In 2008, Eric Walden didn't make the final 53-man roster in Dallas and was quickly picked up by the Chiefs after final roster cuts. He would eventually make his way to Green Bay, where he would start for two seasons, and has been a starter in Indianapolis for the last four years and notched 11 sacks for the Colts last year.
  • John Phillips tore his ACL at the start of his sophomore season, which delayed his progress, but he did start nine games for Dallas in 2012 before moving on the San Diego.
  • James Hanna is the only late-rounder picked in the last 10 drafts to get a contract extension in Dallas.

Other notable sixth-rounders over that period include Nick Folk and Dwayne Harris. Nick Folk never got a start, but after being drafted in 2007, he was the Cowboys' kicker for three years before being waived at the end of the 2009 season and has been with the Jets since. Dwayne Harris was the Cowboys' primary returner and part-time wide receiver from 2011-2014 before moving on to the New York Giants, and while he was a valuable contributor in his time in Dallas, he only had three starts over his four years with the team.

In sum, that's eight draft picks who became eventual starters - or in the case of Folk and Harris, key special teamers - even if only one of them signed a second contract in Dallas. Kavon Frazier, Rico Gathers, Mark Nzeocha, and Geoff Swaim might add to that tally eventually, as they are the only pre-2017 late-rounders left on the roster. So if we deduct those four from the 30 total picks, we're left with eight starters/core special teamers out of 26 picks, a "hit rate" of 30%.

This year, the Cowboys selected five players in the last two rounds of the draft. Going by the Cowboys' record with other sixth-rounders over the last ten years, one or two of those five rookies could eventually emerge as starters, even if it will likely take two or three years for them to do so.

S Xavier Wood is probably the overwhelming fan favorite to become an eventual starter, but the other picks must also like their chances.

CB Marquez White may have been "just" the third corner draft this year, but there's a good chance a starting spot could open for him down the line. Orlando Scandrick is under contract for just two more years, and the Cowboys may be looking to move him earlier. Nolan Carroll is effectively a one-year rental, and his recent DWI incident didn't exactly endear him to the front office. So if White manages to hang around this year, there could be spots opening up down the line.

DT Joey Ivie has this going for him:

WR Noah Brown will likely need at least one year of seasoning on the practice squad, but a wide receiver with size, good hands, and a strong ability to block always has  good chance in Dallas.

DT Jordan Carrell faces long odds, but he has already shown a durability and commitment in college that may see him eventually outlast and outwork many other late rounders.

At the start of training camp last year, the BTB community correctly identified which of the Cowboys' sixth-rounders from 2016 would eventually become a starter:

Perhaps the community can be equally prescient this year: Which 2017 late-round player do you think will eventually emerge as a starter for the Cowboys?

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