What’s one more ranking of the NFL players before the season starts? Andy Benoit, of MMQB, ranked the 400 best players in the NFL. The star was represented pretty well with 14 Cowboys on his list. We may not take issue with the amount of Cowboys on the list but there will definitely be some blowback as to where they were ranked.
Benoit ranked eight Cowboys in the Top-100 which was more than any other team in the league. First, let’s run down his rationale for each of the eight Cowboys in his Top-100:
79. Jason Witten- “Put on the future Hall of Famer's film from seven years ago and compare it to today. You won't find much difference.”
75. Dez Bryant- “Remember when he was a route running liability early in his career? That feels like ages ago. Bryant hasn't posted big numbers since 2014, but the Cowboys will dare any defense to not give his cornerback help from the safety.”
73. Byron Jones- “He seems destined for a role at free safety this year, which is understandable given the Cowboys' other options there. Still, it's too bad. Jones has rare versatility that translates to outside corner, slot corner, strong safety, and sub-package linebacker.”
56. Ezekiel Elliott- “Elliott has great command over his first and second gears, which he shifts in and out of behind the most talented zone-blocking O-line we've seen ' maybe ever. I originally thought that, because of that O-line, Dallas didn't need to draft a running back so high. Any solid professional runner could produce. But after seeing Elliott for three or four games, it was apparent I was wrong. Something's different with him in there.”
29. Sean Lee- “I once watched film with a Cowboys defensive coach. There was a busted assignment. It was either on Lee or the other guy. I asked the coach who was wrong. He said the other guy. I asked him how I could decipher that on my own next time. He said that, when Sean Lee is involved, just assume it's the other guy. 'Because that will be correct nine times out of 10?' I asked. 'No,' he said, 'it will be correct 999 times out of 1,000.'""
24. Zack Martin- “That's right: the Cowboys have the NFL's best tackle, center and guard. (And Tyron Smith-Travis Frederick-Martin and 1-2-3 among all offensive linemen).”
18. Travis Frederick- “In a zone-blocking scheme like Dallas's, the most important thing is having a center who can snap the ball and, in almost one motion, still get his body across and around a nose tackle's body, sealing him back inside. No one does that better than Frederick.”
11. Tyron Smith- “He's the most athletic offensive lineman in football. Smith's long arms and springy feet allow him to reach-block even the most unreachable defenders in Dallas's zone running game.”
For those that take issue with Smith not being in the Top-10, he’s the top offensive lineman. Benoit only has four defenders (Khalil Mack, Luke Kuechly, Von Miller, and J.J. Watt) with six skill position players in there. You can make an argument either way but we’ll give him a pass here.
Now, where we’re going to argue as the day is long is where he puts Dak Prescott and the fact that he ranks Carson Wentz 21 spots ahead of Dak:
223. Dak Prescott- “Here's the rub: Prescott had absolutely perfect conditions last season. His O-line was incredible, his ground game explosive, he had a true No. 1 wideout (Dez Bryant) to impact safeties and clarify coverages and he had two security blankets in tight end Jason Witten and slot man Cole Beasley. Consequently, Prescott's job was easier. It was apparent each week. To his credit, Prescott capitalized. But still, easy quarterbacking is rare in pro football. At some point, something will go wrong and Prescott's job description will change. Conditions don't stay perfect forever; that will be a better time to evaluate Prescott.”
What wasn’t a surprise was that Benoit only gave six Cowboy defenders the nod here. However, he did give two pass rushers in Crawford and Lawrence some compliments. With the way Lawrence has shown out early in camp, maybe the Cowboys will see sure-fire benefits from Tank this year. The biggest surprise has got to be Anthony Brown, who was selected as the 189th pick in the 2016 draft and already makes a Top-400 players’ list in the league in one season.
240. Anthony Brown- “The 2016 sixth-rounder gave up a small number of big plays last season, and unfortunately for him they were replayed a bunch on nationally televised games. The bulk of his season, however, was phenomenal. Not many rookies can thrive as a man and zone defender both outside and in the slot.”
The Cowboys have taken their time in constructing one of the better rosters from top to bottom in the league. Do they have things they are working out? Absolutely, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. They have questions on their defense but hopefully, they are on their way to getting some answers. It’s nice to see that their roster was well-represented in this ranking even if there will be hell to pay for Prescott’s low ranking.
As the Cowboys are out on the grind in California, they are already one of the most interesting topics in football. Think about how this list could look next year if they get some returns from guys like Jaylon Smith, Charles Tapper, Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, or Taco Charlton? What about La’el Collins first year at right tackle? The trajectory of this roster is pointing toward the sky and the Cowboys’ future prospects are looking pretty good right now.
What say you, is Benoit out of his mind? Should more Cowboys be on this list? We look forward to the conversation in the comments.