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Cowboys news: Get to know the 2018 undrafted free agent class

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2018 NFL Draft Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Cowboys Agree to Terms With 18 Undrafted Rookie Free Agents - Nick Eatman, Dallas Cowboys
Eatman has a complete list of the players brought in after the 2018 draft.

Over the years, few teams have had the success of the Cowboys in undrafted free agents, from getting a franchise quarterback in Tony Romo, to Pro Bowlers such as Miles Austin and Dan Bailey, to regular contributors like La’el Collins, Cole Beasley and Jeff Heath.

So there’s plenty of opportunities to go around for this bunch.

Tape Evaluations On The Cowboys’ Undrafted Rookies - Bryan Broaddus, Dallas Cowboys
The Broad One focuses his scouts eye on his first review of the Cowboys undrafted free agent class. First up is tight end David Wells.

Lines up as an inline "Y" tight end. Doesn’t play like most college tight ends.

Has the strength to hold defensive linemen in place along the line. Physical player.

Will finish his block. Can get some movement along the edge. Position blocker on the second level.

Works well on the combo block. Can grab the edge in the running game.

Will stay in to pass block. Nice set and punch, keeps his feet active.

Plays with some initial quickness off the line.

Catches the ball well and then gets up the field. Takes him a little time to get going. Not the fastest. Will try and run over the tackle.

Can adjust to the ball over his head. Will find space to help his quarterback.

Can makes the contested catch. Doesn’t struggle with men on his back.

Cowboys 2018 Draft: Getting to know the UDFA players - Ryan Ratty, BTB

We got our own rundown on the UDFAs, give it a look. Here's on of the UDFAs:

Kameron Kelly, Safety, San Diego State (@kaetwice7)

A safety-converted-cornerback, Kelly was one of the better players who went undrafted. A four-year contributor for the Aztecs, Kelly intrigues the Cowboys for his length paired with his frame. At 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, Kelly has a nose for the football, and his production proves it. He is a rangy player and while there are tackling issues, Kelly could be a nice player for the Cowboys thanks to his positional flexibility and experience at both defensive back positions.


Assessing Leighton Vander Esch’s Impact On The LB Corps - Staff, Dallas Cowboys
The staff at the mothership has some ideas about how the addition of shiny new linebacker Leighton Vander Esch could allow the Cowboys' coaches to get original in deploying their starting linebackers. And kudos for correctly spelling corps; not everybody in the metroplex can do that.

As a first-round pick at a position of need, the expectation is that the rookie can make major contributions – if not start – from the get-go.

He has the size and the athleticism to play all three positions, but it seems like a good guess that Vander Esch will start at middle linebacker. Adding him to the linebacker corps gives the Cowboys three players who are capable of playing both of their primary linebacker spots. He should give the coaching staff a way to limit Smith’s snap count, making him more effective in the long run. He should also provide an insurance option behind Lee, in case the veteran’s injury problems crop back up in 2018.

Looking at it from another angle, Vander Esch’s presence could allow the Cowboys to deploy Smith in new and intriguing ways, as well. Cowboys officials have suggested the possibility of playing Smith at strong side linebacker this season. There’s also the possibility of using him as a situational pass rusher, allowing him to lean on his explosiveness to get after the quarterback – which was something he did quite well during his college career at Notre Dame.

Jaylon Smith on SAM LB, playing without brace and more - Selena Sixtos, Dallas Sports Fanatic

Good news on the Jaylon Smith front; Sixtos spoke with the third-year linebacker and has the details.

With the loss of Anthony Hitchens, Smith is likely to also play SAM this season. Which position does he feel more comfortable playing?

“Both. But because I’m so versatile I’ll also be playing some SAM this season,” said Smith. “I’ll play wherever they need me.”

Smith is a disciplined athlete and it shows in the way that he speaks about his duties on the team. He shared the fact that he’s been without a brace for about three months now and he continues to feel great coming into the new season [emphasis added]. Smith added he is not holding back as far as training post-injury. He is going “full throttle” ready to take on his third year as a Dallas Cowboy.


The latest updates on Randy Gregory's road to reinstatement with the Cowboys - David Moore, SportsDay
Cowboys fans can be cautiously optimistic about a possible return to the field of defensive end Randy Gregory, according to SportsDay's David Moore.

Multiple sources say Randy Gregory has been faithfully laying the groundwork for his return to the NFL and has reached the stage where his representatives are in the process of doing the work necessary to apply for reinstatement.

The defensive end has been banned from the NFL for repeated violations of the league's substance abuse policy. He hasn't taken the field since the Cowboys' final game of the 2016 season.

There are still steps to take and paperwork to file before Gregory is close to going before commissioner Roger Goodell to petition for his reinstatement. But sources say he is doing well, adhering to his program and the feeling around him is said to be positive.


Check out the work Tavon Austin put in on his first day with the Cowboys - Staff, SportsDay
Austin wasted no time getting started with his new team.

The Cowboys traded one of their sixth-round picks (No. 192 overall) for Austin, who was the No. 8 overall pick in the 2013 draft out of West Virginia.

The Cowboys don't just view Austin as a receiver. They see him more as a third-down running back similar to the role once occupied by Lance Dunbar.

Austin is also expected to become the Cowboys' primary punt returner now that they've moved on from Ryan Switzer, a fourth-round pick in 2017.


What the Cowboys' 2018 NFL Draft class tells us about their plans on offense, defense - Jared Dubin, CBSSports.com
Dubin takes a deep dive and looks at the Cowboys' draft picks and draft day trades and speculates how the team is going to utilize all the new pieces on offense, and what it means for those Cowboys’ skill veterans still on the roster.

That’s Morris, McFadden, (Keith) Smith, Bryant, Butler, Switzer, Witten, and Hanna out; and Olawale, Austin, Scarborough, Hurns, Thompson, Gallup, Wilson, and Schultz in. The departed players account for 54.6 percent of all snaps played by Dallas skill position players last season; 28.9 percent of the snaps in the backfield (this figure is obviously affected by Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension), 46.7 percent of the snaps at receiver, and 88.4 percent of the snaps at tight end. In all, there are 2,415 snaps that need to be replaced by eight incoming players. Some of those players obviously figure to see more than others, but that is a whole lot of change -- and if you’re reading the tea leaves, it’s obvious the Cowboys might not even be done. The operative question, of course, is how all these pieces fit together, and how the Cowboys plan to utilize them.

To start with, the roster spots of the three holdover receivers seem extremely tenuous. The Cowboys can save $3.25 million against the salary cap by cutting Beasley, and not only did they add a receiver in free agency who has extensive experience in the slot (Hurns), they also traded for a gadget weapon who can move to different spots on the field and run jet-sweeps, quick screens, and short-breaking routes (Austin). Beasley was arguably the team’s best receiver in 2016 but he has not been the same since suffering a hamstring injury late in that season. He had a career-low catch rate last season and also posted his lowest figures since his rookie year in both receptions per game and yards per reception.

Cowboys continue to carry Dak-friendly approach to offseason - Todd Archer, ESPN
Archer reviews the Cowboys draft and reveals the collapse of the offensive line in Atlanta last season was a primary motivation for the selection of Connor Williams.

Second-round pick Connor Williams could be the starting left guard by the time the Cowboys open the season at the Carolina Panthers. If so, the Cowboys would have three first-rounders (Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin), a first-round talent in La'el Collins and a second-rounder protecting Prescott.

"We decided to cure what happened at Atlanta as best we could," Jones said, alluding to the loss to the Atlanta Falcons in which Prescott was sacked eight times, clouding the remainder of the Cowboys' 2017 season.

The Athletic’s 2018 NFL Draft team-by-team superlatives – Staff, The Athletic
Haven't seen enough draft grades? Want to re-live every team's hits, misses and reaches? The Athletic Staff goes round-robin, grading each team with Bob Sturm giving his thoughts on the Cowboys.

Best Pick: Connor Williams. The trick for Dallas the last decade has not been to target the proper first-round pick, but rather to make sure you find a capable and dependable starting player in Round 2 to bring your draft together. Williams seems to be a solution to their left guard vacancy and provides overall offensive line depth that cost them dearly in 2017.

Most questionable: Leighton Vander Esch. This is a spot where need and best player available converged and the Cowboys decided to go all in on the player they have loved all along. To hear them describe him, the Cowboys think they took Brian Urlacher 2.0 and if they did, they will get the last laugh. If they didn’t, the masses will wonder why they didn’t chase a small deal for Derwin James.

Sleeper pick: Mike White. The quarterback in Round 5 from Western Kentucky has a real opportunity in Dallas to be in a very advantageous position in the organization if they require some help at QB1 in the next 12-24 months. It will be very interesting to track his progress through training camp and surely the groundswell of the fan base’s support could become apparent.


'Boys wouldn't send second-rounder for Earl Thomas - Chris Wesseling, NFL.com
So, there really was a fire where that Earl Thomas smoke came from. Wesseling comments on Ian Rappaport's report that the Cowboys refused to give in to the Seahawks demand for the team's 2018 second round choice.

Ever since Earl Thomas' late-December trade invitation, Dallas fans have been harboring dreams of a secondary led by the All-Pro safety.

As it turns out, the Seahawks and Cowboys did indeed talk trade during the 2018 NFL Draft.

Appearing on Monday's edition of NFL Up to the Minute, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that the Cowboys balked at the idea of surrendering their second-round pick in a potential Thomas trade.

Dallas might have pulled it off with their third-round pick "and a lot more," Rapoport added, but the staunch refusal to part with the No. 50 overall pick that turned out to be guard Connor Williams effectively scuttled the deal.


Innovative Statistics, Intelligent Analysis - John Kinsley, Football Outsiders
Kinsley looks at every single deep ball (16+ yards downfield) thrown in the NFL each season and ranks quarterbacks by their performance. Worth a read as you'll likely be pleasantly surprised how the Cowboys' starting QB ranks.

Every offseason, I independently chart quarterbacks on what I like to call the Deep Ball Project. What's the catch? Every throw that reaches at least 16 yards in the air is constituted as a downfield pass. For this year's edition, Football Outsiders has been kind enough to give me a platform to further spread the word of mouth.

...

That's where the Deep Ball Project comes in, and it makes an effort to differentiate accuracy from completions. Completion percentage is a highly valued stat in football, and while that's included in the Deep Ball Project, a greater emphasis is played on accuracy percentage. Accuracy percentage takes a look at whether the pass was or wasn't accurate, regardless whether it was caught.

...

Coming in at No. 2 is Dak Prescott. Prescott’s sophomore season has gotten a reputation as being a step down from his rookie campaign, but his downfield accuracy was actually terrific. He had zero inaccurate completions, and his accuracy was extremely successful against pressure and into tight windows. He took a massive step up on downfield passing in Year Número Dos.

Finally, the always entertaining Cameron Magruder weighs in with his reactions to draft weekend.