2018 free agency in the NFL is mostly done, although there will still be a trickle of signings to come. The 2018 NFL Draft is also over, along with signing undrafted free agents (for the most part). Those activities are the two major ways of constructing a roster each season, so once they are nearly complete, fans can start getting an idea of who has a chance to be on their team’s roster for the upcoming season.
Once we get close to the season opening in September, each team will have to make cuts down to a 53-man roster. Some players will be locks, like for the Cowboys you know Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, DeMarcus Lawrence and others will end up on the 53-man roster. It’s the other players, the fringe players, along with a surprise cut or two, that make trying to predict that final roster an interesting, and yearly, ritual. We’ve already begun the fun, but let’s turn to the wisdom of crowds for another look.
We’re going to look at three separate roster projections, one from Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News, one from Mike Fisher of 247 Sports, and one from BTB's DannyPhantom.
We've combined all three projections in the table below. The table highlights (in yellow) the spots that do not yet appear to be locked down, and where there will likely still be competition for a roster spot. Look closely and you’ll see that there aren’t many of those spots left, if these three projections are anything to go by.
Note that the order of the names may differ from the order they were originally published in, but the order here makes the three projections more comparable.
|Jon Machota, DMN||Mike Fisher , 247||DannyPhantom, BTB|
|T. Williams||T. Williams||T. Williams|
|T. Smith||T. Smith||T. Smith|
|C. Williams||C. Williams||C. Williams|
|Z. Martin||Z. Martin||Z. Martin|
|L. Collins||L. Collins||L. Collins|
|M. Martin||M. Martin||M. Martin|
|M. Collins||M. Collins||M. Collins|
|J. Smith||J. Smith||J. Smith|
|Vander Esch||Vander Esch||Vander Esch|
|J. Thomas||J. Thomas||J. Thomas|
|B. Jones||B. Jones||B. Jones|
|D. Thomas||D. Thomas||D. Thomas|
Quarterbacks: The Cowboys are going to carry three QB’s according to the projections. Everyone seems to believe Mike White will be too valuable to stash away on the practice squad; the big question is will he make a run at Cooper Rush for the QB2 position.
Running backs: It’s a full stable in the Cowboys backfield. Seventh-round selection Bo Scarbrough is projected to make it, and the new gadget-guy Tavon Austin makes the Cowboys backfield diverse. Throw in newly-acquired fullback Jamize Olawale, and you got a running back for any situation, which makes sense on a team that wants the running game to be its identity on offense.
Tight ends: It’s still weird to not see Jason Witten’s name at the top of this list. As it is, we have four candidates battling for snaps in the rotation with no clear leader at the moment.
Wide receivers: We finally get some disagreement among our three prognosticators. While it’s also weird not to see Dez Bryant’s name on this list, the top four receivers appear to be a lock at this time for the roster. Free agent signee Allen Hurns, holdovers Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley, along with draftee Michael Gallup, should make up the core of this corps.
At the fifth and final spot, both Machota and Fisher like Noah Brown who got some playing time last season. DannyPhantom likes sixth-round draft pick Cedrick Wilson to oust Brown and round out the group.
Offensive line: According to our lists, the Cowboys will carry eight offensive linemen and everyone agrees on who they will be. Connor Williams will slide into the left guard spot, Cameron Fleming will be the swing tackle, and Marcus Martin along with Joe Looney will be the interior backups.
Defensive tackle: David Irving and Maliek Collins are locks, and Jihad Ward, just acquired in a trade, is also slated to make it. Machota and Phantom slot Brian Price in as the fourth guy, while Fisher looks even further into the future and sees Terrell McClain being signed by Dallas, and taking that last spot.
Defensive end: The top of the DE list is the same, and all three see newcomer Kony Ealy making the squad along with fourth-round pick Dorance Armstrong. Machota limits his ends to five guys, while Fisher and Phantom go six deep. Fisher likes a reinstated Randy Gregory here (once again projecting a future move) while Phantom gives another shot to Charles Tapper.
Linebacker: Everyone sees six linebackers make the squad, but there is disagreement about the sixth. Machota and Fisher like Justin March-Lillard while Phantom puts sixth-round draft pick Chris Covington into the mix.
Cornerback: All three lists have the same top five corners making the team, with Duke Thomas holding down the fifth spot. Phantom stops there, but Machota and Fisher add another name to the list, the forgotten defensive back from last year’s draft, Marquez White.
Safety: The top three are Xavier Woods, Jeff Heath and Kavon Frazier, but there’s nothing behind that. Both Machota and Phantom think someone will be brought in for a fourth spot, a TBD candidate. Meanwhile, Fisher sticks with only three, probably counting on the ability of Byron Jones or Chidobe Awuzie being able to help out if needed.
Specialists: This is set in stone.
2018 Draft picks: The Cowboys must have really drafted well in 2018, at least that is the way our three prognosticators see it. Seven picks (Leighton Vander Esch, Connor Williams, Michael Gallup, Dorance Armstrong, Dalton Schultz, Mike White, and Bo Scarbrough) make the team on all three lists. DannyPhantom believes even more strongly in the draft class by giving Chris Covington and Cedrick Wilson spots on the team.
Of course, all of that can change once helmets come on and the Cowboys start evaluating for real, based on actual on field activities. For now though, these projections provide an interesting glimpse into where the roster could stand today.
What’s your take on the combined projections above, and which players do you think are missing?