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Competing for spots: Who the third day Cowboys draftees are going up against to make the roster

A couple of trades brought some extra late-round picks. But those guys have no guarantees.

Marmot Boca Raton Bowl - Memphis v Western Kentucky
Fourth rounder Tony Pollard may have an interesting role.
Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys went into day three of the 2019 NFL Draft with four picks - and came out with six players thanks to a pair of trades back. Of course, the later players are taken, the harder it is for them to stick with an NFL team. These guys are facing real fights to make the roster. Here is a quick look at where they might fit and what chances they might have.

Tony Pollard, RB, Memphis (pick 128)

The fourth round is still something of a premium spot, so Pollard has a good chance of making the roster. Even more in his favor: The Cowboys are really short on depth at his position, with only Darius Jackson and Jordan Chunn currently backing up Ezekiel Elliott (of course that changed later in the draft). It seems a safe bet that Pollard will keep Chunn from making the roster (since you can’t say he was ever on it to begin with).

But Pollard may have some other implications, because he looks very much like someone who can fill the Tavon Austin role in addition to providing depth at running back. And it can be argued he really isn’t a three down back - at least in the Dallas offense as we have come to know it. During the draft coverage from DallasCowboys.com, Pollard was portrayed as being a true Kellen Moore pick. That is an important thing to consider. Pollard could bring a new element to the scheme, which indicates that Moore is not just planning on making significant changes to how the offense is run, he is being empowered and given some tools to do so.

Given the injury history for Austin, Pollard also provides depth in the passing role, and he was used nearly as much as a receiver as a runner in college (139 carries and 104 catches). It is reasonable to expect Moore to want to do the same thing with him, and it is possible he could have a bigger contribution as a receiver with a role in passing downs. That is if he is even active on game days, but it certainly offers some ideas how he may carve a niche for himself. It also means he may indirectly affect the receivers on the roster, since he could have a role as a receiver. That may well allow the team to slice one receiver off the 53-man roster, and get Pollard on the field.

Along with second-round pick Trysten Hill and third-rounder Connor McGovern, Pollard is just about assured he will make the team, and he has the advantage of there being something of a vacant spot to slide into, effectively replacing Rod Smith. But later in the day, things would get a bit more complicated at running back, as we will see.

Michael Jackson, CB, Miami (pick 158)

Once they had taken Pollard, the Cowboys traded back out of their fourth-round compensatory pick to get an extra selection, and would go on to do that again. That is something of an indication that they did not have any player they felt they really had to get with that pick at 136. It serves as a demarcation, making it pretty clear that none of the players taken after the fourth round should take anything for granted.

Having said that, Michael Jackson may have a shot as a defensive back with position flexibility. His main shot at making the roster would be to convince the staff to keep five corners. That may put him in competition with the safety group as well, both from the aspect of him possibly being able to play some safety, and that the team has to trade off corners and safeties in getting to the final mix for the roster.

For now, that means that Jackson is not really in competition with the top four corners on the roster, or with the top four safeties. He most likely, for lack of a better term, fighting to get one of a few “at large” spots. This is very similar to the situation with Pollard, where the wide receiver group can be impacted, but Jackson does not have a ready vacancy to try and slip in to. In the end, he may be a candidate to try and slip onto the practice squad - which is something that the remainder of the picks also face. And, just like at the running back position, the defensive back situation would have another element added as things went on.

Joe Jackson, DE, Miami (pick 165)

The obvious opportunity for really bad jokes about Michael Jackson’s name increased exponentially when the Cowboys drafted his teammate from the Hurricanes, Joe Jackson. It is to be expected that they have long had to deal with such juvenile humor, so at least they will be prepared.

Joe Jackson has been compared to Taco Charlton, which might work for or against him. It could mean they have a good idea of how they want to use him, or it might mean he will be basically redundant when the cuts come. With the current players Dallas has, Joe Jackson would likely be competing with Dorance Armstrong and perhaps Kerry Hyder for a seat in the defensive line room. (Charlton is not affected thanks to his first-rounder status.) Joe Jackson is definitely a long shot, as if his draft status didn’t tell you that already.

Oh, and in what became a theme for the late rounds, the Cowboys were not done with this particular position group.

Donovan Wilson, S, Texas A&M (pick 213)

No one was surprised when the Cowboys drafted a safety. There was a lot of consternation that they waited until the sixth round to do so. The team doesn’t care about what we want, of course.

Now Wilson will come in and have to vie with Kavon Frazier and perhaps free agent acquisition George Iloka, and as was outlined above, he also may be fighting for a defensive back spot with Michael Jackson. Dallas could carry from eight to ten DBs total, with nine perhaps the most likely number. That means something has to give. For both Wilson and MJ, their ability to contribute on special teams may be a major factor.

Mike Weber, RB. Ohio State (pick 218)

If there was a real surprise pick, it was Weber. Double-dipping at running back was not something a lot of people saw coming, but if you were listening to the coverage at DallasCowboys.com, some of the team there had an inkling this might be a direction the team could go. And Weber is not really in direct competition with Pollard. He is more clearly intended to be a backup for his old college teammate Elliott. As such, he is going to be challenging Darius Jackson, especially if the Cowboys elect to go light in the running back room the way they did in 2018.

He may have a really good chance of sticking on the roster, despite being a seventh-round selection. Darius Jackson was a sixth-rounder himself, so the two should be interchangeable in the minds of the staff. Assuming the team takes both into camp to sort things out, the preseason games are probably going to determine how this goes.

Jalen Jelks, EDGE, Oregon (pick 241)

You can never have too many pass rushers, which seems to be the motivation for what was the third “double dip” of the day. But you also can’t carry an unlimited number, so Jelks will be another competitor for Joe Jackson, Armstrong, and Hyder. The two rookies both have an uphill battle to make the roster, and it would not be surprising to see the team try to get both through waivers to sign to the practice squad when the final cutdown rolls around.

Dallas already had a pretty strong roster before the draft, with not many true holes to fill. Now there are some very intriguing camp battles to watch. All of the draftees should make it to camp with no problem, but getting out of it is a different story.

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