The Dallas Cowboys take pride in their draft picks and for good reason. Year after year, this team has been able to select great players who go on to make a strong contribution to the team. And for some of these players, they waste very little time do it. Look at the contribution rookies have made in each of the previous three drafts.
2018: Four starters - Leighton Vander Esch (11 games), Connor Williams (10 games), Michael Gallup (8 games), and Dalton Schultz (7 games).
2017: Four starters - Jourdan Lewis (7 games), Chidobe Awuzie (6 games), Xavier Woods (4 games), and Noah Brown (1 game).
2016: Four starters - Dak Prescott (16 games), Ezekiel Elliott (15 games), Maliek Collins (14 games), and Anthony Brown (10 games).
All three of those seasons have yielded four new starters; however, it should be noted that Noah Brown’s sole start came in a meaningless Week 17 finale against the Philadelphia Eagles. So, what will this new crop of rookies bring to the table in 2019?
Well, it might be a little more difficult than previous years to make an impact as the team has continued to improve their roster. In fact, of the eight players the Cowboys selected in April’s draft, none of them are projected to crack the starting lineup their rookie season. Of course, that could all change, but the true impact of this class will be felt later down the road.
Based on the roster layout and the players the Cowboys selected, which rookie will make the biggest impact this season?
The case for Trysten Hill
Everyone is excited about the Cowboys new under tackle that Rod Marinelli loves to death. He’s even been identified as a potential dark horse defensive rookie of the year candidate, which is rather exciting considering he wasn’t selected until late in the second round.
While the upside is there, can he jump Maliek Collins on the depth chart? Collins is entering the last year of his rookie deal and is finally healthy, so unless something changes, look for the veteran to hold down most of the playing time from the 3-tech spot. Collins has had problems staying healthy as it seems like he’s always dealing with some type of foot injury. If that happens again this year, Hill could have the biggest impact of all the rookies.
The case for Connor McGovern
NFL starting-caliber offensive linemen are usually safe picks for contribution since they’re an every day fixture in games. And that’s what McGovern is, except there’s one problem - the other Connor. Last year, the Cowboys selected Connor Williams to be their left guard. While he held down the spot last season, an injury combined with the unexpected play of Xavier Su’a-Filo caused him to take a seat a few games. Williams is back and ready to roll, having added some muscle to his frame.
It’s possible McGovern comes in and earns the starting job over Williams, but right now we are giving the advantage to the incumbent. Barring an injury to someone, McGovern should be relegated to the bench as he waits for his turn next season.
The case for Donovan Wilson
The Cowboys didn’t land the upgrade at safety many were hoping and that leaves them with the usual suspects of Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods to hold down the starting spots. They signed free agent George Iloka to help with depth. They also have Kavon Frazier whose been filling out the depth of this position for the last three seasons. The opportunity for someone to step up and steal playing time is certainly there should someone start impressing in camp.
Sixth-round pick Donovan Wilson could end up being this guy. He’s more known as a thumper safety in the running game, but he shows good quickness and might be able to contribute in coverage as well. It’s a little big of a long-shot considering his draft price, but as Xavier Woods has demonstrated - quality safety play can be found late in the draft.
The case for Tony Pollard
While it’s possible that none of the Cowboys new rookies earn starting spots their first year in the league, that’s not going to hold back the contribution of Tony Pollard. The Memphis running back was selected to complement starter Ezekiel Elliott, not replace him. With excellent production as a receiver, the hope is that new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore can find a way to make Pollard a dangerous weapon for this offense.
With Elliott never missing a game due to injury and being a star running back, Pollard’s chances of seeing a lot of action is very slim, but he won’t need a heavy volume of snaps to make an impact.
Which rookie do you think will make the biggest impact in 2019?