The Dallas Cowboys have a lot of talent. Years of strong drafting have now resulted in a roster full of quality players. The list of individual accomplishments are plentiful as the team has a slew of All-Pro/Pro Bowl talent decorating the roster. Recently, the folks over at ESPN did a four-round draft selecting players from all 32 NFL teams. These Cowboys players were selected by the following teams:
All things being equal, each team would have, on average, four players selected. The Cowboys nearly double that with seven total players. This draft exercise had Dak Prescott selected ninth overall as he was the sixth quarterback taken. He was the only Cowboys player taken in their first round, but that speaks to just how important the quarterback position is. That got us thinking - who are most important players on this Cowboys roster?
What you choose to make your decision is up to you. Some positions are more critical than others, so that’s certainly a factor. Obviously, talent matters. To avoid complication, let’s eliminate any contract details from the mix. That is, let’s make our selections based on what player you’d want for the upcoming season without focusing on future elements like age, cap cost, or years of control.
Who then would be the Cowboys ten most important players?
1. DAK PRESCOTT
This one is really not that hard. The quarterback position is hands-down the most important position on the team, and when you have a player of Prescott’s ability, that propels him to the top. Coming off a season where he threw for over 4,900 yards and 30 touchdowns, Prescott’s already demonstrated he can make plays, and the good news is - he hasn’t reached his full potential yet. Regardless of where you stack Dak in terms of quarterback rankings, he’s good enough to be deserving of the team’s most important player.
2. DEMARCUS LAWRENCE
Tank doesn’t get the love he deserves, and after recording only five sacks last season some people may be second-guessing that five-year, $105 million deal the team gave him last offseason. Don’t let the low sack figure fool you though as this guy is all over the place. Similar to Prescott, he plays one of the most important positions on the team, and when you combine that with this All-Pro talent, he belongs near the top.
3. ZACK MARTIN
It might not seem like an ordinary choice to have an interior offensive lineman ranked so high, but Martin is not your ordinary player. Since entering the league in 2014, he’s established himself as one of the premier offensive linemen in the NFL. He’s earned All-Pro honors in all six years he’s been in the league.
4. EZEKIEL ELLIOTT
Many will scoff at seeing Zeke this high because the value of the running back position isn’t as high as other positions on the team. That comes into play here, but it doesn’t throw him as far down the list as some might expect. Elliott is four years into his career, and he’s already put up three 1,300+ rushing seasons. He’s extremely durable, never missing a game to injury. Zeke doesn’t always get the recognition he deserves, and he’s extremely valuable to this offense. Elliott was the highest ranked Cowboys player (17th) in Pete Prisco’s Top 100 list last month.
Risk, but with high upside
5. AMARI COOPER
Coop could easily be higher on this list if it were not for the disappearing acts he’s pulled at different points of his career. There are times where he’s every bit as good as the elite receivers in the league, but consistency has plagued him. Overall, he has still racked up four 1,000+ yard seasons over his five years in the league, so even with some no-show games, he’s still pretty darn good. And even though he’s started all 25 games since joining the Cowboys, injuries have impacted him throughout his career and could be a reason as to why he’s a non-factor at times.
6. TYRON SMITH
Normally, Smith lingers around the top three as his task of protecting Prescott’s blindside is one of the most important jobs on the team. While there have been some indication that this seven-time Pro Bowl is starting to show wear and declining a bit, he’s still playing at a high level. Smith has had trouble staying healthy in recent years as you can pretty much set your watch to him missing three games a season as that’s been par for the course the past four years. But when he’s healthy, he’s still a very good player playing a very important position.
7. LEIGHTON VANDER ESCH
If you scoffed at Zeke, you’ll probably scoff at this one as well as we got another one of those “unimportant” positions making the list. Linebackers are “a dime a dozen,” but great players are still great players. Another reason why Vander Esch may not be receiving much love is recency bias. He missed seven games last season, so he’s climbed out of the memory of some who may have forgotten just how spectacular he was in 2018. Like Elliott and Martin, he earned All-Pro honors his rookie season. When healthy, this guy is a game-changer for the defense. It’s perfectly okay to tap the brakes as we wait to see how he returns from his neck injury last season, but there is no reason to slam ‘em. Vander Esch is Van Tastic.
8. LA’EL COLLINS
It’s been a little bit of an unusual road for the LSU star tackle between going undrafted from an inconsequential police interview to being played out of position at the beginning of his career. Needless to say, he’s found a home at right tackle and has quietly become one of the better offensive linemen in the game. In fact, Prisco had Collins ranked 77th on his Top 100 list, three spots ahead of Tyron Smith. Collins keeps getting better and at 26 years old, there is a lot to love about his upward trajectory, especially with new offensive line coach Joe Philbin entering the picture. Even still, LC is very good right now.
9. GERALD MCCOY
This free agent signing gives the Cowboys their best defensive tackle since 2013 when Jason Hatcher hauled in 11 sacks at the position. The Cowboys have tried a multitude of methods to find their answer in the middle, none of which have included a draft investment higher than a third-round pick. They may have finally cracked the code as they now have a quality veteran presence who should be able to make a difference along the defensive line.
10. MICHAEL GALLUP
ESPN chose rookie CeeDee Lamb as the first Cowboys receiver selected in their draft, even ahead of proven vet Amari Cooper. That’s quite the gamble, but it speaks to the upside of what the Oklahoma receiver is capable of. Lamb doesn’t make this list, but a second receiver does in the form of Michael Gallup. The second-year receiver had a breakout year with over 1,100 yards receiving and this kid is still growing. Lamb may have a higher upside, but Gallup is a proven commodity, and his full potential has yet to be seen.
Which players who didn’t make the cut would you have on this list? Who from this group doesn’t belong in the top 10? Let us know in the comments.