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Three Dallas Cowboys undrafted free agents with the best chances to make the 55-man roster

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Keep your eye on these three UDFAs when making your Cowboys roster predictions.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 16 Richmond at James Madison Photo by Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Building a competitive roster is a year-round process. The most common ways to find productive players that can elevate a playoff contender into a championship contender are often through trade, free agency, or the early rounds of the draft.

Dallas made a move to acquire Amari Cooper through a trade during the 2018 season, and that move helped propel the Cowboys to NFC East champions and a playoff berth. The Cowboys have not been known to make too many splashes through free agency in recent history, but the team went out and added important pieces in Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe, and Ha Ha Clinton Dix this offseason to help improve the defense.

Dallas just recently added wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, cornerback Trevon Diggs, and defensive tackle Neville Gallimore through the first three rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft. All three, especially the first two names mentioned, are expected to be valuable contributors to the roster as soon as the first regular-season game arrives.

The process does not stop there, though. Often, teams are able to come away with a piece through the undrafted free agent market to help build depth, or maybe even more, on their roster.

Dallas was heavily praised for their draft class, and the Cowboys were also credited in finding some talented prospects after the draft concluded. It is always a challenge for players that do not get drafted to make a roster, but there are three prospects that stand our for the Cowboys in this year’s crop.

Ron’Dell Carter, DL, James Madison

2020 NCAA Division I Football Championship Photo by Justin Tafoya/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Although James Madison defender Ron’Dell Carter did not hear his name called through the seven rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft, there was no shortage of interest in adding him to a roster. In fact, Carter reportedly turned down offers from 24 teams before signing with the Dallas Cowboys during the early stages of undrafted free agency.

A big reason in why Carter opted to choose to sign with the Cowboys over a host of other teams that showed interest is the fact that Dallas was willing to heavily invest resources in the James Madison product. Bobby Belt listed the numbers of the bonus amounts for each UDFA that inked a deal with the Cowboys:

As the tweet shows above, Carter received the largest bonus by a pretty significant margin, showing that the Cowboys wanted to secure Carter’s signature and allow him to showcase what he can do.

Our own David Howman wrote a piece on the Cowboys investing a lot into Carter, and what he potentially brings to the table.

While Carter didn’t make a single start in his first year at James Madison, he saw plenty of action and recorded four sacks and eight tackles for loss, in addition to batting down three passes. He became a full-time starter the next year and responded with 7.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. But Carter took it to a new level in 2019, posting 12 sacks and a whopping 27 tackles for loss. That’s as many sacks as both Bradlee Anae and Zack Baun recorded in the same year.

Listed at 6’3” and 269 pounds on the James Madison football page, Carter brings good size and length to the role of an edge rusher, and that filled-out frame is part of what helped him dominate at the FCS level. Dane Brugler of The Athletic graded Carter as the 31st best edge rusher in the draft class, and suggested he was a potential seventh-round pick or a priority free agent ...

The former Rutgers defender became a star for James Madison during his playing career in Virginia. He was selected as a consensus first-team FCS All-American, named the FCS Defensive Player of the Year by college football writer Phil Steele, and finished as the runner-up in the Buck Buchanan Award voting, which is given to the best defensive player on the FCS level, after the 2019 season.

Carter finished his final season on the collegiate level by making an impact on the field and filling up the stat sheet in numerous different categories. According to his profile on the James Madison football website, Carter recorded 66 total tackles, 27 tackles for-loss, 12 sacks, forced one fumble, recorded 13 quarterback hurries, and even registered a pass breakup.

There is a lot of competition along the defensive line, but the Cowboys obviously see something that they like in Ron’Dell Carter. Given his production on the college level and the amount of resources the team has invested into him compared to the other UDFAs, Ron’Dell Carter has a very good chance to carve out a roster spot on the 55-man squad.

Aaron Parker, WR, Rhode Island

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 12 Rhode Island at Virginia Tech

We have often discussed that the fourth wide receiver role in the Dallas Cowboys offense is up for grabs behind the talented Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb. Sure, Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, and Blake Jarwin should all be factors in the passing game, but the Cowboys would like to have a fourth option at wide receiver as well. This is especially true when considering that both Cooper and Gallup have dealt with injuries.

Enter Aaron Parker. The former Rhode Island star pass catcher has a solid chance to compete for a roster spot, as well as challenge the likes of Cedrick Wilson and Devin Smith for WR4, thanks to his big frame and ability to make contested grabs all over the field.

Parker was one of the best wide receivers in all of FCS, consistently creating problems for opposing secondaries week in and week out. Parker’s less-than-ideal athletic profile caused him to drop on draft boards, but the Rhode Island product was productive throughout his collegiate career — catching 81 passes for 1,224 yards a season ago while leading his conference in receiving each of the past two years.

The uncertainty behind The Big Three at wide receiver, combined with an almost completely new coaching staff, leaves the door open for somebody such as Parker to grab a role in the offense. Parker offers experience playing different wide receiver spots, really good size and a nice frame, and some playmaking ability that gives him a path to make the roster.

Darius Anderson, RB, TCU

NCAA Football: Texas Christian at Kansas Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Looking back at our BTB roster predictions last month, many of the front page writers included three running backs making the roster. Obviously, Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard will be suiting up, but Rico Dowdle was the third name that the consensus, including myself, had in their predictions.

However, it may be a different name at the position with a better chance to make the team: former TCU back Darius Anderson.

Anderson, more so than Dowdle, offers big-play ability as both a runner and as a receiver. The George Ranch High School product showcased the ability to create explosive plays throughout his career in Fort Worth. Ohio State found that first hand when playing against Anderson and TCU inside the home of the Cowboys.

The Houston-area native carried the ball 12 times for 154 yards and a pair of scores back when the two teams clashed in 2018, including a 93-yard touchdown:

Rated as a four-star recruit coming out of high school, Anderson recorded 18 touchdowns from scrimmage for the Horned Frogs during his career, averaging over five yards per carry from the running back position.

Anderson had his most productive season as a receiver during his final season playing for coach Gary Patterson, catching 22 passes for 228 yards in 2019. Those numbers do not jump off the screen, but there looks to be some untapped potential that the Cowboys may be able to develop.

The TCU product scored a 75-yard touchdown while catching a pass from Shea Patterson in the Senior Bowl:

There was also a catch during the season that showed a little bit of Anderson’s body control and ball skills in contested catch opportunities:

There is a good chance that the Cowboys could carry three running backs, in addition to fullback Jamize Olawale, this season, and it appears that Anderson has a good chance to be that third back.

Anderson offers some dynamic playmaking ability, and the Cowboys gave the TCU product the second-highest signing bonus of any UDFA that was signed by the team this offseason. We know Kellen Moore likes versatility, and Anderson fits that bill.