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Projecting the Dallas Cowboys rookie class: Lamb and Diggs should start, but what about the others?

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Analyzing where the 2020 Cowboys draft class fits on the roster.

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Whether it is Dane Brugler of The Athletic, here on Blogging The Boys, or ESPN talking heads, you have likely heard that the Dallas Cowboys crushed the 2020 NFL Draft by finding tremendous value with each of their seven picks this April — from seeing a gem like CeeDee Lamb fall into their laps in the middle of the first-round to grabbing a developmental quarterback with some interesting upside in the seventh.

Lamb is expected to step right in and be the third wide receiver in the Cowboys offense with Mike McCarthy and Kellen Moore likely to lean on 11-personnel this season. It is not often that you see a talent such as Lamb fall in the middle of the first-round, but the Cowboys did not blink when the Oklahoma Sooners product was still on the board once they came onto the clock.

CeeDee Lamb is the headliner of the class, but the Cowboys identified talent — and had some luck — throughout the draft. Cornerback was a need, and Trevon Diggs fell outside of the top-50 picks. Neville Gallimore was seen by many as a fringe round-one prospect, and the Cowboys grabbed him in the third. Reggie Robinson II, Tyler Biadasz, and Bradlee Anae also offer some things to get excited about.

It remains to be seen how — or if — the NFL season will be played in 2020, but we are going to project how this rookie class will stack up on the depth chart this upcoming season.

CeeDee Lamb: Starter

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Lamb is expected to step in and be an immediate contributor to an already high-powered Cowboys passing attack led by quarterback Dak Prescott. Both Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup recorded 1,000 receiving yards a season ago, but there are still targets and yards available for the former Oklahoma star to take.

Gone are Randall Cobb, Jason Witten, and (most likely) Tavon Austin, leaving 190 targets and 1,665 yards on the table. Tight end Blake Jarwin will certainly eat into those touches, while both Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard will likely be factors in the passing game, but there should be more than enough opportunities for Lamb to become a real factor as a rookie.

What makes Lamb such a special player and a near sure-bet to be an impact player on the next level is his unique blend of ball skills, body control, and after-the-catch ability, allowing him to beat defenders in a multitude of ways. The Cowboys were atop the league in drops and near the bottom in yards after the catch, and Lamb is the perfect prospect to improve both categories.

The expectations put on the consensus All-American and first-round draft pick are likely too high in terms of him reaching 1,000 yards and becoming the go-to guy in year-one, but Lamb should add a boost to the Cowboys offense right out of the gate.

Trevon Diggs: Starter

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Out is Byron Jones, leaving many more questions than answers in the Cowboys secondary. As a result, Dallas added Alabama defensive back Trevon Diggs in the second-round of the 2020 NFL Draft, hoping that the younger brother of Pro Bowl receiver Stefon Diggs will be the answer at corner.

Corner is arguably the toughest position in all of football, and that challenge is only escalated for a first-year player. Dallas does have Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis returning to the mix, but none have shown that they can be a true number one corner of a defense.

Awuzie was often lost in coverage last season and there are rumors that he can potentially be moved to safety, Brown is returning from a season-ending triceps injury and has largely played in the slot, while Lewis has had to battle questions regarding his size that does not match the ideal corner in the NFL.

Diggs, a 6-foot-2 and 195 pound corner with nearly 33-inch arms, has the size, length, and ball skills (three interceptions, one pick-six, eight pass deflections in 2019) that give many optimism that he will be able to succeed on the professional level.

Relying on a rookie corner is not always the best recipe for success, but Diggs has the talent and the upside worth having on the field and taking that risk early. The Nick Saban product has the chance to become a cornerstone of this defense if he can develop in the way that many are expecting.

Neville Gallimore: Rotational Player

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Two positions have been largely ignored by the Cowboys for years: safety and defensive tackle. One of those positions was addressed in a big way this offseason, as the Cowboys went out and inked both Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe in free agency before using a day-two pick on Neville Gallimore to improve the interior of the defensive line.

Neither McCoy or Poe are locked in long-term, but both should be important pieces to a rebuilding Cowboys defense this season. That should allow Gallimore — the former Oklahoma defender that has been described as a player with a high ceiling but with development still needed — to adjust to the NFL while learning behind two successful veterans without being thrown into the fire and be relied upon heavily.

Gallimore possesses explosion and first-step quickness from his defensive tackle position, allowing him to shoot gaps and get into the backfield. The Canadian prospect is better as a pass rusher than as a run defender, but his quickness, frame, and motor should allow him to grow in that regard.

Because of the additions of both McCoy and Poe to the roster, Gallimore will likely not receive starting snaps during his first season in the NFL; however, it is hard not to like the talent and upside that Gallimore offers. Expect the former Sooners defender to be a big part of the defensive line rotation in year one.

Reggie Robinson: Rotational Player

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Dallas not only drafted Diggs in this year’s draft, the team decided to double-up at the cornerback position by adding former Tulsa defensive back Reggie Robinson II in round four. As mentioned earlier, the Cowboys are certainly looking for players that can come up and contribute in a secondary that has room to improve.

Robinson is an uber-athletic defender that possesses a ton of upside and potential because of his intriguing athletic profile. While Robinson does not possess quite as much length as Diggs, the Tulsa product came in at 6-foot-1 at the 2020 Scouting Combine, good for 81st-percentile on, and he scored very well in several different testing categories.

Robinson will likely be behind a few players at his position, but he has enough talent to see the field as a rookie. It is well-documented that secondary coach Al Harris and the defensive staff loves bigger defensive backs and Robinson fits that mold.

Tyler Biadsz: Potential Starter

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Travis Frederick has decided to officially hang it up, announcing his retirement earlier this offseason after returning the NFL in 2019 following a season off in 2018 due to complications with his health. The loss of Frederick obviously leaves a hole in the interior of the Cowboys offensive line, but it appears that the team is confident in the candidates on their roster to step in and play center next to Zack Martin.

2019 third-round selection Connor McGovern and veteran Joe Looney — who filled in at center during the 2018 season — are expected to be two candidates for the starting center position. Dallas did, however, add another piece to the mix: former Wisconsin offensive lineman Tyler Biadasz.

Biadasz was widely considered a potential first-round prospect prior to the 2019 college football season but multiple injuries throughout his career for the Badgers dropped his stock quite a bit. Still, the former three-star prospect and Wisconsin native was named a first-team All-American by the Associated Press following his final season in Madison.

Not often do you see three starters from a rookie draft class for a team with big playoff hopes, but this is the case regarding the 2020 Cowboys. You can write Lamb’s name into ink in the starting lineup, and many are expecting Diggs to take first-team snaps at corner.

You may be able to add Biadasz to that mix as well, as the former Wisconsin should be right in the thick of things in the competition to be the team’s starting center. Even if it is not in week one, Tyler Biadiasz could be taking starting reps at some point during the upcoming season.

Bradlee Anae: Depth Piece

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When discussing day-three steals and great value picks, Bradlee Anae should certainly be in that discussion. The former Utah Utes defender became a force to reckoned with in the Pac-12, giving quarterbacks nightmares as he rushed off of the edge.

Anae developed into a sack-machine for coach Kyle Whittingham, recording 30 sacks during his collegiate career and earning consensus All-American honors after his 13 sack campaign in 2019. As a result, many had a day-two grade on the Hawaii native heading into the draft.

Despite being one of the more productive pass rushers in all of college football, Anae did not help himself at the NFL Combine whatsoever. Already lacking ideal size for the EDGE position in the NFL, Anae turned in a 4.93 40-yard dash (53rd percentile on, 7.44 three-cone (48th), and a 31-inch vertical jump (44th) to pair with his 32 1/8-inch arms (11th).

As a result, the former Utah star saw his draft stock see a tumble. Many are concerned how well Anae will be able to transition to the professional game with his less-than-ideal size combined with a poor athletic profile. Still, there is something to be said for Anae’s ridiculous production. The Cowboys are banking on Anae’s technical game to be able to succeed.

There is stiff competition at EDGE for the Cowboys — especially with Rodger Goodell reinstating Aldon Smith recently and Randy Gregory still awaiting the NFL’s decision — but Anae has a very good chance to make the 55-man squad and provide some depth on the Cowboys defense.

Ben DiNucci: Practice Squad

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Prior to this year’s draft, there was some speculation that the Cowboys may be interested in spending a day-two or early day-three pick on a developmental quarterback behind Dak Prescott. Cooper Rush was the only other quarterback on the roster behind Prescott at the time, and there was a lot of uncertainty with that being the case.

Ultimately, the Cowboys drafted former James Madison signal-caller Ben DiNucci in the seventh round. DiNucci, who transferred from Pittsburgh to JMU, posted a 23-6 record over the past two seasons, including an appearance in last season’s FCS National Championship game. DiNucci capped off his final collegiate season by throwing for 3,441 yards and 29 touchdowns on a 70.9 percent completion percentage.

The former three-star prospect out of Pennsylvania was largely unknown in draft circles compared to many other quarterbacks in this year’s draft class, but DiNucci has some talent that made the draft pick worth it to head coach Mike McCarthy and the Cowboys.

That said, the Cowboys did go out and sign former Bengals signal quarterback Andy Dalton (and cut Cooper Rush) after the draft to back up Prescott, making it difficult to see how DiNucci makes the roster. While it is unlikely that the Cowboys carry three quarterbacks on the 55-man roster this season, DiNucci should be a priority for the team to add to its practice squad.