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Three different Dallas Cowboys 53-man roster projections

We look at three different roster projections to try to understand how the roster could shake up after final cuts next week.

Houston Texans v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Cowboys coaches have been busy this week watching film from the first three preseason games and reviewing their practice notes. And one of the things they were likely doing in the process is slotting their players into some kind of a depth chart; a depth chart they have been building since the start of OTAs and one that has been constantly reconfigured.

So we’re going to do a similar exercise today and take a look at what the Cowboys’ final 53-man roster could look like based on what we’ve seen so far in training camp and in the preseason games. To do that, we’re going to look at three separate projections. One from Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News, one from our good friend K.D. Drummond over at CowboysWire, and a final one from BTB’s Connor Livesay. There’ll be more projections published once the final and meaningless preseason game concludes, but these three projections should give us a good idea of where public sentiment currently stands regarding the 2021 Cowboys roster.

I’ve combined all three projections in the table below. The table highlights (in yellow) the spots that do not yet appear to be locked down. Look closely, and you’ll see there aren’t many of those spots left, at least if these three projections are anything to go by.

Prescott Prescott Prescott
Rush Rush Rush
Elliott Elliott Elliott
Pollard Pollard Pollard
Ralston (FB) Ralston (FB) Ralston (FB)
Jarwin Jarwin Jarwin
Schultz Schultz Schultz
McKeon McKeon Sprinkle
Cooper Cooper Cooper
Lamb Lamb Lamb
Gallup Gallup Gallup
Wilson Wilson Wilson
Brown Brown Brown
Smith Smith Smith
Williams Williams Williams
Biadasz Biadasz Biadasz
Martin Martin Martin
Collins Collins Collins
Nsekhe Nsekhe Nsekhe
McGovern McGovern McGovern
Knight Knight
Steele Steele Steele
Ball Ball
Gallimore* Gallimore* Gallimore*
Watkins Watkins Watkins
Urban Urban Urban
Odighizuwa Odighizuwa Odighizuwa
Bohanna Bohanna Bohanna
Lawrence Lawrence Lawrence
Gregory Gregory Gregory
Basham Basham Basham
Armstrong Armstrong Armstrong
Anae Anae
Carter Carter
Parsons Parsons Parsons
Vander Esch Vander Esch Vander Esch
Smith Smith Smith
Neal Neal Neal
Cox Cox Cox
Diggs Diggs Diggs
Brown Brown Brown
Lewis Lewis Lewis
Joseph Joseph Joseph
Wright Wright Wright
Canady Canady Canady
Goodwin Goodwin Goodwin
Kazee Kazee Kazee
Wilson Wilson Wilson
Kearse Kearse Kearse
Hooker Hooker
Zuerlein Zuerlein Zuerlein
McQuaide McQuaide McQuaide
Anger Anger Anger

These roster projections may feel like they have a certain degree of certainty and finality, but they don’t, not really. There are bound to be some surprise cuts and perhaps even late additions that nobody saw coming. With that in mind, here a few thoughts on three projections above.

Quarterbacks: Rush’s ascension in the popular vote to the No. 2 guy behind Prescott is nothing short of miraculous. Keep in mind that this was a guy who was released from the Giants practice squad last year and no other team would touch until the Cowboys came calling a month and a Prescott injury later. He made the active roster in Dallas for one game before being promptly and unsurprisingly relegated to the practice squad.

And 12 pass attempts against the Texans changed all of that? As soon as the Cowboys find a better option, it’ll be back to the practice squad for Rush.

Realistically, for now the Cowboys have Dak Prescott at QB, and that’s it.

Running backs: The Cowboys have gone with three backs (or more) since at least 2013, and that rotation looks like it could include a fullback and core special teamer in Nick Ralston this year.

Tight ends: Watkins seems to believe the Cowboys will keep four tight ends, but it’s more likely the third and final TE spot will come down to McKeon OR Sprinkle.

Wide receivers: Here are the roster numbers from the opening-day rosters of the last eight years as documented in the NFL game books.

Years QB RB WR TE FB OL DL LB CB S Specialists
2020 3 3 5 3 - - 9 9 6 7 4 3
2019 2 3 5 3 1 10 10 6 5 5 3
2018 3 3 5 4 1 9 9 7 5 4 3
2017 3 4 6 3 1 8 8 7 6 4 3
2016 3 4 5 3 2 8 8 7 5 5 3
2015 2 4 5 4 1 9 10 6 5 4 3
2014 3 3 5 3 1 9 11 7 4 4 3
2013 2 4 5 4 - - 10 10 6 4 5 3

The Cowboys kept six wide receivers just once since 2013. In Dallas, the sixth WR usually gets a spot on the practice squad.

Offensive line: Will they go with nine offensive linemen, or will they go long and keep a spot for fourth-round pick Josh Ball?

Defensive tackle: For a unit that’s seen easily the most personnel turnover of any group on the 2021 team, there is remarkably (or perhaps suspiciously) little uncertainty here. Cowboys fans have traditionally placed a much higher emphasis on the fat guys in the middle than the team ever did, we’ll see how this plays out this year. All three observers have the Cowboys going with five defensive tackles, in part because Neville Gallimore could miss a few games at the start of the season, but it’s hard to imagine the team maintaining a permanent five-man rotation at DT over the entire season - and Trysten Hill could also be back at some point.

Edge Rushers: There are some names penciled in behind Lawrence and Gregory, but those names won’t matter if either Lawrence or Gregory miss time.

Linebacker: There really isn’t anybody pushing the top five guys from the bottom. Will the team keep a sixth guy for special teams?

Corner: No surprises expected here, and Goodwin is a special teams ace disguised as a cornerback.

Safety: Three or four guys? Does Hooker make the team? Questions, questions, questions.

What’s your take on the combined projections above, and which of your pet cats did the three projections slight?

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