We already know that Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams and Dwayne Harris are locks for the Dallas Cowboys’ roster. And I wouldn’t hesitate to call Cole Beasley a lock as well because he has a defined role on the team that no other player can fill which is his slot ability. So that makes four players who we know will be on the final 53 man roster comes week one (assuming no major injuries). So today, we are going to look at who else might stick on the roster come final cut down day. Let’s first take a look at the guys competing for one or two roster spots:
Before we discuss these players individually, I want you to take a look at the group as a whole. Notice anything specific? Under Will McClay, the Cowboys are looking for athletes to fill out the bottom of their roster. They are looking for the next Miles Austin with every last roster spot. They want size, length and speed. And I admire that approach because those players are more likely to breakout and become star players than smaller guys who lack elite athleticism. Seems like common sense right? The rewards of hitting on a player who is 6’4 and runs a 4.4 is far greater than hitting on one who is 5’11 and runs a 4.6. So let’s take a look at each player individually:
Devin Street: The odds on favorite to make the roster and if we are being honest with ourselves, he’s probably a lock to make the 53 man roster because of his draft status and the fact that Dallas traded up to get him. I like the mismatches that Street’s game presents. The ability to put a 6’3 guy in the slot who has 4.5 speed is something that we’ve seen a lot in Dallas with Miles Austin. The Cowboys have loved putting size in the middle of the field to abuse smaller cornerbacks and I don’t expect anything different in 2014. And just as a prospect coming out of college, I’m not so sure that Street isn’t a better player than Terrance Williams. If Street played in the Baylor offense, I would be willing to bet that he would’ve been drafted at least two rounds higher. Street’s best ability in college was his ability to come out of breaks quickly, despite his size. And if you remember Jerry Jones’ phone call to Street, that’s why the team fell in love him. They gushed over his ability to run precise routes and get open. I expect Street to challenge Cole Beasley and Dwayne Harris for playing time in 2014 and eventually win the third spot
L’Damian Washington: Unfortunately for Washington, he hurt his shoulder in OTA’s and may miss significant time. But Washington has all the tools and ability to be a star in the NFL. But at this point in his career, he’s a better athlete than football player. Matt Waldman of Football Outsiders believes he could develop into A.J. Green some day. That’s awfully high praise for an un-drafted rookie out of Missouri. And ff you haven’t got the opportunity to watch Washington play yet, check out this game of his versus Texas A&M. It’s one of the best games I saw from a wide receiver all year.
Probably the most relastic scenario for Washington now that he has a shoulder injury is that Dallas stashes him on the practice squad (maybe I.R.) and redshirts him. That would probably be the best case scenario for Washington’s career. But don’t be surprised if you see a couple “WOW” plays in the preseason and it makes the Cowboys think about sliding him onto the 53 to protect teams from stealing him. I like Washington’s long term outlook for this team.
Laron Byrd: Arguably the best athlete of the entire receiving group (including Dez Bryant) Byrd has everything you would want in a receiver. Besides production. The Cowboys signed Byrd this offseason as a camp flyer who they wanted to give to Derek Dooley to see if he can mold into a great NFL receiver. Byrd does have the support of NFL legend Larry Fitzgerald. In a recent interview with Jordan Ross, Byrd said that Fitzgerald taught him how to be professional and how to work out his craft. Byrd was not retained by the Cardinals due to injuries, but Byrd recently stated that he is now 100% healthy. Can he make in impact in 2014?
Chris Boyd: Chris Boyd went under the radar at Vanderbilt, playing second fiddle to second round pick Jordan Matthews. Boyd broke out at age 20 during his sophomore year at Vanderbilt, catching 50 passes for 774 yards and five touchdowns. Boyd was dismissed from the team in 2013 because of his role in a rape charge. Boyd isn’t a great athlete, but he has fantastic size and knows how to use it. Statistically, Boyd compares favorably to Eric Decker and A.J. Green, according to Jon Moore of Rotoviz. I believe he is a lock for the practice squad and I wouldn’t be shocked if he makes the 53 man roster.
Tim Benford: The smallest receiver of the group, Benford has been on the practice squad the last few years and will need a huge training camp and preseason to make the roster. I’ve always been impressed with Benford in the preseason, but he lacks the upside of some of the receivers above. My best guess is that he’s cut and he’s makes some else’s practice squad.
Conclusion: I think Devin Street is a lock to make the roster and if the Cowboys do decide to keep six wide receivers, I will guess that keep the uber-talented Washington. I would expect Washington and Boyd to both make the practice squad if the cannot crack the 53.