4 biggest winners (and 2 losers) from Cowboys OTAs and minicamp

Not every Cowboy brought their best to the offseason program.
New England Patriots v Dallas Cowboys
New England Patriots v Dallas Cowboys / Sam Hodde/GettyImages

If any Dallas Cowboys fans are planning a summer vacation, now is the time to take action. Following the conclusion of OTAs and mandatory minicamp, the Cowboys' news cycle has hit the dormant part of the football calendar.

Barring any free-agent signings or contract extensions, it will be quiet until the team reports for training camp on July 24.

While there's no practices to track for the next six weeks, the spring program really opened our eyes as far as pinpointing which players have rising (and sinking) stock before Oxnard. With that, here are the biggest winners and losers from OTAs and minicamp.

Cowboys winner: LB Marist Liufau

The Cowboys replenished their linebacker room this offseason and Liufau is a big part of that. A fourth-round pick out of Notre Dame, Liufau has already received glowing reviews from defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, who plans to deploy Liufau in a variety of roles, including as a pass rusher.

Liufau has also impressed his new teammates. Fellow linebacker Damone Clark called Liufau a "sponge" and believes he has star potential. Beyond the field, Cowboys team reporter Patrik Walker noticed at minicamp that Liufau's "versatility and very high football IQ shows up on every rep."

Liufau is officially a player to watch in training camp.

Cowboys loser: TE Luke Schoonmaker

Cowboys fans aren't ready to give up on Schoonmaker, but they've set a painfully low bar for him to hurdle in year two. Already coming off an injury-riddled rookie season, Schoonmaker underwent offseason shoulder surgery and missed essentially all of OTAs and minicamp with a hamstring injury.

Schoonmaker's absence allowed more opportunities for promising second-year man Princeton Fant, who took a ton of first-team reps, and touted undrafted free agent Brevyn Spann-Ford.

With fan favorite John Stephens Jr. on the cusp of completing his ACL rehab, Schoonmaker can ill-afford another injury setback in training camp. Based on draft status, Schoonmaker is still the favorite to win the TE2 job, but he could tumble down the depth chart in Oxnard if he can't stay on the field or doesn't perform.

Cowboys winner: WRs Jalen Brooks and Ryan Flournoy

The buzz surrounding Brooks and Flournoy is palpable, and it's easy to see why. With no CeeDee Lamb, Brooks was among Dak Prescott's favorite targets in spring practices. Where Brooks really impressed was with his catch radius and body control on off-target throws.

Brooks will battle Jalen Tolbert for the WR3 job and standing out on the unscripted stuff (like coming down with throws that should fall incomplete) will give him a strong chance to do just that.

If you remember, Brooks burst onto the scene in training camp last year. This year's camp darling could be Ryan Flournoy. The 2024 fifth-round pick is already one of the most athletic players on the roster. That was evidenced by his Dez-Bryant-esque touchdown grab in team drills.

Once he gets a better understanding of the offense, Flournoy will challenge for reps with the first-team offense in Oxnard.

Cowboys loser: RB Deuce Vaughn

Schoonmaker and Vaughn's inclusion is a big indictment on the 2023 draft class. In Vaughn's case, the Cowboys worked him out as a slot receiver in OTAs and minicamp. Mike McCarthy prefaced that the team hasn't given up on Vaughn as a running back, but that was likely to save face more than anything.

While Vaughn still participated in RB drills, he was with the second-team offense. Ezekiel Elliott, Rico Dowdle and second-year pro Hunter Luepke rotated with the first team. It doesn't bode well for Vaughn's roster chances that Luepke, a RB/FB tweener and an undrafted free agent last year, is seemingly ahead of him on the depth chart.

Cowboys winner: QB Trey Lance

The Lance buzz could (emphasis on could) just be a case of Mike McCarthy following orders from ownership to boost Lance's trade value before September. Regardless if that's true, Lance will get a big platform to showcase his progress, or lack thereof, in training camp and preseason.

McCarthy has noted that Lance is close to "mastering" the Cowboys' offense. Lance even went on the record to say his confidence has never been higher. It seems the 23-year-old's de facto redshirt season did what it was supposed to.

With a better command of the offense and a new throwing motion that has him releasing the ball quicker, and thereby hitting his targets on time, no Cowboy has seen their stock rise more this spring than Lance. He'll be one of, if not the most fascinating player to watch in training camp.

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