The Dallas Cowboys have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL, but the tight end position is one that has sparked concern all offseason.
It was always expected that Dalton Schultz would leave in free agency. Being the draft and develop team they are, the Cowboys selected Luke Schoonmaker with the No. 58 overall pick in April and are banking on continued development from 2022 fourth-rounder Jake Ferguson and 2022 UDFA Peyton Hendershot.
With Schoonmaker missing the first two weeks of camp with a foot injury, Ferguson will likely open the season as the starter. Schoonmaker will hopefully assume TE2 duties, and it's widely expected that Sean McKeon will make the team given his versatility as a blocker and prominent role on special teams.
That leaves one spot, assuming the Cowboys carry four tight ends.
That's seemingly Hendershot's to lose, but don't sleep on undrafted free agent John Stephens Jr., who by all accounts is having an excellent camp.
Could Cowboys undrafted free agent John Stephens Jr. make the 53-man roster?
Stephens Jr. played three seasons at TCU before he transferred to Louisiana-Lafayette. In two seasons with the Ragin' Cajuns, he logged 27 catches for 451 yards and seven touchdowns. Not eye-popping numbers by any stretch, but Stephens is a QB-friendly target and matchup nightmare at 6-foot-5 and 232 pounds.
He's also a fantastic athlete, scoring a 9.13 relative athletic score. His highlights include a 4.67 40-yard dash, 36-inch vertical and 10-3 broad jump.
That athleticism and receiving background has been on full display in Oxnard.
With all due respect to the Cowboys other tight ends, they aren't exactly world-class athletes. Stephens Jr. brings a different dynamic to the group, even though he might be raw and didn't face stiff competition at the college level.
It's admittedly more likely that Stephens Jr. ends up on the practice squad than the 53-man roster, but his upside is undeniable.
Hendershot has had a nice camp, but Ferguson's been more consistent and Stephens Jr. has certainly popped more as a downfield threat. Sure enough, the young pass-catcher popped in the preseason opener, leading the team with five catches for 56 yards and a toucdown.
It's always possible McKeon becomes the odd man out, but we like to think Dallas wants to keep a veteran presence in the otherwise inexperienced group.
In any event, Stephens is a name to remember as we move forward into the fourth week of camp and second week of preseason. He's done everything possible in Oxnard and now preseason to warrant consideration for the TE4 (maybe TE3) spot.