One of the more intriguing aspects to study before any of the newest Cowboys hit the practice fields at Valley Ranch this week is who will see playing time the earliest in their NFL career.
Often times, the later round picks will come to camp with a chip on their shoulder, feeling like they have something to prove. At the very least, it makes for some interesting competition where you just might not expect it.
For starters, there's little doubt that first round draft pick Terence Newman will see the field early and often during his first season in the National Football League.
The Cowboys need help at cornerback and Newman was brought in to be a starter. He has the skills, the speed, and the confidence to become a shutdown cornerback in the NFL. By all accounts, it's only a matter of time until he and Roy Williams form one of the most feared secondaries in the league.
Newman will need to continue to work hard in the weight room, improving his upper body strength and intensity his ability to defend the run, but you could make that same case for 75% of the corners currently playing in the NFL.
2nd round draft pick Al Johnson is also another strong candidate to see the field next season. The Cowboys need help on the offensive line and Johnson should be able to contribute almost immediately at center or even guard.
His versatility will likely give him an edge over some of the other linemen on the roster, and we think he'll see significant playing time as a rookie, despite the so called 'experts' disagreeing with the Cowboys for selecting him in the 2nd round.
3rd round draft pick Jason Witten was projected by many experts to to in the first round pick, however he fell all the way to the third round and the Dallas Cowboys. There's no question that the talent level is there, but Witten will have to fight through Tony McGee and Dan Campbell to see the field.
Witten may find it difficult to make an impact early in his NFL career, so it's going to be important for him to establish himself early on.
LSU linebacker Bradie James was picked up with the Cowboys first pick of the second day of the NFL Draft this past weekend, but that gives little indication of the Cowboys expectations of this young gun.
The one of the more popular expressions during ESPN's coverage of the draft last weekend was that James fits "the Bill Parcells" mold at linebacker.
Bradie James defines that phrase and then some.
He fits perfectly into Bill Parcells' 3-4 scheme as an outside linebacker and he clearly has the size that the Cowboys have sorely lacked in recent years.
"He really is a prototypical linebacker for what Parcells wants in his defense," said a source close to the Cowboys earlier this week. "Privately, I think a lot of people in the organization think that he can be a big-time player before his career his over."
While a lot of people aren't talking about James right now, we may look back on the 2003 NFL Draft and consider him one of the biggest steals in Cowboys history.
Wisconsin's B.J. Tucker, who was taken in the 6th round by the Cowboys will have his work cut out for him next season even though help is still needed in the secondary.
Tucker has been described as a player who sometimes lacks a feel for the position, and he tends to have a late reaction to the ball once it's in the air.
"To me, he's the one that probably has the most work ahead of him out of the first six picks," added the source. "The Cowboys need help at cornerback, and they got it with Terence Newman. Tucker is likely a special teams guy next season at best."
Zuriel Smith was another sixth round selection by the Cowboys, and most experts agree that he'll likely have a shot at becoming one of the top kick returners on the team should he be able to secure a spot on the regular season roster.
However, don't pencil him in as a player who will receive significant playing time outside of special teams' situations at any point in the near future. The overall talent level just isn't there.
Offensive lineman Justin Bates is also another "tweener." Lacking the upper body strength to really become a factor in the professional ranks, Bates has his work cut out for him if he's going to make the team as a reserve lineman.
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