Ranking the top 5 current Cowboys who went undrafted
It’s been proven that you don’t have to be drafted at all to make an impact in the NFL. (Even though, as you see in the video above, that's where most of the talking is done.) In fact, more undrafted players play a vital role for the Cowboys each week than you may realize. Now that the draft has come to an end and OTAs are almost upon us (starting Tuesday) and there’s speculation swirling regarding which undrafted free agents have a shot at making the active roster, CowboysHQ ranks the top five undrafted players on the roster currently.
Some housekeeping items:
Here, our Jordan Ross ranks the chances of this year's UDFA rookies hanging around. (Don’t jump the gun just yet. Rookie undrafted free agents and new signees will not be included on this list, as we’ve yet to see the impact they will make in Dallas).
And here my list's Honorable Mentions:
Barry Church, L.P. Ladouceur, David Irving, Lance Dunbar, Jeff Heath, Lucky Whitehead.
Solid. See? More than you might think. And that's not even the top 5. This is:
No. 5: G Ronald Leary
It’s odd to have two offensive linemen in the top 5 on this particular list, but that’s just how dominant the Cowboys offensive line is. Rookie La’el Collins eventually stole Leary’s job at left guard (sooner than expected due to a groin injury Leary suffered early in the 2015 season), but Leary could easily start on any other offensive line in the league – and perhaps be the best on some of those rosters. Leary was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2012 and has started 35 games over the last four seasons. In April of 2016, Leary signed his one-year restricted free agent tender, in which the Cowboys would have received a second-round pick as compensation if they lost Leary to another team. Valuable depth on the offensive line is extremely important, and that’s exactly what Leary can provide.
No. 4: WR Cole Beasley
The 5-8 undrafted free-agent wide receiver from SMU quickly became one of quarterback Tony Romo’s favorite targets. It took sure-hands, speed, and toughness to solidify Beasley as the shifty slot receiver that Dallas desperately needed. Beasley is currently the third wide receiver on the depth chart, only behind wideouts Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams. As his role increased each year, including return duties, Beasley agreed to a four-year extension in 2015 of roughly 13.6 million. Over the past two seasons, Beasley averaged 11.4 and 10.3 yards per reception and was targeted 124 times.
No. 3: G La’el Collins
As a rookie, Collins was already one of the NFL’s top 25 players in the league’s performance-based pay system. And it was very much deserved. Collins, who was projected to be a first-round pick in the 2015 draft, went undrafted due to legal issues regarding the murder of an ex-girlfriend (Collins was never a suspect and was quickly cleared of any wrongdoing). Collins had 11 solid starts in his rookie season, eventually becoming the Cowboys’ full-time left guard on the best offensive line in the NFL. This is quite an impressive feat considering he’s young and still fairly new to the position. His smarts, hustle and athleticism could eventually make him the best guard in the entire league. (Which would be saying something, as he's got a linemate in Zack Martin who can battle for the same title.)
No. 2: K Dan Bailey
Mr. Clutch has been worth every penny. In 2014, the Cowboys and Bailey agreed on a seven-year contract worth $22.5 million with $6.6 million guaranteed. Bailey became the most accurate kicker in NFL history and currently leads all kickers in field goal percentage at just above 90 percent. He was a 3-time NFC Special Teams player of the week (2011, 2012, 2015), Pro Bowler (2015), Second-team All-Pro (2015), PFWA All-Rookie team (2011), and tied Nick Folk with the best extra-point percentage in NFL history. Bailey has made an impressive 144 of 159 field goals.
How was he undrafted?
No. 1: QB Tony Romo
The Cowboys got more out of Romo than they could have imagined, who was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2003. It comes as no surprise that Romo sits at top spot on this list, as he’s arguably the best undrafted free agent in the modern history of the entire league. Although he hasn’t led the Cowboys to a Super Bowl, Romo has started in six playoff games, throwing for eight touchdowns and just two interceptions in those contests. Even more impressive, he’s led 25 fourth-quarter comebacks and 30 game-winning drives.
Brian Baldinger of NFL.com made a great point regarding the importance of Romo in the sense that there are a lot of other NFL teams trying to find THEIR Tony Romo (even throughout the draft), a four-time Pro Bowler who can produce and lead the organization to the postseason. The fact that he became the franchise quarterback of America’s Team and is still playing at such a high level ten years later (Romo made his first start in 2006) puts him light years above the rest. His leadership and play-making ability is unmatched. ... as is his competition among NFL players when it comes to topping UDFA lists.