Top Five UFA Party Crashers

Which undrafted free agents have the best chance to make the Cowboys' roster? We examine the top five candidates in this extensive report! (Pictured above is former TCU wide receiver Reggie Harrell, who will join the team tomorrow for the first day of Cowboys' rookie minicamp.)

First things first: anyone who claims to have known before training camp last year that WR Terrance Copper, FB Lousaka Polite and LB/DE Kalen Thornton -- all undrafted free agents -- would make the Dallas roster last year is lying.

Now that that's out of the way … at least 17 undrafted free will join the team's draft choices starting Friday in the Cowboys' rookie mini-camp. For those who think drafting players who are ready to contribute to an NFL team is tough, imagine how hard it is to sort through players deemed not good enough to draft … and find one worth keeping. Of course, if the scouts evaluate talent perfectly, veterans and draft choices, there's really no need for UFAs. But of course, talent evaluation always is an inexact science,, of course, knew all about Copper, Polite and Thornton last year (right?) With that in mind, here is a list of five players with at least a chance (no matter how remote) of making the roster.

Portland State TE Tony Curtis
Certainly, Dallas is not in need of an overhaul at the tight end position, which could be one of the strongest positions on the team. Jason Witten is an emerging star who might make the Pro Bowl for years. Dan Campbell, assuming he's fully healthy, is among the best blocking tight ends in the NFL -- vital to the running game and in pass protection -- and underrated as a receiver. Sean Ryan, drafted in the fifth round last year, was at the bottom of the tight end food chain in 2004, but the coaches still think he has considerable potential. He's big and strong, and has soft hands.

But if Dallas carries four tight ends in 2005 (or if Campbell is not 100 percent), Curtis just might make the roster.

At 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, he clearly has the size for the job, and he's extremely athletic and fluid. The PSU offense didn't throw to the tight end much (he had seven receptions -- and one rushing attempt -- in four games as a senior, and nine catches in four games as a junior), but his speed and athleticism drew pre-draft scrutiny from multiple NFL teams, as well as an invitation to the NFL Combine.

Whether or not he makes the final roster likely will rest upon his willingness and effectiveness on special teams.

TCU WR Reggie Harrell
Wide receiver is a question mark, in part because nobody has really seen Terry Glenn since he got hurt last year, and because 2004 rookies Terrance Copper and Patrick Crayton showed showed significant improvement in their debut seasons, but they are far from proven commodities.

And sure, Quincy Morgan has potential, but he has not yet developed into a reliable option in the passing game.

Harrell is a big (6-foot-3, 215) target who plays faster than his 4.6 40 time. He's extremely strong, and uses his body very well to shield defenders from the ball. He adjusts well to poorly thrown passes, and has a knack for getting open in the seams of a defense. He needs to tighten up his footwork on his routes, but that is something that can be improved with proper coaching.

Harrell also has many of the tools to be a successful receiver, and will fight for the ball in traffic. The first receiver in TCU history to compile 1,000 receiving yards in a single season, Harrell also has the speed and strength to contribute on special teams.

Syracuse C Matt Tarullo
Al Johnson made great progress at center last year for the Cowboys, and likely has the starting job locked up. But a team never can have enough depth, and Tarullo is an interesting prospect. He's extremely tall (6-foot-5.5) for a center, although that would be less of a problem for a team with a tall QB like Drew Bledsoe. Tarullo could add to his 20 pounds, and would benefit from extra strength. He has good punch, but plays a little stiff. Part of his appeal is that he also could play either guard position, if needed. Big and tough, Tarullo plays with a mauling style, quickly tying up defenders and planting them into the ground. He also would likely have to play special teams to make the team.

San Jose State RB Tyson Thompson
Thompson is one of the more curious runners in the nation as he became something of a statewide phenomenon as a high school senior when he ran for more than 500 yards in a single game at Irving High School. From then on, he became one of the hottest recruiting targets in Texas.

When he signed with TCU, it was considered something of a coup for the Horned Frogs, but he ended up going to Garden City (Kan.) Community College before winding up at San Jose State. At 6-foot-1 and 207 pounds, he needs to add strength and bulk, and he'd not going to unseat Julius Jones (or even projected backup Marion Barber). But Thompson could be a very capable RB insurance policy or third-down back. He runs with a slashing style that makes it hard to get a direct hit on him, and he's faster than he looks. He also could return kicks, if asked.

Fresno State kicker Brett Visitainer
There's no reason to believe the Cowboys are trying to replace Billy Cundiff, but this is not a team that's prone to signing -- and paying -- a top-flight kicker like Jason Hanson or Jason Elam to a long-term deal. The Cowboys have recycled guys like Lin Elliott and Richie Cunningham for years, either when performance dips or the players become more expensive.

If this is the year that Cundiff does face a challenge, Visitainer will be a worthy foe, having connected on 10-of-13 field goals (including three of four from beyond 40 yards) and 55-of-56 extra points last year at Fresno State. In addition to leg strength, Visitainer has superior mechanics. The majority of his kickoffs reached the goal line, and like a proper golf swing, he's able to repeat the particulars of his leg movement almost perfectly from one kick to the next, which is vital in the development of the consistency necessary to kick at the professional level.

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