Dallas Cowboys: Projected rookie roles for 2018

BOISE, ID - OCTOBER 15: Wide receiver Michael Gallup #4 of the Colorado State Rams breaks into the open for a long run during second half action against the Boise State Broncos on October 15, 2016 at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho. Boise State won the game 28-23. (Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images)
BOISE, ID - OCTOBER 15: Wide receiver Michael Gallup #4 of the Colorado State Rams breaks into the open for a long run during second half action against the Boise State Broncos on October 15, 2016 at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho. Boise State won the game 28-23. (Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys have a lot of questions facing their roster this season. Who will step up and become a starter out of the 2018 NFL draft class?

The Dallas Cowboys have a ton of new faces on their roster in 2018 and this should make for some interesting camp battles. After the 2018 NFL Draft some of the biggest discussions about the Cowboys draft class centered around which players would make an immediate impact.

With the start of rookie minicamp last week we will begin to see who begins to make a name for themselves as the season approaches. For now, let’s take a look at just what each rookie will be expected to do.

Leighton Vander Esch (Linebacker): This guy is the teams first round pick, and that title is even more valuable this season when you consider all of the moves Dallas could have made prior to selecting him. The Cowboys could have traded up and landed safety Derwin James, or traded for Earl Thomas.

The team could have also picked up the “best” wide receivers in the draft, instead, they went with Vander Esch. To me this screams of expectation, the Dallas Cowboys fell in love with what they expect Vander Esch to be at the next level and needed their top three draft picks.

So they stuck to their guns and picked the player they thought could be the most helpful to them this season. With that said, LVE should live up to the hype and solidify the Cowboys linebacking corps. He can cover, he can pass rush, he can run stop, he can really do it all and the best part of his game is that it will only get better.

Much like Thad Castle from Blue Mountain State (best show of all time), Vander Esch has a nose for the ball and hits pretty hard whenever he is in a blue uniform, let’s hope that continues with the Dallas Cowboys. He will likely be a day one starter and should lineup next to Jaylon Smith and Sean Lee.

As far as seeing any competition for that role, Damien Wilson will probably be the strongest contender just based off of how much time he has spent with this defense. At the end of the day, LVE is just better than Wilson on every level so he should have the higher rate of production from the start.

Connor Williams (Offensive Lineman): This guy can run block extremely well and I would not be surprised if the Dallas Cowboys expect an immediate starting caliber production from the jump. Williams instantly fits in as a left guard or a right tackle so how the Cowboys put these pieces together is still somewhat of a mystery.

Williams is not as great of a pass blocker as he is a run blocker but still is highly productive. This is another player who should become a day one starter and really there are not a lot of contenders to challenge him with this role.

La’el Collins will likely fill in were Williams does not land, so once again either right tackle or left guard. Once again, this was a player who was expected to go in the top 20 of the first round, so that is the level of talent we are dealing with here.

The situation here is pretty straightforward as Williams is a high-level talent who is expected to “fix” this offensive lines woes. I truly believe he will have a Zack Martin-esque fit into this offensive line and should be a perfect fit when training camp begins.

Michael Gallup/Cedrick Wilson (Wide Receiver): The wide receiver battles this season in training camp should be absolutely epic. Michael Gallup, Cole Beasley, Cedrick Wilson, Terrance Williams, Lance Lenior, Deonte Thompson, Tavon Austin, Noah Brown, KD Cannon, and last but not least Allen Hurns will all be fighting for snaps and that is a great thing.

Competition brings out the best in players, especially with young, hungry wide receivers. All of them are fighting for something, but Gallup and Wilson are somewhat of a different breed than the others. Hurns is explosive, Thompson/Austin have incredible speed, Wilson and Gallup are pure football players. They may not be athletic freaks but they run routes extremely well and focus on catching the ball with their hands and not their body. 

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I fully expect both of them to have a big impact on the passing game in 2018 and with only so many spots on the 53 man roster, everyone should be competing for a starting role. Beasley is in the last year of his deal and Williams is not far behind, a year with zero touchdowns cannot be in the cards for those guys.

Tavon Austin is looking to prove that he can find a home in an offense and be productive as a receiver. With everyone having something they need to prove to this front office, Gallup and Wilson will only add gasoline to the fire. Gallup’s ceiling for year one will likely be replacing either Beasley or Austin as a starter, Wilson will have a bigger hill to climb, but talent is talent and it will show on tape.

Dalton Schultz (Tight End): For a player who is expected to “replace” Jason Witten, Schultz will have a big impact this season just not in the way most people expect. Schultz is a game changer as a run blocker and Witten did that very well. I would expect Schultz to get in the game every time the Dallas Cowboys are looking to run the football.

Geoff Swaim is more impressive as a pass catcher and Blake Jarwin could be a better overall tight end. Schultz immediately jumps to the head of the pack as the best blocker amongst this group of tight ends.

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There is not a large enough sample size of him catching balls in the passing game to make an assumption about that, but he could provide a major boost to the Dallas Cowboys running attack.