Every year fans and analysts take delight in picking their favorite fringe player, aka “pet cat”, on the Dallas Cowboys.
Over the years there have been some notable Dallas Cowboys “fan favorites” that have panned out and some that have not. But the annual tradition of finding your own favorite fringe player (also known around here as “pet cats”) will continue, and this year’s Dallas Cowboys team has some really interesting potential “pet cats”.
Before we look at one of them, we need to define what a pet cat is. Usually a pet cat is a player that is drafted late in the draft or signed as an undrafted free agent. These players offer some upside or potential to the fan or analyst if they develop well or play well.
The 2020 undrafted free agents (found here) have some niche players and guys from small schools who could surprise. This year, many people will love Ron’Dell Carter out of James Madison as he went from a larger school program where he was good, to a smaller school and was really good.
Other names like Charlie Taumoepeau, the tight end out of Portland State, Kendrick Rodgers, the wide receiver out of Texas A&M, and Ladarius Hamilton, defensive end out of University of North Texas, will be names I am sure some we’ll pinpoint.
My pet cat this year, at least to this point, is linebacker Francis Bernard, out of Utah. Bernard was a running back coming out of high school when he went to BYU. He switched positions and his knowledge of the running game has helped him. He went through a tough time at BYU and had to transfer to Utah, but did not have any issues once he got there.
I had seen some people give Bernard as early as a fourth round grade, and the lowest I saw was late sixth. For him to go undrafted was a bit of a surprise to me. I looked deeper and COVID-19 hurt his draft stock more than some would think. He pulled a muscle at the combine and had a fairly slow 40 time. Before he could prove it was the muscle, his pro-day was cancelled. This is perhaps why he dropped.
Watching Bernard play he does some things really well. He is solid in coverage and can line up against tight ends and running backs and not look lost. He has the speed on tape that shows his 40 time was a fluke and he has the necessary speed to play linebacker. The other thing he does well is recognize holes in the running game and hit them quickly. His ability to understand running plays helps him be strong against it.
He doesn’t have the best length, but seems to be in the right place at the right time. This means his football IQ is pretty high and he understands what the offense is throwing at him. With some work on his skills for refinement, he is at the very least a very solid depth piece, at best, he is a potential starting inside linebacker.
This year, my pet cat is Bernard. I have other players I will be watching and rooting for, but something about watching Bernard play intrigues me to see who he becomes. His versatility should help him and if he can play special teams could find a role on the team early in the season. Don’t count Bernard out, he has some ability that could turn some heads.