Editor's Note: This week's series: Point/Counterpoint takes a closer look at the rookie class. Today's question is "Which Rookie Will Make the Biggest Impact in 2015?" Staff writer David Helman took the point of LSU Rookie La'el Collins, while Nick Eatman opted for Randy Gregory.)
First of all, Cowboys fans have to be pretty excited about this draft – for no other reason than the fact that we have a point/counterpoint article on two rookies making the biggest impact and neither one featured the first-round pick.
Who knows, maybe Byron Jones will have the biggest first-year impact, but instead, we went with the second-round pick and an undrafted free agent. Obviously both of these players had first-round grades and could've gone higher than Jones.
Also, for me, Jones plays a position that has a lot of question marks right now, which could force him to play another spot.
I like Collins as well, but again, I don't exactly know where he will play. Plus, rookie linemen can be good – we've seen three on this team already – but sometimes it's not easy to see the impact, especially on a line that is already considered dominant.
And that's why my answer to the question about the most impactful rookie is Randy Gregory. Will he start? Probably not. Will he lead the team in sacks? Doubtful.
And if everyone on this team is healthy, Gregory is probably the fourth-best defensive end this year. That doesn't mean he's the fourth-best pass rusher, however.
That's how I see Gregory really making an impact. Sometimes guys in this league can mess around and get 9-10 sacks without even leading the team. I don't even know if I'd say Gregory gets that many, but you can't really argue with his production.
When doing our draft coverage and research on guys before the draft, the stat that stood out the most to me about Gregory was his sack totals. In two years, Gregory had 17.5 sacks, good for ninth in Nebraska football history. But he's the only player in the top 10 to play less than three seasons.
So he really doesn't waste a lot of time. Just watching Gregory's highlights, you see the explosiveness off the edge and his ability to chase the play and find the ball. That aggressiveness will probably hurt him at times. Wild rushers off the edge can get gashed and allow draws and counters to run right by them. Quarterbacks will probably step up in the pocket better than Gregory has seen before, and he'll do his share of whiffing.
But Gregory will get there, too. His role will probably be as a third-down nickel rusher for now. And I think that will make him even more dangerous. You get a fresh, rambunctious, hungry rookie eager to get to the quarterback on third-and-long, and I think good things will happen for the Cowboys.
He'll make some mistakes. He'll make some plays as well.
Collins might start every game at either tackle or guard. Jones could start at cornerback or at least play in the nickel. And I really don't foresee Gregory starting.
But he'll make more of an impact because he will get to the quarterback, especially in these first games without Greg Hardy.
This defense needs a jolt. Last year, Rolando McClain provided some early, and Jeremy Mincey and DeMarcus Lawrence provided some late. Who knows, maybe Sean Lee's return will help in that area as well.
But off the edge, Gregory is going to make a difference. He's the type of player that will make himself get noticed. And I think he does it with more impact than any other rookie this year.