Determining Roles & Potential Roster Spots For The Late-Round Draft Picks

IRVING, Texas – It becomes a bit harder to project draft picks once you move beyond the top 100 picks.

As is the case every year, players picked in the latter half of the NFL draft are no guarantee to make the final roster. The Cowboys drafted a developmental quarterback to work behind Tony Romo in the fourth round. But behind Dak Prescott, the other four late-round picks were taken at No. 189, No. 212, No. 216 and No. 217, respectively.

These picks will have their work cut out for them, but the Cowboys drafted them based on intriguing traits and talents. Let's take a closer look at how the final five of nine total draft picks might fit into the roster:

Dak Prescott - 4th Round, QB, Mississippi State

Only time will tell if Prescott is Tony Romo's heir as the Cowboys' starting quarterback, but at the very least the organization spent some resources to address the position. It was a bit of a surprise when the Cowboys decided against signing a quarterback in free agency last month, and the common logic was that they'd assuredly draft one. After failed bids to trade for both Paxton Lynch and Connor Cook, they finally found their man in Prescott at pick No. 135 – a pretty solid value for a three-year starter and Heisman Trophy contender. Cowboys officials made it perfectly clear that they're impressed with Prescott's talent, but his intangibles as a leader and locker room presence contributed to the choice, as well. The All-American played in a shotgun-style spread offense at Mississippi State, and he didn't take a live snap under center until he participated in the Senior Bowl this past January. It's going to take time and effort to adjust the youngster to the pro game, and it won't be a surprise if Kellen Moore wins the backup quarterback job in 2016. But in Prescott, the Cowboys sound confident they've got an exciting talent worth developing in the coming years.

Anthony Brown - 6th Round, CB, Purdue

Cowboys officials said on Saturday night that they had a fourth-round grade on Brown, and that's understandable given his measurables. At 5-11, 192 pounds, he's got the size the Cowboys covet in their corners, and he also posted a fantastic 4.35-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in February. Of course, the sixth-round is a bit late for the Cowboys to address their need at cornerback if they want to find replacements for their starters. It's certainly not impossible, but it's hard to imagine a sixth-round pick beating out the likes of Brandon Carr or Morris Claiborne for a job. Brown excelled at special teams in college, and he's been noted for his abilities at blocking field goals. Like all late-round picks, he'll have to prove his worth in that regard to earn a roster spot. On the defensive side of the ball, he'll compete with the likes of Terrance Mitchell, Deji Olatoye, Josh Thomas and Brandon McGee to find a place on the cornerback depth chart.

Kavon Frazier - 6th Round, S, Central Michigan

Again, when you consider that both Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox are soon-to-be free agents, the sixth round feels a little late to address the safety position. Of course, Church earned a starting role and a defensive captaincy as an undrafted free agent, so it would be a mistake to rule anything out. Frazier comes to Dallas drawing a lot of comparisons to Church, as a matter of fact. He's far from being the most athletic member of this draft class, but he's a willing and talented tackler with 108 total stops during the 2015 season. He's also got the frame and the bulk to play strong safety, at 6-0, 217 pounds. Most importantly is his ability as a special teams player. Frazier notched 14 combined special teams tackles in his final two seasons at Central Michigan, and he's going to make this team by proving his reliability in that area. From there, though, there's a lot to like about his ability as a tough, tackling box safety who can provide a physical presence.

Darius Jackson - 6th Round, RB, Eastern Michigan

Even after the controversial decision to draft injured linebacker Jaylon Smith, the Cowboys' selection of Jackson might have prompted the most confusion over the weekend. After all, Dallas just spent the No. 4 overall pick on Ezekiel Elliott, and they employ three other talented runners in Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris and Lance Dunbar. Why spend a draft pick on a player with a seemingly small chance of making the team? The answer is traits. Jackson weighs in at 6-0, 221 pounds, and he clocked an absurd 4.35 in the 40-yard dash at Eastern Michigan's Pro Day. He also posted a vertical leap of 41 inches and a broad jump of 11-feet, 1-inch – impressive numbers by any standard. Perhaps the biggest thing working in Jackson's favor is that Dunbar is currently recovering from knee surgery and may start the 2016 season on the Physically Unable to Perform List. Jackson ran for 1,110 yards last year and added another 201 receiving yards, so he has the ability to carve out a role. If he can't do that, then he at the very least gives the Cowboys a talented option to consider for their practice squad.

Rico Gathers - 6th Round, TE, Baylor

One of the more intriguing picks of the entire draft. Gathers certainly passes the eye test, checking in at 6-6, 273 pounds. The problem is that he hasn't played organized football since he was 13 years old, and there is literally no tape of him to study. The New Orleans, La., native was an All-American power forward for Baylor's basketball team, and he averaged 11 points and nine rebounds per game during his final season. Despite his lack of experience, 26 NFL teams attended Gathers' football workout at Baylor, and the Cowboys drafted him to avoid a bidding war for his services in undrafted free agency. It's going to be a steep learning curve to handle the route-running and blocking assignments expected of an NFL tight end, but Gathers definitely has the size and athleticism to do both. On Monday, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said the Cowboys might also consider Gathers at defensive end if tight end doesn't feel like a fit. It's hard to expect significant contributions from someone who has never played the sport, but Gathers would not be the first basketball-to-football success story in the NFL. Gavin Escobar doesn't figure to return from his Achilles injury by the start of training camp, so Gathers should have an opportunity to crack the roster at tight end. If he can't, he'd make an intriguing option for the Cowboys to stash on their practice squad.


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