(Editor's Note: The staff of DallasCowboys.com is currently previewing the depth chart at each position on the Cowboys' roster. The biggest remaining variable in determining that depth chart is the NFL draft, which begins April 30. This series will identify five potential draft picks who could affect the depth chart at each position. Today, we continue with quarterback.)
IRVING, Texas –Think Tony Romo will be moving aside relatively soon at the tender age of 34, going on 35? As long as his back cooperates, think again.
It's not just a matter of Romo's contract, which runs through 2019. Despite two back surgeries Romo worked his way through a delicate preseason and produced his most efficient season yet. He led the Cowboys to a 12-4 record with 34 touchdowns and only nine interceptions -- the lowest single-season total of his career aside from his injury-shorted 2010 season.
That said, it's never too early for the Cowboys to start looking toward the future at the game's most indispensable position -- if the right value's there. Despite other needs in the first round of the 2005 draft, the Packers grabbed a sliding Aaron Rodgers with Brett Favre still in his prime. Turned out pretty well for Titletown.
This year, no future Super Bowl MVPs will slip to the mid-20s. Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota aren't just top-five quarterback prospects; they're the only consensus first-rounders in the entire 2015 class. It's a relatively weak overall group, but the Cowboys could find a developmental player to challenge for backup job.
Here's a look at five players projected to go early, middle and late-to-undrafted:
- Brett Hundley, UCLA –The only underclassman in this class, Hundley (6-3, 225) is an outstanding talent and a dual threat. He threw for nearly 10,000 yards in three college seasons along with 75 passing touchdowns and 25 rushing scores, and he ran a 4.63-second 40 at the combine. Pocket presence and mechanics are concerns, but Hundley's likely a Day 2 pick who could develop into a starter if drafted into a scheme that fits his strengths.
- Bryce Petty, Baylor –Petty's draft projections have been all over the board, from Day 3 to possibly the late first round. More than anything, that's indicative of the league-wide need for quarterback talent. Petty threw for over 8,000 yards in his final two seasons under Art Briles, but he must convince an NFL team he can shift from the Bears' shotgun spread scheme to a more pro-style offense. He does have arguably the strongest arm in the draft, he's mobile and he's well-built for the next level (6-2, 230).
- Garrett Grayson, Colorado State –Grayson helped his draft stock with an impressive Pro Day and could sneak into the second or third round. A pro-style quarterback at Colorado State, Grayson compensates for average size (6-2) and arm strength with good pocket presence and awareness. He started two full seasons (junior and senior) for the Rams and earned the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year honors last season with a school-record 4,006 passing yards.
- Sean Mannion, Oregon State –Mannion played his senior season under former Cowboys assistant John Garrett. A 43-game starter for the Beavers, Mannion has excellent size (6-5, 230) and experience in a pro-style offense. To have a long NFL career, he'll have to develop better poise in the face of pressure. But Mannion's big arm and ideal measureables currently have him projected by most as a Day 2 or 3 pick.
- Jerry Lovelocke, Prairie View A&M –Just a year ago, West Texas A&M product Dustin Vaughan made the Cowboys' roster with a strong preseason. Vaughan will enter this year's camp as the incumbent third quarterback, and who knows, another small-school star like Lovelocke could make a similar impression somewhere as a late-round pick or priority free agent. Lovelocke is big (6-4, 248) and mobile with impressive arm strength. His biggest challenge will be refining his mechanics and adjusting to a much, much higher level of competition.