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Dallas Cowboys Deserve Credit for Developing Unheralded Players

Posted by RichieZ23 on February 28, 2010


I’m willing to bet that when you take a glance across various NFL depth-charts, you aren’t going to see too many key players scattered across the roster that were undrafted, or a late round draft pick.

The Dallas Cowboys organization deserves a ton of credit for identifying players that others passed on and developing them into stars in the NFL.

Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Jay Ratliff, and Mat McBriar are all Pro-Bowlers, and Romo, Austin, and McBriar were all signed as undrafted free agents, while Ratliff was drafted in the final round by Dallas in 2005.

Key contributors Patrick Crayton, Orlando Scandrick, and Marion Barber were drafted in the seventh, fifth, and fourth rounds respectively as well.

Tony Romo is one of three undrafted Cowboys to be elected to a Pro Bowl.


Wide receiver Kevin Ogletree went undrafted in 2009 before signing with Dallas, and by the end of the 2009 season, had replaced former first-round pick Roy Williams in certain two-wide receiver sets.  The Cowboys are very high on the development of Ogletree, as current tight ends coach John Garrett coached Ogletree at the University of Virginia.  He believes that a knee injury that robbed Ogletree of his junior season, combined with poor quarterback play after the team dismissed starting quarterback Peter Lalich for disciplinary reasons Ogletree’s senior season dropped his draft stock in 2009.  The organization fully believe that Ogletree can develop into a key contributor like his counterpart Austin.

Ogletree will likely see an increased role in 2010, both as a receiver and returner.

The University of Iowa employs a similar strategy, as they take in several unheralded prospects as well, and a few years later several of them are featured in the NFL.  See:  Greenway, Chad.  Greene, Shonn.  And Clark, Dallas.

It’s great to see my two favorite football teams identify players that others passed on, and see something in them to develop into star players down the road.  There’s nothing better than home-grown players in sports.

For an organization that often gets criticized for “buying” a team, nothing can be further from reality.  The Dallas Cowboys do a masterful job of scouting players and coaching them into superstars that end up cashing in fat checks.

The next time you hear of your favorite team signing an undrafted free agent, or drafting  a player in the final round, don’t shrug it off.  Certain players fall for different reasons, and playmakers can still be had outside of the first few rounds of the NFL Draft.  With the proper scouting and coaching, these players can turn out just as good as some of the first-round picks.

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5 Responses to “Dallas Cowboys Deserve Credit for Developing Unheralded Players”

  1. David said

    Good read and I agree with you. Dallas needs to be recognized more for developing pro bowlers out of udfa’s.

  2. Nan said

    Very true,

    For all the fan / writer ‘s comments that Jerry wants to build the team by FA mostly , here are some cler examples of identifying talent and being patient with them.

  3. Josh Q said

    As much as I hate the Cowboys, I do agree with you. Jimmie Johnson did an excellent job of talent evaluation and drafting when he coached them back in the 90′s as well.

    I think the main reason they developed that reputation is because of Deion. His free agency sticks out in the minds of people as showing that the Cowboys will spend whatever they need to to get players. I think more the issue (at least in a non-salary cap sense), is that the Cowboys had enough money to prevent players from leaving to go to another team. A small market Falcons or Bengals couldn’t do the same. This is not to say that the Cowboys were the only problem team though. The 49ers could easily be considered in this realm. As could the Redskins and Giants from a couple of years earlier. That’s why I’m concerned about losing a salary cap. A team like the Raiders will no longer be as heavily penalized for making stupid decisions.

    • RichieZ23 said

      While I do agree with you, I’m not talking about past Dallas teams. I’m talking about right now.

      I dont have the stats, but I’d be willing to bet that in recent NFL history there has never been two undrafted Pro Bowlers throwing and catching TD passes with one another.

      Not to mention the emergence of Jay Ratliff as an elite NT as a 7th rounder, and then arguably the best punter in the game in Mat McBriar.

      When you’re an undrafted FA, money is the last thing on your mind. A chance to be given an opportunity to play is the only reason you sign with a team, and Sean Payton, Bill Parcells, and John Garrett/Wade Phillips deserve credit for seeing something worthy in them and giving them all a chance to shine.

      Remember the Miles Austin scouting reports in 08? Now it’s Ogletree. Dude will be a playmaker this upcoming season or next.

      And as far as the salary cap, it shall return, dont worry. The NFL is absolutely dominating the US market, no way they’re that stubborn to get a new CBA done.

  4. Great article! I’ve fallen behind regarding Tony Romo lately. I hope he has a good season!

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