DALLAS - This year's Cowboys team has a great deal of potential. This franchise has drafted very well in recent years, giving it a young core that is the envy of most teams in the NFL. But of all the Cowboys, who's the most important to them? Who could they least afford to lose? We took a stab at this question with our own roster rankings, combined the results... and voila. Today we enter the top ten as we reach the cream of the Cowboys crop.
Previously: Our Top #15-11 Dallas Cowboys players
#10: Maliek Collins
With a dilapidated and depleted defensive line, the Cowboys took Collins in the third round of this year's draft in hopes of bolstering their front four. At 6'2, 305 pounds, Collins certainly has the size to contribute in the trenches. The Nebraska product recorded eight sacks in his three-year collegiate career, and was second-team All Big 10 in 2014.
Despite his size and resume, Collins was drafted as a project for defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. At times his production doesn't match his athleticism or ability, but the ceiling is high for the former Cornhusker. He will undoubtedly be a defensive tackle for Dallas, and there isn't much flexibility there.
Collins needs to be a run-stuffer that plugs gaps and occasionally applies pressure on the quarterback. Then again, with as many suspensions and injuries the Cowboys have suffered on their defensive line, perhaps all Collins needs to be is an able body.
#9: Byron Jones
Watching the growth of Byron Jones the last few seasons has really been something special. Now two years after he was drafted 27th overall, Jones has been asked to be the cornerstone of a rebuilt secondary. A perennial play-ruiner, Jones combines tremendous size for a safety at 6'0, 200 pounds with the quickness and agility needed to roam the middle of the field. He can play both man and zone coverages, and can line up against bigger receivers in the slot or tight ends in the red zone.
Jones' versatility makes him an incredibly valuable asset, especially when you consider the bevy of injuries in Dallas' secondary right now. Both Chidobie Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis, the Cowboys' second and third-round picks, have been sidelined during camp along with reserve safety Xavier Woods.
With such a young, inexperienced secondary, Jones will no doubt see an increased role this year and be asked to captain the back end of the defense.
#8: Jason Witten
Even at age 35 Jason Witten is still going strong. The future Hall of Famer checks in at No. 8 on our list of most important Cowboys. But do I really need to explain why Witten is so high on the list? Along with being a 10-time Pro Bowler, Witten is the de facto leader of this team.
He may not be as nimble as he once was, but Witten is one of the best pass catching and run blocking tight ends the league has ever seen, and is a major reason Dallas' run game is so successful. While other teams have to sub tight ends in and out depending on play selection, Witten is able to run routes, pick up blitzes and open holes for Ezekiel Elliott and company. Even though Tony Romo isn't throwing to him anymore, it's still just as fun watching Dak Prescott do it.
#7: Travis Frederick
The top-rated center in Madden 18, Frederick has proven to be one of the best players selected in what was a relatively barren 2013 draft. Frederick was the second offensive lineman selected as part of Dallas' quest to claim the best O-line in football, and four years later, Frederick has evolved into the best center in the NFL.
Pre-snap, Frederick is able to detect blitz packages and audible to counter them. He's quick off the ball and has no trouble engaging blocks or helping the guards beside him. Frederick is also agile enough to pull on sweeps and off-tackle runs, something few centers are able to successfully do.
With a young quarterback in the huddle, having a reliable center makes the game that much easier for Prescott when he doesn't have to worry about a snap flying over his head.
#6: Dez Bryant
In case you're wondering, yes, Dez Bryant is still an elite receiver, and he comes in at No. 6 on our list. A physically imposing wideout, Bryant is a nightmare matchup for opposing defensive backs. His crisp, clean routes often lead to wide open receptions with room to run, which is perhaps what Bryant is best at.
Because if you thought covering Bryant on the outside was hard, he's even tougher to tackle in the open field. His knack for making defenders miss and finding the sticks is up there with the best receivers in the league. And while all these attributes make Bryant a top-tier commodity, Dez is one of Dallas' most important players because of the role he has in the offense.
Even when he isn't catching passes and scoring touchdowns, Bryant is vital to the flow of the offense. In order to effectively cover him, defenses are forced to often double cover him, which opens the field for others like Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley and Witten to make plays.
Pick your poison.
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