The undrafted rookies in each year’s Draft are always underrated. These players typically end up on the practice squad of the team that chooses them, or hanging around mid-league squads for several years. Only a very few manage to go further, earning a spot on special teams. Or even become headlines.
In the case of the Cowboys, there are players who came as undrafted rookies who ended up having a great career on the cowboy team: Drew Pearson, Everson Walls, Tony Romo … and this to name just a few. One of the most recent cases is tight end Blake Jarwin, who despite the injury he suffered in 2020, aims to start at his position in the coming season.
Now, what will happen in 2021? This year, the Cowboy team brought in an intriguing brood of rookie free agents, many of them offensive. While most will be additional corps for training camp, there are some of them that can become “projects in progress” for the coaching staff. And who knows: we might even see them on the active roster when the season begins.
Here are three undrafted rookies from the 2021 Draft that we can’t lose sight of.
Nick Ralston (fullback)
Having a fullback on the roster is less and less common in the NFL. However, the Cowboys are one of the teams that like to have this type of player, hybrid between running back and tight end. Someone who was going to fill that role was Jamize Olawale, who decided not to play in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was released during the offseason. Now, Dallas seems to have found a replacement: Nick Ralston.
This rookie began his college career at Arizona State, where he played as a running back and even as a linebacker. However, Ralston stood out by playing his senior year of college in Louisiana, where he played tight end. In ten meetings with the Ragin ‘Cajuns, Ralston had 15 receptions for 100 yards and four touchdowns.
One of the first things I saw when watching Nick Ralston is how much he loves to block. Unafraid to take on the bigger players, Ralston as a lead blocker is violent! #GoCowboys pic.twitter.com/eQEIMcRjbI
— Law Thomas (@LawsNation) May 3, 2021
In himself, Nick Ralston has a good set of skills that would make him a strong candidate to be Dalas’ new fullback. According to Dallas Morning News analyst John Owning, Ralston has good abilities to block opponents and to receive passes to the back of the field. Without a doubt, he is a versatile player, one of those who do not hurt any coach.
Now, Ralston will have Sewo Olonilua as a competitor for the position. Coming to Dallas in 2020 as an undrafted rookie, Olonilua made special teams late in the season. However, he did not play any offensive snaps. Although he offers a good set of skills, Olonilua has no prior experience playing fullback. That is something Ralston has done, and therefore the former Arizona State leaves as a favorite.
Watching Nick Ralston destroy defenders is my favorite quarantine content pic.twitter.com/LZLQcWoARr
— Sam (#FireBud) (@SPSnieder) April 18, 2020
Tyler Coyle (profundo)
Another undrafted rookie who could make his way to Dallas special teams is Tyler Coyle. This young safety was a great performer in his first three years of college football playing for Connecticut. His records speak for themselves: 261 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for turnovers, three interceptions, 15 passes defended, two forced fumbles, two fumbles recovered and a touchdown. All in 34 encounters.
However, the young prospect was transferred in 2020 to Purdue, where he went on to play linebacker or linebacker. These factors caused Coyle to have poor defensive production, recording just 13 total tackles and one pass defended that year.
???????? TYLER COYLE WITH THE INTERCEPTION ???????? pic.twitter.com/jTSPWN6r1O
— UConn Football (@UConnFootball) April 14, 2018
Now, in Dallas, Coyle may be able to give his competitors some battle. The rookie has the size, athleticism and speed that a safety player likes. In fact, Coyle could add roster depth to this position, where Dallas has few elements. Additionally, his background as a linebacker would be useful to defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who likes to have versatile players on the roster.
Tyler Coyle will most likely make it to special teams, where John Fassel can take advantage of his defensive skills. However, the rookie could be in the running for a spot in the rotation. It will only remain to be seen if Coyle manages to impress in training camp, just as he did in rookie mini-camp.
Tyler Coyle INT to the HOUSE to get @UConnFootball on the board
Lead 7-0 pic.twitter.com/EbeWCPqson
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) September 7, 2019
Brandon Smith (receptor abierto)
Lastly, we have catcher Brandon Smith. The Iowa product will not have an easy time making the roster, considering it is an overcrowded position. Also, Smith wasn’t the only undrafted receiver to make the Cowboy team this offseason.
However, Smith could be a prospect the Cowboys would be interested in developing. In fact, the team gave the rookie a high-priority contract, including a signing bonus.
Possibly what draws the Cowboys to Brandon Smith is his physique. It is a receiver with long arms (86.99 cm), 1.85 meters in height and 98.8 kg in weight, impressive characteristics for someone in his position. In addition, he has excellent hands, a high level of concentration and good body control.
*ATHLETIC FREAK* Brandon Smith | “Flex” | Iowa Junior Highlights
Watch full video here ➡️ https://t.co/q9Lf0ym6BM pic.twitter.com/6K1Ig7e2gL
– Osty (@Osty_YT) July 7, 2020
Smith’s offensive production, however, was somewhat limited in his four years with Iowa. In 29 games, the catcher recorded 91 receptions for 1,041 yards and nine touchdowns. All this in 29 encounters. However, his ability to fight and take big leaps to get hold of the ball seems to compensate for this production.
Brandon Smith will undoubtedly have to work hard in training camp to make the active roster. In the last practice of the mini-camp he already made a good impression, this when he scored a touchdown after a pass from Ben DiNucci. It only remains to be seen if that stays just a flash, or if the Cowboys were right to look at Smith.
Congrats, and good luck, to the former @HawkeyeFootball WR.
— Iowa On BTN (@IowaOnBTN) May 2, 2021
As we already mentioned, rookies not drafted usually end up in the practice squads. However, it is never ruled out that a talent to develop may emerge in a litter. In the case of the Cowboys, these three rookies we review here will deserve special attention during training camp. Time will tell if any of them can stand out and exceed expectations.