Jun 17, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys rookie defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence (90) during minicamp at Cowboys headquarters at Valley Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Rookie Impact Projections: Dallas Cowboys

With training camps officially underway in the National Football League, I continue my look at the potential impacts of rookies for their respective teams in 2014. The team up is the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys slid to another 8-8 finish last season behind an injured cast and crew. After watching some long time Cowboys leave town, this team needed to restock and reload its depleted roster in the 2014 NFL draft. Each pick of the Cowboys will be graded on a scale of one to ten. One is a little to no impact player this season while a ten is an immediate high impact player. The Dallas Cowboys made 9 selections in the 2014 NFL draft.

Zack Martin (Offensive Lineman) – 1st round (Pick 16)

The Cowboys finally made a smart and safe move here with the selection of Martin. Martin played in 52 games at Notre Dame and has plenty of experience. He was a tackle in college but his short arms and frame have him more aligned to play left guard in the pros. He is mechanically sound and has all the intangibles to be a standout lineman. He could stand to bulk up to face the more physically imposing lineman, but Martin still will be a successful blocker for the Cowboys, something they sorely need. Martin will be a day one starter.

Impact Projection: 8 out of 10

Demarcus Lawrence (Defensive End/Linebacker) – 2nd round (Pick 34)

After losing Demarcus Ware in the off-season, the Cowboys needed to find their new premier pass rusher. Lawrence is an explosive athlete and has exceptional tackling skills. His motor never stops which can lead to over pursuit of the play. Demarcus is a natural pass rushing talent who has a very high ceiling. The lack of depth on this team should lead him to start right away. He will progress quickly and should become a solid contributor. He has to keep himself out of trouble, and if he does so he could be the next beloved defensive star of the Cowboys.

Impact Projection: 7 out of 10

Anthony Hitchens (Linebacker) – 4th round (Pick 119)

Hitchens was drafted a little earlier than expected but could see a few more snaps with Sean Lee out for the season due to injury. Anthony tackles well, and is an aggressive player on the field. Anthony’s coverage skills need to be improved to see any real playing time on the defense. Hitchens should be able to stick on the roster and get time on special teams and battle for a back up linebacker position.

Impact Projection: 4 out of 10

 Devin Street (Wide Receiver) – 5th round (Pick 146)

Street could wind up being a stud in Dallas. He has great size (6’3”) and has plenty of room to grow into that body and get a little bigger. He has natural receiving skills and dependable hands that should be welcomed on this squad. Street does need to learn to be more physical with defensive backs as well as a blocking option on running plays.  With the scarce talent available at receiver for Dallas expect Street to get his fair crack at playing time.

Impact Projection: 4 out of 10

Ben Gardner (Defensive End) – 7th round (Pick 231)

Gardner is a high motor player with limited athleticism. His combine numbers don’t reflect his playing speed and athleticism on the field. His length could become an issue, as his short arms and frame often get him overturned as a pass rusher. He will compete for a roster spot as a backup.

Impact Projection: 2 out of 10

Will Smith (Linebacker) – 7th round (Pick 238)

Under the old defensive regime Smith would have been a natural fit. In Dallas’ new scheme he will have to work a little harder. Smith is a fast paced linebacker made for roaming in coverage playing sideline to sideline. He is a bit raw as well as undersized and will need to bulk up. Smith will compete for roster spot and should carve a nice niche on special teams.

Impact Projection: 3 out of 10

Ahmad Dixon (Safety) – 7th round (Pick 248)

Dixon is intriguing. He is a natural defender physically but not mentally. Dixon doesn’t possess breakneck speed but as a defender he is a solid hitter and does a good job of tracking down the ball carrier in the run game. However his coverage skills are almost non-existent. He is typically one to two steps behind the play in the passing game, often getting him in trouble. If Dixon can sharpen his skills in the passing game he could mold himself into a starter. For now he is likely to latch on to a special teams role and let his tackling do the talking.

Impact Projection: 3 out of 10

Ken Bishop (Defensive Tackle) – 7th round (Pick 251)

Bishop is an ideal lane clogging tackle. His big frame is perfect for commanding the center-guard double team to open space for backers to make plays. His pass rushing skills are incredibly limited. Likely to fill in as a rotational run stuff option if he makes the final roster.

Impact Projection: 2 out of 10

Terrance Mitchell (Cornerback) – 7th round (Pick 254)

Mitchell is an average defensive back for the NFL. He possess decent enough size at the position but he struggles to physically keep up. He often gets beaten over top by quicker receivers and is pushed off the line against more physical ones. However he does possess solid ball skills and plays well out in the open. With the lack of depth in Dallas he should stick on the roster, likely competing for snaps at the number four corner position.

Impact Projection: 2 out of 10

The Cowboys have been a team stuck in a rut for a number of seasons now. This off-season they watched guys like Ware, and Miles Austin, Jason Hatcher and more leave the team for more lucrative opportunities. Dallas was able to grab arguably the safest prospect in the draft with Martin, as well as a potential high impact player in Lawrence who is going to be pegged as Ware’s replacement. After that, this Dallas Cowboys 2014 rookie class was more about future potential then present impact. If they can sharpen up some of these diamonds on the rough the Cowboys could be looking at a solid class in the future.

Look for the Denver Broncos rookie projections soon! Joe Kleine is also co-host of thefinsradio.com show The Direct Snap, alongside fellow PhinPhanatic and Rant Sports writer Tyler McMullen (also on facebook search Tyler McMullen – Rant Sports). Please check out our facebook at www.facebook.com/theofficialdirectsnap or check us out on Twitter at the handle, @Direct_Snap. Our free to listen show about the NFL is on blogtalkradio.com/finsradio is coming back July 26th, live 8:30 PM Eastern time, be sure to give us a shout!

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Tags: Demarcus Lawrence Devin Street Zack Martin

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