Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys have 5 undrafted rookies bidding to replace Harris

Antwan Goodley has a longer learning curve because of Baylor’s no-huddle offense.
Antwan Goodley has a longer learning curve because of Baylor’s no-huddle offense. Star-Telegram

Cole Beasley unknowingly timed it just right.

Dallas Cowboys receivers coach Derek Dooley was using Beasley as an example when the fourth-year wideout walked by.

That’s what it takes to go from an undrafted rookie free agent to a core player — right place, right time.

The Cowboys lost Dwayne Harris, their primary returner and fourth wideout. After not drafting a possible replacement, Dallas signed five undrafted free agent receivers to compete for the opening.

“I would say more than one of them has an opportunity to make our roster,” Dooley said. “Everybody we bring in, we coach them as if they’re first-round picks. It’s a long process with this minicamp, OTAs, another minicamp and then training camp. So they have a lot of time to develop and prove what they can do.”

The Cowboys’ rookie minicamp runs Friday through Sunday.

Baylor’s Antwan Goodley and USC’s George Farmer rank as the most notable of the five but for different reasons.

Goodley was productive at Baylor, with 30 starts, 150 receptions, 2,366 yards and 21 touchdowns. But with no route tree and no playbook in college, Goodley has a learning curve.

He also has help with another former Baylor receiver, Terrance Williams, having made a successful transition with 81 catches for 1,357 yards and eight touchdowns in two seasons with the Cowboys.

“We were no-huddle the whole time,” Goodley said. “So coming in here, learning all this, it’s different, but I feel like with time and preparation I can pick up on it.”

Farmer has failed to live up to expectations since being rated the No. 1 prep player in California.

He had only four career starts, making 30 catches for 363 yards and four touchdowns.

“It’s been really rough [since high school],” Farmer said. “I went through a lot of obstacles and adversity. It’s also taught me to be a better person. It made me who I am today. I wouldn’t have changed anything the past has given to me.

“It’s been a pretty rough road, but you’ve got to go through those things and experience those things to get to where you want to be. It’s not going to be a straight line to success. I just look at it as a part of my life that I had to go through to get to where I am now.”

Injuries slowed his production in college. Farmer missed the entire 2013 season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in his left knee.

“Injuries did hold me back,” Farmer said. “The injury thing is held over my head. I wasn’t injured the whole time I was there, but for the majority of the time I was. … Every time I would get some momentum, it would kick me backward two steps. It’s inevitable in this sport. Injuries, you can’t get away from them.”

The Cowboys liked Farmer enough to use one of their 30 national visits on him. Ohio State’s Devin Smith and Oklahoma’s Dorial Green-Beckham were the only two receivers to visit the Cowboys on national visits.

Dallas also liked Farmer enough to give him a $15,000 signing bonus and guarantee him another $40,000 as an undrafted free agent. Even if the Cowboys cut him, Farmer walks away with $55,000.

“He went to USC as one of the best receivers in the country,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “A lot of things happened. He got hurt a couple of times. Some other guys moved ahead of him. But he certainly has the physical traits.”

Farmer has some experience as a punt and kickoff returner, and Goodley returned 45 kickoffs for 1,037 yards in his first two seasons in Waco. But another college free agent excelled at both, which might give him a leg up on the competition to start.

Lucky Whitehead made 20 punt returns for 312 yards and a touchdown in two seasons at Florida Atlantic. He returned 23 kicks for 551 yards (24.0).

“They just got rid of Dwayne Harris,” said Whitehead, who ran a 4.41 in the 40-yard dash. “I believe I have a chance to give myself an opportunity to make that one of my jobs, my role, part of this team.”

University of Houston’s Deontay Greenberry and Kansas’ Nick Harwell also joined the competition for Harris’ vacated spot. Greenberry, though, injured himself on a diving catch in Friday afternoon’s practice. (Whitehead also left early.)

The Cowboys’ history indicates that the 15 undrafted free agents they signed, especially the receivers, have a shot at making the 53-player roster. Miles Austin, Tony Romo, Barry Church, Ron Leary and Beasley all made the team’s roster as undrafted rookie free agents in recent years. In fact, the Cowboys ended last season with 21 undrafted rookie free agents on their roster.

“It doesn’t matter where you came from,” Garrett said. “We are going to evaluate with our eyes wide open, independent of where they were drafted. That is irrelevant to us. Look back at our team. We have guys who were unsigned guys, tryout guys, college free agents who have made our team.

“We feel good about the guys we drafted. We feel good about what happened after the draft. Now, we are evaluating to the best of our ability and building the best team that we can.”

Charean Williams, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @NFLCharean

Catching on

Since 2000, at least four undrafted rookie WR have earned a spot with significant roles with the Cowboys:

Cole Beasley, 2012

Primary slot receiver today. Had 37 catches and four touchdowns in 2014.

Miles Austin, 2006

Played eight seasons in Dallas. He was in Cleveland in 2014 and recently joined Philadelphia.

Kevin Ogletree, 2009

Played four seasons with Cowboys. Had 32 catches and four TDs in 2012.

Sam Hurd, 2006

Played four seasons with Cowboys and one with Chicago. Serving prison sentence on drug charges.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram

  Comments