NFC East: Sylvester Williams

IRVING, Texas -- If the Dallas Cowboys are to break out of their 8-8 doldrums, they will need younger players to grow up in 2014.

Pete Prisco of CBS Sports has two candidates for breakout seasons -- Travis Frederick and Terrance Williams -- in his annual list.

Frederick
Williams
Williams
The Cowboys were one of four teams with more than one player. The San Diego Chargers had three: D.J. Fluker, Melvin Ingram, Keenan Allen. The New Orleans Saints (Kenny Vaccaro, Akiem Hicks) and Denver Broncos (Montee Ball, Sylvester Williams) also had two.

Here’s what Prisco said about Frederick and Williams:
Travis Frederick, C, Dallas Cowboys -- When the Cowboys picked him in the first round of the 2013 draft, there were snickers. But it was the right move. He showed last season as a 16-game starter that he has a chance to be a really good center. He is smart and athletic, two musts for the position these days.

Terrance Williams, WR, Dallas Cowboys -- With Miles Austin now gone, this second-year player takes over as the starter opposite Dez Bryant. That should mean a lot of single coverage and a chance for big plays. Look for his numbers to go up dramatically from his 44 catches a year ago.

Defining how Frederick breaks out is tougher than Williams just because of the nature of his position. The Cowboys were stronger up the middle in 2013 than they had been in recent years because of Frederick. He did not miss a game as a rookie and carried himself as a veteran from the first day he arrived.

(As an aside, there is a similar feeling when it comes to this year’s first-round pick, Zack Martin.)

For Williams, it can be a little easier to define because his statistics will be there for everybody to see. He caught 44 passes for 736 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie.

With Austin gone, Williams will be the starter opposite Bryant in 2014. The Cowboys have no reservations about Williams. They believe he will slide into that role without any issues. In coach parlance, they don’t believe the game is too big for him.

He will get opportunities. Bryant will be the focal point of opposing defenses.

With Bryant catching 93 passes for 1,233 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2013, Austin caught 66 passes for 943 yards and six touchdowns as the No. 2 receiver in 16 games in 2012. The Cowboys would live with those numbers from Williams.

Cowboys' quarterbacks had 375 completions last year.

Pencil in Bryant for another 90-plus catch season. Jason Witten will catch 75-80 passes. The running backs will combine for 80. Cole Beasley should figure in that 35-45 catch range. Dwayne Harris and Gavin Escobar will have more than the 18 they combined for last year. Devin Street will be in that 20-30 range if things go well as well.

There will be opportunities for Williams to show 2014 will be a breakout season.

First-round preview: Dallas Cowboys

April, 25, 2013
4/25/13
12:36
PM ET
Where they're picking: No. 18

Conventional wisdom tells us the top six offensive linemen will be gone by 18, depriving the Cowboys of the chance to address their most significant short-term and long-term need. The mock drafts in which this happens have the Cowboys taking a defensive tackle such as Sheldon Richardson or Sylvester Williams at No. 18, and some are still connecting the Cowboys with Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro, since safety is a need as well. Everybody seems to agree that the Cowboys' dream scenario is that they get one of the draft's top two guards, either Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper, but no one seems to think either will fall to 18.

History tells us that the conventional wisdom is wrong. The last time six offensive linemen went in the top 17 picks was 1966, when the league only had 15 teams in it. Guards don't tend to go early, since most teams don't assign top-half-of-first-round value to that position. History tells us the Cowboys will be able to get offensive line help if they want it in the first round. But history also tells us that the Cowboys tend to pick out a guy they really like in the first round (Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith and Morris Claiborne are the recent examples) and do what they can to get him.

They probably won't end up with Vaccaro. First of all, it's possible he goes earlier than 18 (say, to St. Louis at 16). Second of all, their needs on the lines and the comparative value at those positions likely will push them to take a linemen of one sort or the other in a draft whose second round is packed with starting-caliber safeties. Sure, it's possible Vaccaro is this year's Jerry Jones crush and there's nothing anyone else in the braintrust can do to talk him out of it. But I'd be surprised if they end up with the Texas safety.

They could shock us by taking a tight end. The Blogfather, Matt Mosley, says he's been hearing the Cowboys love Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert, and if that's the case they could be making plans to move up to get him. While that would seem silly with Jason Witten still in place and at the top of his game, it's not completely crazy to find another weapon for Tony Romo in the passing game. If Eifert is the Cowboys' best player available, they could go for it. It would be foolish, and would leave them too short in too many other areas, but I'm not sure that would stop them.

My prediction: I'm leaning on history here and saying the mocks are all wrong and the Cowboys are going to be able to get one of those guards. Since we're making a pick, I'll say it's Chance Warmack who falls either all the way to 18 or at least into the 14-15 range that would allow them to make a sensible, cost-effective trade-up to get him. Not like last year's trade for Claiborne, which cost them their second-round pick, but maybe for a later-round pick or even a 2014 one.

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