PFF: Dez Bryant not among Cowboys' top five players

IRVING, Texas -- Pro Football Focus has come out with its roster rankings for the third straight year, and the Dallas Cowboys have checked in at No. 12.

That’s a pretty good spot for a team coming off a 4-12 record in 2015.

But there are a couple of curious decisions in the rankings

PFF lists the Cowboys’ top five players as Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, Sean Lee and Tony Romo. While it may be hard to argue that one of them should come off that list, it also seems odd that Dez Bryant isn't on it.

If the list of top-rated players is based on 2015 performances, then Romo shouldn’t be on it because he played in four games. Bryant had a down year in 2015 because of a broken right foot and knee injury, but I can’t imagine that the 31 other teams wouldn’t consider him one of the Cowboys’ top five players. Heck, there would be plenty of teams that consider Bryant No. 1.

Then there are the team rankings. The Cowboys are the sixth-highest-ranked NFC team behind the Green Bay Packers (No. 2), Carolina Panthers (No. 3), Philadelphia Eagles (No. 5), Arizona Cardinals (No. 8) and Minnesota Vikings (No. 10).

Wait, the Eagles are No. 5?

Yep, and PFF has consistently shown some love to the Eagles, who were also ranked No. 5 in 2014. In 2015, they were No. 6.

The Cowboys were No. 18 in 2014 and No. 11 last year.

PFF listed the Cowboys’ biggest hole as the secondary, especially cornerback. Morris Claiborne has had four straight seasons with a negative grade and has not had a year in which he allowed lower than 61.5 percent of the targets his way to be caught. With the return of Orlando Scandrick, I don’t think Claiborne is among the starting 11, but he would be in their nickel defense based on what we know now.

The defensive line remains a concern as well. While PFF lists Greg Hardy as a loss, a case can be made that his leaving is actually an addition, considering how poorly things ended last season.

In 2014, the Cowboys had one projected defensive starter listed as “good” by PFF. That was Henry Melton, who had five sacks but upset the coaches so much that the team made no attempt to keep him when he became a free agent. Six of the starters that year were listed as average, three were listed as below average, and one was listed as poor.

The Cowboys were hardly a juggernaut defensively in 2014, but they were helped immensely by the offense in terms of keeping them off the field and building leads that allowed them to finish second in takeaways.

That’s the same formula the Cowboys want to use in 2016.