As we all know, a team is only as good as the number of good players it can keep on the field. As 2009 taught us, you can have all the talent in the world, but if that talent isn't on the field, it doesn't do you a whole lot of good. Now there are a lot of reasons that players can miss time; family reunions, church camp, working overtime, babysitting, leaf raking, and probably other reasons that are even more common then those. Since we are not discussing most of the more common reasons players can miss time, let's discuss one that is probably not as likely, though it cannot be ruled out completely: alien abduction. Which brings us to the question that this post will attempt to answer:
Who are the 10 players the Cowboys can least afford to have abducted by aliens?
Toughest Omission: Josh Cooper
Outside of a certain millionaire QB, Cooper is the biggest beneficiary of the Blackmon effect. He is a master at finding open pockets underneath all those over-extended secondaries and provides a great 2nd option in the passing game. Sure, Chelf or Anyiam could potentially fill this role were Cooper to be abducted, but not with the level of reliability Josh brought last season. It was tough to bump him out of the top 10, but cuts had to be made, and as a result CRFF is officially okay with Josh Cooper being abducted by aliens.
10. Justin Gilbert
Does this list lose credibility if the first player on the list isn't even a starter? Probably... but even though Gilbert isn't a starter, he will see a ton of time in the secondary, and when you add that to the explosiveness he brings to the return game, and his flexibility on the defensive side of the ball, Gilbert becomes the 10th most valuable individual player on the roster. Gilbert's raw cover skills aren't the best on the team, but Broderick Brown is considered to be a great cover corner, and Gilbert will even challenge him for the starting spot. Plus, Gilbert can play some dime or even nickle if needed. Oh yeah... he can also do this. He is basically one of those guys that may not be the absolute best at any one particular facet of defense, but his entire skill set is so impressive that not having him is a big blow to the versatility and explosiveness of the unit as a whole. To put it another way, having Gilbert around lifts the ceiling of the potential of this team to a much greater height than anyone else on the team except these next 9 guys.
9. Quinn Sharp
Yes, the punter. While punting is often an afterthought, with Sharp it become a weapon. Averaging 46.2 yards per punt, and sticking 15 inside the 20 are some amazing stats. And when you factor in his prowess at putting kickoffs through the end zone so our awful kickoff coverage doesn't have to be exposed, he becomes even more valuable. Sharp might be the single biggest field possession weapon on the entire roster. Look somewhere else for your human dissections and weird cross-breeding experiments you alien SOBs.
8. Caleb Lavey / Tyler Johnson
This one has a lot to do with depth. Lavey showed a lot of heart coming back from injury last season and putting in some impressive playing time, and Johnson has the size and speed to play at the Big 12 level. The problem here is that these are the only 2 guys on the team with much MLB experience at all. The abduction, and subsequent probing, of either Lavey or Johnson would be a huge blow to the middle of the defense.
7. Richetti Jones/Jamie Blatnick
Pass rush, pass rush, pass rush. The DE's are a strong point of the defense this year, and that is saying something considering the loss of Ugo Chinasa, but The Machete is going to be the main force in the pass rush game, and Blatnick will be the complete package on the other side. Without Richetti, opposing QB's will be hanging out all day counting the number of times each WR is open before actually deciding to fire a pass, and without Blatnick the entire strong side will be softened. This is a position with a pretty large drop-off in experience from the starters to the backups, and we will need these two to stay on Earth and out of tractor beams and probes and other alien stuff.
6. Shaun Lewis
He has come this far. Remember all the praises I heaped on Justin Gilbert about his raw talent and versatility raising the ceiling of the defense and the entire team? Take all those and put them on Shaun, plus add that he is perfectly suited for the star position. He plays that hybrid position like no one we have ever seen in Stillwater before, plus brings all the intangibles. Intangible #1 seems to be coming up with a play when it is most needed. The A&M game and Bedlam game were the biggest proof of that. Freak athletes with noses for the ball just don't come around that often, let's keep Shaun here and off of spaceships and Mars and junk.
5. Nick Martinez
Protects the Million Dollar Man's blind side, and does a hell of a job. I'm sure we all remember that OSU allowed the 7th fewest sacks of any team in the nation, and that was with an offense that attempted the 7th most passes of any team in the nation. Martinez is a big reason for this as most weeks he will matchup with the opponents best pass rusher, and be tasked with keeping him out of the backfield. Parker Graham and Daniel Koenig are solid backups, so depth isn't too much of a problem here, but considering the excellent work Martinez did last season, I would rather him just not be abducted and not have to deal with the uncertainty of his replacements.
4. Levy Adcock
See Martinez writeup, but Adcock is considered to be the better and more versatile talent of the two. Don't take him and hook up electrodes to his head, then send him back to Earth as a shell of his former self all so you could read his brain waves... just don't.
3. Markelle Martin
As if it weren't enough that Martin brings his freak athleticism, fantastic instincts, and explosive hard hits to the field, he is also the unquestioned leader of the secondary and the entire defense. We need to get this man a bodyguard that specializes in stopping alien abductions.
2. Justin Blackmon
See: 2010 Kansas State game, 2010 Bedlam (with a 30% Blackmon). The offense is no where near the same when the defenses can play up without fear of the best WR in college football torching them over the top. Also, his 150 ypg, and 20 TD's helps the offense out a little. Please don't take JB onto your ship and force him to run through a bunch of rat like mazes in order to assess the problem solving skills of humans. We really need him in Stillwater. Take Ryan Broyles and get 80% of the production instead.
1. Brandon Weeden
Does this one need an explanation? Weeden has become the de-facto offensive coordinator, has probably the best true passing skill set in the Big 12, and is right up there nationally, makes great decisions, thinks at game speed, knows where everyone should be at all times, is mobile enough to get himself out of a little bit of trouble, and is a pretty good golfer. Who can replace all of that if he is abducted? I wouldn't be comfortable if Andrew Luck were his backup. That is how perfectly Weeden fits this team.