The Cowboys opened gaping holes in their roster through free agency, and telegraphed their plan to reach on players specifically to fill those holes, in lieu of drafting BPA. They did exactly that. In contrast, the Ravens draft was a BPA masterpiece and the resulting talent gap is significant. Still, the Cowboys ostensibly filled their needs, and received a couple of steals.
Round 1 – Tyler Smith, OT Tulsa
The good news is that Smith is heavy, strong, aggressive and has long arms. The bad news is that he is raw, has terrible technique and lacks lateral and turning quickness to be an elite tackle. He was flagged sixteen times last year, which is an absurd amount, especially for a team that plays in the American Athletic Conference. Even his highlight reel featured multiple holds. The good news is he will start at LG, which should reduce his penalties. The hope is that he some day becomes the left tackle, but that is an iffy proposition. Their 5th round pick has more of an athletic fit for LT. Still, the Cowboys lost in the playoffs last year because they could not run at a 5-man box. Smith can arguably help with that. All in all, ”incredibly raw but physically gifted” is a description you should hear about your fifth round pick, not your first rounder. There were plug-and-play (developed starter) players available, but Cowboys had a position group picked out and did not want to wait for their OG.
Round 2 – Sam Williams, DE Ole Miss
Sam is a guy that the Cowboys have loved for months. DC Dan Quinn personally worked him out. I graded him as a rotational DE because of his slow lateral and turning quickness. However, Quinn has earned the benefit of the doubt with his success. If he thinks that Williams has the goods, its difficult to question that. He has similar results to Dante Fowler, who DQ had success with in Atlanta and the Cowboys signed in the off season, except he has a faster 40 time and 3- cone time. He has great straight line speed, explosion and 12.5 sacks his senior year. If DQ is right, this closes up the hole that Randy Gregory left.
Grade: B (would be a C, but for Dan Quinn’s approval)
Round 3 – Jalen Tolbert, WR South Alabama
The third gaping hole was Amari Cooper’s departure. Luckily, Tolbert (who some would have taken in the second round) fell to the Cowboys in the third. He has good size, and excellent turning and lateral quickness, which gives him good releases off the line. He has average long-speed, but gains enough separation to consistently get open. Nobody is expecting him to replace Cooper, that is Ceedee Lamb’s job. Tolbert just has to fill in the 3rd WR spot, long term, and possibly the 2nd WR spot while Gallup continues to recover from his injury.
Round 4 – Jake Ferguson, TE Wisconsin
The last hole was the departure of Blake Jarwin at TE, and the anticipation that Dalton Schultz will not re-sign. The cowboys really needed to get aggressive to fill this hole, and I recommended trading up. There were two TEs with physical traits to be dynamic pass catchers (and possibly plus blockers), Jelani Woods and Charlie Kolar. The Cowboys sat, and watched the Ravens aggressively move to take Kolar one pick before them. Instead, the Cowboys settled for Ferguson, who is a ”steady” TE who ran a 4.8 forty. He lacks any ”plus” physical traits. Dalton Schultz was also a mediocre athlete and just got franchise-tagged, so “being dynamic” is not necessary. But, even Schultz had better testing numbers than Ferguson. Fergus will block well and sit in between zones for short catches. The issue is, with Gallup missing the first month, the Cowboys will only have one WR they can depend on to beat press man (Lamb), and one TE that will have a shot at beating man coverage. If teams can bracket Lamb and single-up the other pass catchers, an unblocked defender is free to run stunt or blitz Prescott. This is the exact situation that the Cowboys found themselves in that was so chaotic, they traded multiple first rounders mid-season for Amari Cooper. Tolbert may be able to alleviate that, but a dynamic TE would have eliminated that exposure. He may some day turn into Schlutz, but trading a 5th rounder to move up to get Kolar would have been a significant upgrade.
Round 5 – Matt Waletzko, OT North Dakora
Now, this is what I love to see in round 5. Waletzko is a lottery ticket who is undervalued because he went to a small school (as opposed to medical, legal, or lack of experience). Waletzko has raw technique, but he is a giant who is aggressive, and has elite-level athleticism. Last year’s pick Josh Ball was in Dane Brugler’s ”Top 100 Talent” list, and Waletzko is Ball with plus bend, turning and lateral quickness. He may never reach his ceiling, but he will at least be a good depth piece and possible a franchise tackle in the 5th round. This is my favorite pick for the Cowboys in 2022.
Round 5 – DaRon Bland, CB, Fresno State
“Bland” pretty much captures this pick. This is your Bradley Anae pick. Bland has average hips, which tests out in a sub-par 3-cone. He has average long speed, and shows average cover skills in his tape. The athletic ceiling here is a fifth-round player.
Round 5 – Damone Clark, ILB LSU
Clark is another lottery ticket, but of the medical variety. He underwent spinal fusion surgery, and will be out until November. On pure talent, he is likely a late 2 or 3rd rounder. He has excellent speed, lateral quickness and recognition. He will provide depth later this year, and allow the Cowboys to move on from Leighton Vander Esch next season, assuming his injury heals properly.
Round 5 – John Ridgeway, DT Arkansas
Ridgeway is a a mammoth space-eating DT with a mean streak. He is purely a run defender and rotational DT. He will provide no pass rush. This is a low-ceiling pick that likely signals that last year’s space eater (Brian Bohanna) has not worked out.
Round 6 – Devin Harper, ILB Oklahoma State
Harper has good speed, lateral and turning quickness, which bares out in the 6 sacks his final year. However, his reading and recognition as well as coverage skills are suspect. Until his reading and technique improve, he is a special teams contributor and depth piece with possible blitzer upside down the road.
Overall Grade – C+
What I Would Have Done
1- Jermaine Johnson, Edge, FSU
2 – Travis Jones, DT, Cincinnati
3 – Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama
4- Charlie Kolar, TE, Iowa State
5 – Matt Waletzko, OT North Dakora
5 – Ty Chandler, RB, North Carolina
5 – Damone Clark, ILB, LSU
6 – Jamaree Salyer, OG, Georgia
7 – Kevin Austin, WR, Notre Dame
I followed along the draft and kept a log of what picks I would have made as well as moves. I tried to limit the trades up, since it would change the rest of the board and required speculation on a team willing to trade down. Given how the board played out, I would have taken Jermaine Johnson in the first round as the BPA. Though my metrics do not suggest he has elite physical attributes, the consensus scouting rankings consider him a top-end edge prospect with polish. I am not so arrogant as to ignore consensus rankings. In the second round, I would have taken Travis Jones, who has first round talent. He is a significant upgrade to the defensive line, and will add a pass rush element as well as finally shoring up the vulnerable run defense. He may be a top-5 DT before his rookie contract expires and I frankly would have considered taking him instead of Johnson at 24. I would have taken Tolbert in the third (who I would have taken in the second if Jones was not available), but traded picks 129 and 178 for 122, and kept trying to make that trade with each subsequent team until I moved up. This trade would have given me Kolar. Kolar has speed (4.6 forty), length (6’7 and 34 inch arms) and elite lateral quickness for a TE. His upside is Antonio Gates. He has not developed as a blocker, but usually the only college TE that have are pedestrian athletes who saw the field more for blocking than pass catching. Let’s not forget that neither Kelce nor Kittle were considered adequate blockers. Kolar has the highest ceiling of any of the TE in this class not named Jelani Woods.
I would have stuck with the Waletzko pick, but taken Ty Chandler instead of Bland. Chandler is Tony Pollard with more burst, and can return kicks until he slips into Pollard’s spot after he departs next season. I would have taken Damone Clark, but changed the last pick to Jamaree Salyer, who Brugler ranks as the 4th best Guard and has second-round talent. ”But you had to fill the guard hole, and there was no way you would have known Salyer would last this long”, you are probably saying. That is correct, but I would have been prepared to address the guard hole in free agency instead of reaching for it. The Salyer pick is the type of fortune that lands in your lap when you draft BPA, and the type of move that evades you when you reach.
I also would have traded next year’s 6th to drop back into the 7th for Kevin Austin. Next year’s class will not be as deep as this year’s, which was bolstered due to the extra year that seniors in college received. Austin has significant physical traits and it is unlikely that a sixth rounder next year will match his potential. This WR room is in flux, and is ripe for some lottery picks in hopes of finding a late round star. Ultimately my draft would have resulted in a better DE, a top end DT, a dynamic TE, and a dynamic RB. The only real loss would have been of first rounder Tyler Smith, but Salyer is an equal OG prospect and Waletzko is a better long term OT prospect.