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The Dallas Cowboys entered the 2023 NFL Draft in a great spot. They brought essentially all of their starters back on defense  following a stellar free agency period plus the trade for former Defensive Player of the Year cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore plugged a significant hole defensively opposite Trevon Diggs in the Cowboys secondary. Dallas' biggest offensive need was also addressed, a legit No. 2 wide receiver opposite CeeDee Lamb, with the trade acquisition of Brandin Cooks

Given these developments, the Jones family, Jerry and Stephen, decided to go with a "needs-based" pick instead of a "best player available" selection as they went with Michigan defensive tackle Mazi Smith with their 26th overall pick. Players at potentially more impactful positions like edge rusher (Georgia's Nolan Smith and Clemson's Myles Murphy), cornerback (Penn State's Joey Porter Jr.) and tight end (Notre Dame's Michael Mayer) were also available to Dallas.

Yes, starting defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins is 31 years old and on a one-year contract, but after the Cowboys crushed free agency and have hit home runs on each of their last three first-round picks (Pro Bowl wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, All-Pro linebacker Micah Parsons, and offensive lineman Tyler Smith), Dallas had higher expectations for this pick. Although given the magic Quinn has worked on this defense the last two seasons, Smith could easily become a solid contributor sooner rather than later for the Silver and Blue.  

The second round was a same story for the Cowboys, another "needs-based" selection out of Michigan with their second-rounder, the 58th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, in tight end Luke Schoonmaker. With Dalton Schultz's departure to the Houston Texans on a one-year, $6.3 million deal in free agency, the Cowboys were left with 2022 fourth-round pick Jake Ferguson (19 catches, 174 receiving yards, and two receiving touchdowns in career), 2022 undrafted free agent Peyton Hendershot (11 catches, 103 receiving yards, and two receiving touchdowns in career), and 25-year-old Sean McKeon (two catches and 11 receiving yards in career) at the tight end position.   

Given that state of their tight end room, Schoonmaker comes off the board, making him the fifth player at his position selected in the 2023 NFL Draft. The selection makes him the Cowboys' highest-drafted tight end since Gavin Escobar went 47th overall in the 2023 NFL Draft.  He set or tied numerous career-highs during his senior season with the Wolverines with 35 receptions, 418 receiving yards, and three receiving touchdowns in an offense built around grounding Big Ten opponents into submission with their run game. Schoonmaker can create separation on his routes and he has a vise-like grip when securing the football. He's also an incredibly powerful blocker, both in-line and out in space. However, Schoonmaker is not much of a threat after the catch. Jerry Jones can now check the box on the tight end position, but the pick likely stands as a bit of a reach given the player chosen. 

Jerry Jones and the rest of the Cowboys front office opted to close up shop Friday with another defender, selecting Texas Longhorns linebacker DeMarvion Overshown with their third-round choice, the 90th overall pick

Overshown is strong in pursuit when it comes to playing against the run, and he's a big hitter for his size at 6-foot-3, 229 pounds. He's a former safety who is better playing the run than he is defending in pass coverage. However, he's fast and quick enough (4.56 40-yard dash) to act as a capable quarterback spy on Philadelphia Eagles quarterback and 2022 NFL MVP runner-up Jalen Hurts as well as on New York Giants dual-threat quarterback Daniel Jones. He will come in and compete for the departed Anthony Barr's snaps. The big question is can he become a more reliable tackler? He had a missed tackle rate of 12.7%, a figure that's way too high. If there's a defensive coach who can help him become more foundationally sound in that area, it's Dan Quinn. 

The Cowboys began Day 3 by grabbing the captain of Pete Prisco's "Better-Than Team": San Jose State EDGE Viliami Fehoko. He's got a non-stop motor and can play a variety of positions. (Full scouting report.)

In Round 5, Dallas addressed the offensive line for the first time in the 2023 NFL Draft. Offensive tackle Asim Richards out of North Carolina is an undersized but long finesse-ish pass-pro specialist who will provide the team with depth. (Full scouting report.)

The Cowboys were back on the clock nine picks later after making a trade with the Chiefs. They gave up a 2024 fifth-round selection for the opportunity to take cornerback Eric Scott Jr. from New Mexico at No. 178 overall. A former three-star recruit from Kansas, Scott appeared in 31 games for Southern Mississippi across the past three seasons. He ended his college career with five interceptions and 12 pass breakups.

With their final two picks, Dallas selected its first running back and its first wide receiver of the NFL Draft. First was Kansas State's Deuce Vaughn, which turned out to be a heartwarming story since it was his father, who works in the team's personnel department, who called him to tell him the Cowboys were selecting him. In Round 7, Dallas snagged South Carolina's Jalen Brooks -- a bigger wide receiver who has the size and willingness to be an effective blocker in space.

Cowboys 2023 draft picks

Round Overall PickPlayer



DT Mazi Smith (Michigan)



TE Luke Schoonmaker (Michigan)



LB DeMarvion Overshown (Texas)



EDGE Viliami Fehoko (San Jose State)


169 (compensatory pick)

OT Asim Richards (North Carolina)
5178CB Eric Scott Jr. (New Mexico)


212 (compensatory pick)

RB Deuce Vaughn (Kansas State)



WR Jalen Brooks (South Carolina)

How Tony Pollard's future impacted Cowboys' draft approach

Cowboys Pro Bowl running back Tony Pollard, who led the NFL in scrimmage yards per touch (5.9) in 2022 among players with at least 200 touches and is coming off a broken fibula he suffered in Dallas' divisional round playoff loss at the San Francisco 49ers, played a significant factor in how Dallas addressed the running back position in the upcoming draft. Pollard turns 26 on April 30 and is entering the 2023 season on the franchise tag at a fully guaranteed salary of $10.09 million. 

"It's going to be a tough decision as we move forward where's Tony going to be, Pollard, and how he fits," Stephen Jones said Monday. "He's going to be here this year, and he's franchised and that shows you what we think of him. We also like to look at keeping him around here for the next three or four years as well."  

Although after just getting out from under former Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott's massive contract after selecting him fourth overall in 2016, the Cowboys did not seem in a hurry to trade up to take another running back early.

"What I would say to you really are thinking we have to have a second contract out of that deal," Stephen Jones said. "So, does it affect you when you're thinking about a running back up that high? Yes. As you start to really look at as you move down the draft, you'd like to hope you're going to have success that that player is going to be a second contract, but in my opinion, not as necessary that you have to necessarily get that second contract."

As mentioned above, the Cowboys eventually took a running back in the sixth round in Kansas State's Deuce Vaughn. He joins a running backs room with Malik Davis and Ronald Jones.