Two done, one to go. With the first couple of days of the 2022 NFL Draft now in the rearview, we're all beginning to get a more clear picture of which the direction the Dallas Cowboys are headed.and blockbuster trade executed by the Philadelphia Eagles, but you'd now be hard-pressed to say they've performed poorly through the first three rounds.
Admittedly, Dallas has doubled down on risk with offensive linemen Tyler Smith (raw) in the first round and Sam Williams (off-the-field red flag) in the second, but for the Cowboys; and then there's the stellar value pick of wideout Jalen Tolbert in the third round -- sprinkles for anyone's ice cream cone.
And, as you may have heard, sprinkles are for winners.
If the Cowboys want to ensure they're the last team standing in the end, however, they have no time to high-five and celebrate with the last four rounds of the NFL Draft still ahead of them. Barring a trade, they currently own six picks on Day Three -- a chunky amount of draft capital that can either be used to stack talent and/or move around a bit to grab what they might view as falling comets. It goes without saying that after their inaction in NFL free agency and controversial losses that either deepened needs at certain positions or created them outright, there's little to no room for error as the Cowboys draft races toward the draft conclusion on Saturday in Las Vegas.
So who's still out there that makes sense for America's Team?
Well, I'm glad you asked.
|Brandon Smith||LB||Penn State|
|Joshua Williams||CB||Fayetteville State|
|Verone McKinley III||S||Oregon|
The decision to pass on Nakobe Dean will be questioned until further notice, and especially if he produces for the Eagles as he did the Bulldogs, but it also means the Cowboys have still yet to address the need at linebacker. Leighton Vander Esch isn't what they hoped he'd be and re-signing him on a one-year deal is more insurance than anything, factoring in Jabril Cox's rehab from a torn ACL.
This means the linebacker position takes center stage on Day Three, and you have to love the options still on the table, from Damone Clark and Darrian Beavers to Brandon Smith and JoJo Domann -- there's no excuse for Dallas to not come away with some LB firepower between rounds four through six (they currently don't own a seventh-round pick), but the sooner they grab one, the better.
Question marks on the future of former second-round pick Kelvin Joseph also opens the door to buying insurance for the future at cornerback opposite All-Pro Trevon Diggs and, to that point, former Cincinnati star cornerback Coby Bryant would like a word. A two-time First-Team All-AAC talent, First-Team All-American and Jim Thorpe Award winner (2021), Bryant has both the physical build and the chops to be a potent starting cornerback at the NFL level. This also means he'd likely fly off of the board fairly quickly, though, so the Cowboys would potentially have to trade up to land him or sit tight and hope for other worthy prospects such as Tariq Woolen, Zyon McCollum, Josh Jobe or Jalyn Armour-Davis.
Keeping to the theme of upgrading the secondary, it's usually the Cowboys' modus operandi to target a safety in the late rounds -- more specifically, the sixth round -- so keep your eyes peeled there for a player like Yusuf Corker (Kentucky talent who played alongside Joseph) and Verone McKinley III who, for my money, is too often overlooked. But without a great pass rush, the secondary will have a harder time doing its job, and so even with the selection of Williams in the second round, I can not nor would I gloss over the fact Dominique Robinson is still on the board.
I mocked Robinson to the Cowboys at 167th overall ahead of the draft, and that remains in play. If he's gone before the fifth round, take a look at other defensive linemen who offer a lot of promise and tremendous value as well; i.e., Kingsley Enagbare, Matthew Buttler or Perrion Winfrey.
The Cowboys aren't done bulking up the defense, because they simply can't afford to be.
Calvin Austin III
|Rasheed Walker||OT||Penn State|
|Braxton Jones||OT||Southern Utah|
|Kyren Williams||RB||Notre Dame|
|Isaiah Spiller||RB||Texas A&M|
**denotes pre-draft official top-30 visit with Cowboys
Another key position that still needs some tender loving care in Dallas is a tight end, for obvious reasons. Dalton Schultz isn't yet under contract beyond his franchise tag in 2022 and, even if he were, there's no Blake Jarwin to play behind him. That aims a laser pointer at prospects like Cade Otton and Jalen Wydermyer, who were both Official 30 visits for the Cowboys. That doesn't mean you can negate what Isaiah Likely or Charlie Kolar can do, because that would be foolish, and it instead means you have at least four very, very strong options to complement Schultz in 2022 and potentially succeed him in 2023 -- assuming no deal is struck to keep him in a Cowboys uniform for the foreseeable future.
Now, how's about a bit more firepower for two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Dak Prescott, who gave the green light on drafting Jalen Tolbert in the third round after having called him directly for a dialogue ahead of the draft? Tolbert will look to fill the role vacated by Cedrick Wilson, but depth at WR is something the Cowboys have never taken lightly and, as such, they will and should double down on the position on Day Three. Be it Calvin Austin III, Justyn Ross or Khalil Shakir, the WR room in Dallas would be made instantly better by plugging in one of the three; and the added bonus of Shakir is, well, that whole Boise State connection to offensive coordinator Kellen Moore (you can bet Moore has heart eyes for him).
Protection remains key as well, lest ye forget the dire straits the Cowboys are in on offensive line. Having more weapons at the skill positions are pointless if Prescott is chewing grass like a downed cow every other play. Tyler Smith has the ability to be a starting guard and potentially tackle at the NFL level, but he needs a lot of refinement and that means the Cowboys can't be done adding to that front. Circle back on Day Three and look at Jamaree Salyer, a national title-winning lineman who would join the record number of Bulldogs being drafted this weekend, or someone like Daniel Faalele, Rasheed Walker, Max Mitchell or Braxton Jones.
Either of those names would do the job, and potentially as early as Year One, but almost certainly by Year Two.
Lastly, you'll notice some running back prospects listed above, and rightfully so. For while the Cowboys aren't moving on from Ezekiel Elliott in 2022 (nor should they), the reality of it all is speeding toward them with Tony Pollard heading to NFL free agency in 2023. That means the Cowboys will have decisions to make on both Elliott (a more challenging one, financially and schematically) and Pollard, an electric back who can do damage in space. Should they not retain one or the other, the hope is JaQuan Hardy can level up to be the next notable halfback in Dallas, but it'd be unwise to put all of the chips in one basket. Instead, use the later rounds to consider one of the aforementioned talents, as long as it doesn't clash with bigger needs at other positions.
In other words, if the other needs are filled, go for it. If not, take a swim in undrafted free agency to see what RB options are available. After all, draft work doesn't end when the draft does, and the Cowboys are already building a potential list of UDFA whom they'll make an offer to on Saturday and beyond.
It's time to see how it all comes together for the Cowboys -- for better or for worse.