Here’s a pick-by-pick look at how each player Dallas has selected will fit.
Round 1, No. 24 overall: Tyler Smith, OT, Tulsa
My take: The 24th pick in the draft was not going to be sexy, especially when the Cowboys said they had only a little more than a dozen players with first-round grades, so no player would have caused great excitement for the Cowboys. The selection of Smith seems more for the future than it does for the present with executive vice president Stephen Jones saying he didn’t want to put “starting right now,” on Smith’s plate. He could be the left guard this year if he beats out Connor McGovern. He could be the swing tackle on game day behind Tyron Smith and Terence Steele. The last time the Cowboys used a first-rounder on an offensive lineman this late was in 2013 when they took Travis Frederick at No. 31. They knew he was a Day 1 starter and he made five Pro Bowls before an early retirement.
Left tackle of future? Tyron Smith has been named to the Pro Bowl eight times. He is one of the best offensive linemen in Cowboys’ history. He also hasn’t played a full season since 2015 and missed six games last season. He is just 31 but he has played a lot of football. If he’s not the starting left guard in 2022, Tyler Smith could be Tyron Smith’s replacement. “We believe he’s got a lot of tread left, Tyron does,” Jerry Jones said. Jones said the Cowboys’ offensive line room could be the perfect place for Tyler Smith to learn.
Staying put: The Cowboys never seriously considered moving up because Jerry Jones said a player they liked did not fall far enough down the board for them to consider a trade. They contemplated three trade-down scenarios, including one involving a team that would have ended up taking Tyler Smith. The Cowboys had interest in guards Kenyon Green and Zion Johnson but they went to Houston and the Los Angeles Chargers with the 15th and 17th picks, respectively. However, Jones said Smith was higher rated on the Cowboys’ draft board than either guard.
Round 2, No. 56 overall: Sam Williams,, OLB, Ole Miss
Watch some of the best plays from Ole Miss defender Sam Williams in his college career.
My take: Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn attended Ole Miss’ pro day to see Williams, who was also among the Cowboys’ top-30 visitors at The Star. He had 12 sacks and 16 tackles for loss last season and was a first-team All-SEC pick. He had some off-field issues, including a sexual battery charge that was eventually dropped but had him suspended from the program. With Randy Gregory gone, the Cowboys can put Williams in the pass-rush mix with DeMarcus Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong and Dante Fowler Jr. as a rookie and hope he can be a bigger part as he gets more experienced. It’s the second straight year the Cowboys have used their second-round pick on a player with off-field issues, doing so with cornerback Kelvin Joseph a year ago.
Round 3, No. 88 overall: Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama
Check out the best highlights from Jalen Tolbert’s college career at South Alabama.
My take: Tolbert was under consideration at the No. 56 pick when they took Sam Williams, so to get him at No. 88 is a bonus. With the trade of Amari Cooper and the loss of Cedrick Wilson, the Cowboys needed to add a receiver — especially with Michael Gallup coming off knee surgery. Tolbert had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons at South Alabama, including 1,474 yards and 82 catches with eight touchdowns in 2021. While he is from a small school, he had seven 100-yard receiving games last season, including 143 yards against Tennessee. He is considered a polished route runner for a younger player and he can go up to get the ball. The Cowboys have veered off their Power 5 path with two non-Power 5 school picks among their first three selections.
Round 4, No. 129 overall: Jake Ferguson, TE, Wisconsin
Check out the best moments from Jake Ferguson’s college career with the Wisconsin Badgers.
My take: The Cowboys released Blake Jarwin earlier in the offseason and have Dalton Schultz on the franchise tag, so tight end was a need and Ferguson was an All-Big 10 pick last season. He can play on the line and was a productive pass-catcher with 145 receptions for 1,618 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Cowboys believe in two-tight end sets and now have a solid core with Schultz, Ferguson, Sean McKeon and Jeremy Sprinkle.
Round 5, No. 155 overall: Matt Waletzko, OT, North Dakota
My take: The Cowboys added their second offensive linemen in the draft with Waletzko in the fifth round after taking Tyler Smith in the first. At 6-7, 312 pounds, Waletzko started 29 of 32 games at North Dakota at left tackle. The Cowboys have said Smith will play on the left side at guard and tackle and last year’s fourth rounder, Josh Ball, will play on the right side, so Waletzko is a depth pick as the team believes they can never have enough offensive linemen.
Round 5, No. 167 overall: DaRon Bland, CB, Fresno State
My take: With the 167th pick in the draft, the Cowboys selected Bland, who had five interceptions and 23 pass deflections in his career. He has the size (6-0, 197 pounds) coordinator Dan Quinn wants in his cornerbacks. Bland also forced four fumbles. The Cowboys follow the philosophy that a team can never have enough cornerbacks, and it should be noted last year’s second-round pick, Kelvin Joseph, could be penalized this season y the NFL under the personal conduct policy.
Round 5, No. 176 overall: Damone Clark, ILB, LSU
Check out the best highlights that contributed to a stellar college career for LSU’s Damone Clark.
My take: The Cowboys will have to wait on Clark. He had spinal fusion surgery after a herniated disk was found at the combine. If he recovers, then the Cowboys might have a big steal. He had 135 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, four pass deflections and one interception. The Cowboys have been willing to patient on players before. Jaylon Smith comes to mind in 2016 knowing he would need a redshirt year after a major knee injury. But that was in the second round and the risk here is mitigated by taking him late in the fifth.
Round 5, No. 178 overall: John Ridgeway, DT, Arkansas
Check out the best highlights that contributed to a stellar college career for Arkansas defensive tackle John Ridgeway.
My take: In his one year at Arkansas after a four-year run at Illinois State, he showed he was ready for the jump in level of play. He was credited with 39 tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks for the Razorbacks. He is not going to give much as a pass-rusher, but he is an exceptional run defender. He brings some size the Cowboys have lacked on the interior with last year’s pick, Quinton Bohanna. And for those wondering about Jerry Jones’ love of Arkansas: this is just the second Razorback Jones has drafted since 1989. Felix Jones is the other in the first round in 2008.
Round 6, No. 193 overall: Devin Harper, LB, Oklahoma State
My take: Knowing Damone Clark, a fifth-round pick, is going to miss his rookie season, the Cowboys added linebacker depth in the sixth round. At 6-0, 234 pounds, Harper is smaller than most of the linebackers the Cowboys have, but he can run. In his one season as a full-time starter, he had 96 tackles, six sacks, 10 tackles for loss and 15 quarterback pressures. Harper was at his best in the biggest games. He had 10 tackles against Oklahoma and Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.