The Dallas Cowboys haven’t been shy about either moving up or moving down in past NFL drafts. However, this year the Cowboys decided to borrow a page from the Baltimore Ravens’ draft strategy by staying put and waiting for prospects to fall to them. It was a surprise those who make NFL picks and expected to see Dallas take players who might garner headlines during the draft but wouldn’t necessarily be the best fit for the team.
It seemed to work as Dallas was able to add talented prospects at various positions of need.
There were some who viewed first-round pick Tyler Smith as a second-round talent. However, with the loss of multiple starters off its offensive line, Dallas went about adding to its line with the selection of the former Tulsa star.
Dallas started off by using four of the top five picks on offense as the Cowboys hope to give quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott the help they need to lead the team to an extended run in the playoffs. The draft ended with four straight defensive players being selected.
Dallas added five defensive backs and four wide receivers as undrafted rookie free agents. Dallas (+120) is just ahead of Philadelphia in the odds to win the NFC East title according to the NFL betting lines . When it comes to the Super Bowl odds, the Cowboys (+1800) is fifth among NFC teams.
Here’s a look at how the Cowboys fared in the draft.
Pick 24 Tyler Smith | OL, Tulsa Golden Hurricane
Smith started 23 games at Tulsa, all at left tackle. While he was the blind-side protector during his time with the Golden Hurricanes, many NFL draft analysts believe his run blocking is ahead of his pass protection heading into the NFL. Smith won’t be displacing Tyron Smith as the left tackle for the Cowboys, so a move inside to guard is more likely.
Using a first-round pick on a player likely to change positions is always a risky proposition. However, Smith has the necessary qualities that teams are looking for on the offensive line.
There was a time when the Cowboys had perhaps the best line in football and it was built with early draft picks. Adding some new faces to the line has been long overdue.
Pick 56 Sam Williams | DE, Mississippi Rebels
Randy Gregory was a talented prospect with some character concerns coming out of college. With Gregory off to play in Denver after it looked like he would be remaining with the Cowboys, Dallas added a defensive lineman with some off-the-field troubles in his past.
Williams was certainly a productive player with 16 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks during the 2021 season. Williams had two tackles for loss and a sack against Alabama in 2020.
The 6-foot-4, 261-pound Williams went to the NFL Scouting Combine and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds. He also had a 10-3 mark in the broad jump and a 32½-inch vertical leap.
Williams was suspended from the Ole Miss squad earlier in his career when he was charged with sexual battery, only to be reinstated after the charges were dropped. If he can stay out of trouble, he has all the physical traits to be an impact player on the Dallas defense.
Pick 88 Jalen Tolbert | WR, South Alabama Jaguars
With Amari Cooper now in Cleveland, the Cowboys were in the market for a receiver. The 6-foot-1 Tolbert ran the 40-yard dash in 4.49 seconds and was one of the top performers among the receivers in the vertical and broad jumps at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Tolbert was more than just a workout warrior. He posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Tolbert had seven 100-yard games during the 2021 season when he finished with 1,474 receiving yards.
Tolbert drew praise for his route running and the intangibles he brings to the table. He will be given a chance to contribute early as a rookie. According to the sportsbook, only two receivers taken after the first round have better odds to win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award than Tolbert, who comes in at +4000.
Pick 129 Jake Ferguson | TE, Wisconsin Badgers
Jake Ferguson had 46 catches during the 2021 season at Wisconsin and had 145 receptions over the last four seasons. Ferguson is being drafted for his pass-catching ability. His blocking is still a work in progress.
There is an opening with Blake Jarwin no longer with the Cowboys and Ferguson will be given every chance to show that he can contribute to the Cowboys offense.
He ran a time of 4.81 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, which hurt his draft stock.
Pick 155 Matt Waletzko | OL, North Dakota Hawks
The Cowboys went back to upgrading the offensive line. The 6-foot-8 Matt Waletzko went to the combine and ran the 40 in 5.03 seconds and had a 30-inch vertical jump.
Although he missed time due to injury in two different seasons, Waletzko started 28 games at left tackle for Football Championship Subdivision powerhouse North Dakota.
He has the height and wingspan that NFL teams covet in offensive tackle prospects. However, he is considered a bit of a project.
The Dallas Cowboys used a fifth round pick on offensive tackle Matt Waletzko. Could this rookie find himself as the team’s swing tackle?
Roll Call | #DallasCowboys
— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) June 7, 2022
This was the first pick Dallas got in return for trading receiver Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns.
Pick 167 DaRon Bland | DB, Fresno State Bulldogs
DaRon Bland had 38 tackles and two interceptions during his lone season at Fresno State. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Bland ran the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds.
Bland started his collegiate career at Sacramento State and has a background as a sprinter in high school. The Cowboys are gambling that his speed and size will translate into being a productive member of their secondary — or at least a contributor on special teams.
Pick 176 Damone Clark | LB, Louisiana State Tigers
If Clark was healthy, he would have been long gone by this point in the draft. Damone Clark led the SEC with 137 tackles during the 2021 season. He also had 5½ sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery. A member of LSU’s national championship team as a sophomore, Clark finished his career with 251 tackles.
At 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, he has the size to make it as an NFL linebacker. A big concern was spinal-cord surgery and that scared off plenty of NFL teams that otherwise would be targeting Clark as a second-day pick in the draft.
Pick 178 John Ridgeway | DT Arkansas Razorbacks
This might go down as one of the most popular picks by Dallas according to the NFL draft analysts. Another SEC product, John Ridgeway recorded seven of his 39 tackles in a loss to eventual national champion Georgia.
At 6-foot-6, 320 pounds, Ridgeway certainly looks the part of an NFL defensive lineman.
The Illinois native played three seasons for the FCS Illinois State program. He had 22 tackles in four games during the 2021 spring season before deciding to increase his profile by entering the transfer portal. He didn’t look out of place in the talent-laden SEC.
Pick 193 Devin Harper | LB, Oklahoma State Cowboys
Oklahoma State’s second-leading tackler during the 2021 season, Harper had 11 tackles for loss, six sacks, two pass breakup and 15 quarterback hurries. One of his sacks came in the win over Oklahoma that earned the Cowboys a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game.
His athletic profile was what caught the attention of the Cowboys. Dallas has an elite pass-rushing linebacker in reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons, but perhaps Harper will show off other facets of his game to earn a roster spot.
This was the final pick in the draft for Dallas. The seventh-round pick was traded away for defensive lineman Eli Ankou. Ankou would play just seven games during his one season as a Cowboy.
Grading the Draft
The Cowboys hit the jackpot with the selection of Parsons a year ago. Now those who bet online are willing to wager on Parsons as a NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate. It remains to be seen if any of the 2022 draftees will have a similar impact on the team.
There were some risks with taking defensive end Sam Williams in the second round given some of his off-field troubles. If he puts those issues behind him, he has a talent to team with Parsons to give Dallas another athletic pass rusher. Former Arkansas defensive lineman Ridgeway has a chance to go down as the top picks in the draft for Dallas. The third-day pick of LSU linebacker Clark could also be a huge deal if Clarkhe is cleared to play.