One position that the Dallas Cowboys can easily upgrade in this year's NFL draft is their defensive line. In particular, they need to upgrade the interior if they hope to take their defense to another level in 2022.
There's no doubt that fans don't want to be reminded of the team's performance in the playoffs last month. The team surrendered 169 yards on the ground to the San Francisco 49ers, leading to an early exit from the postseason. The Cowboys were only able to keep their opponents under 100 yards rushing five times this past season. Of those five contests, Dallas gave up 85-plus rushing yards. In other words, the Cowboys' defense is in need of run-stuffers.
While the Cowboys would be best suited to drafting an offensive lineman in the first round, the second round gives Jerry Jones plenty of options to upgrade his defensive line. Among those possibilities are Travis Jones, Phidarian Mathis, and Logan Hall.
Travis Jones, Connecticut
As it stands, the Cowboys don't have any first-round picks along their defensive line. While Osa Odighizuwa had a solid 2021 season, compiling six tackles for a loss and 11 QB hits, it's nothing to write home about. Travis Jones from Connecticut would be a nice upgrade, especially if he's available on Day 2.
A potent run defender in college, Pro Football Focus graded him 86.8 in that department for the 2021 season. Last year, Jones accumulated seven and a half tackles for a loss and was seventh in his conference (Independents) with four and a half sacks.
An explosive defensive tackle that makes his presence known on initial contact with devastating hands. His upper body strength is impressive while he still possesses excellent anchoring abilities. More importantly, he's strong enough to hold his own in double-teams, which is important as an interior lineman.
Jones is a defensive tackle that can single-handedly push the pocket with his drive and strength. If he can be had in the second round, Jones needs to pounce.
Phidarian Mathis, Alabama
At nearly six-foot-four and weighing in at 312 pounds, Phidarian Mathis was third in the SEC with nine sacks last season. PFF graded his run-blocking abilities at 77.5, as he also disrupted offensive backfields with 10.5 tackles for a loss during that same stretch.
Mathis's frame and quick feet give him a certain level of versatility that would serve the Cowboys well. In Alabama, Mathis played all over the line, and he'd likely see a similar role in the NFL given his build. Besides his physical traits, Mathis also displayed excellent awareness in college, showcasing a natural ability with regard to play recognition.
The ability to read plays effectively and handle himself well in double-team situations is noteworthy. While he may not be as explosive as Jones, Mathis possesses excellent leg strength and makes up for that lack of explosiveness with a high motor.
Logan Hall, Houston
Along with Mathis, Logan Hall will also come into the NFL with an impressive level of versatility. At six-foot-six and 260 pounds, he might not be the heaviest lineman. However, his speed makes up for his lack of size.
Hall won't fool anyone as a typical NFL nose tackle, but that's fine. The Cowboys need someone with burst and the ability to penetrate through blockers right out of the gate. He racked up six sacks and 13 tackles for a loss, which landed him in third place in his respective conference.
Much like the aforementioned prospects, Hall also possesses deadly hands. More than that, Hall sets the tone as a defensive lineman and packs quite the punch with those hands of his. That mean streak he carries while playing on the field is exactly what the Cowboys could use more of.
If Jones is looking for a run stopper, he'd be doing himself a service by drafting Hall on Day 2. Hall's hands and impressive anchoring ability allow him to manhandle blockers. Driven by his great leg strength, he will be able to get into the offensive backfield and disrupt both running lanes.