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Dallas Cowboys 2023 NFL Draft — Team Needs by Tier

With the dust mostly settled on free agency, I wanted to examine the 2023 Draft needs by tier. I am starting a five-round mock draft series later this week to explore different scenarios and will use these needs as a guide.

With that in mind, let's dive into the need tiers for the Cowboys in the upcoming draft.

Dire needs

Positions that must be selected in the first few rounds where a starter or rotational backup is required before week one.


Prior to the trades for WR Brandin Cooks and CB , and the re-signing of DT Jonathan Hankins, , cornerback, and defensive tackle would have fallen in this category.

The beauty of what the Cowboys did this is there are no glaring, must-draft positions of need.

On the contrary, they have actually freed themselves up to draft the best player available.

Even if that is at a strong position for more depth or future needs.

This is a refreshing change from years past when there seemed to be at least one and often multiple positions Dallas had to address early.

Dallas Cowboys 2023 NFL Draft -- Teams needs by tier

Primary Needs

Positions where the Cowboys could use an upgrade or more depth to help offset an injury. The pick doesn't have to be in rounds one or two but probably needs to be addressed before the 5th round.

Pass Catcher

I'm lumping wide receiver and tight end together with a lean toward tight end. One pass-receiving weapon should be added fairly early and though they could pick one of each, it isn't necessary.

The Cooks helps soften the need, but I look at that as an upgrade to offset the loss of Dalton Schultz.

If , Cooks, or one of the second-year tight ends (Jake Ferguson, ) miss time, the Cowboys would find themselves right back in panic mode in November trying to sign or trade for a pass catcher.

I'm comfortable with Feguson/Hendershot starting.

In a tight end class this strong at the top, taking a swing on one early is very intriguing.

Interior Offensive Line

Despite Jerry Jones mentioning Terence Steele as a potential starting or swing tackle with and Tyron Smith manning left and , respectively, I have my doubts.

The plan should be to play the best five offensive linemen.

That would be Tyron at , Tyler at left guard, at center, Zack Martin at , and Steele at right tackle.

With this, the line is set with no opening for a starter.

If that's not the plan, then a rookie would be needed to challenge Steele, , and newly signed Chuma Edoga for the starting left guard spot.

Whether a starter at left guard is needed for week one or not, insurance is needed along the line.

With the position flex of Tyler Smith to play left guard and tackle, and Tyron to play left and right tackle, one quality interior lineman could cover injuries at four positions along the (or all five if they can play center).

Finally, Tyron, Steele, and Biadasz are in the last year of their contracts, and the Cowboys will have to replace Martin eventually, who will be 33 in November.

An interior offensive lineman early makes a ton of sense as a potential starter, upgraded depth, and to fill a future need a year early.

Defensive Tackle

Osa Odighizuwa and Hankins are both solid starters.

Behind them are Neville Gallimore, Quinton Bohanna, and maybe if his usage at defensive tackle at the end of the season becomes more permanent.

The lack of development of both Gallimore and Bohanna made the Hankins trade and re-signing necessary, so it's hard to rely on them. Hankins did just turn 31 and is on a one-year deal though, so a succession plan for him and an upgrade behind the starters are needed.

I was tempted to put defensive tackle under the dire need section.

With two quality starters, and the abilities of DeMarcus Lawrence and Sam Williams to play inside on passing downs, I kept it here.

They will need to address it early though.

Dallas Cowboys 2023 NFL Draft -- Teams needs by tier 1

Secondary needs

Positions where Dallas can survive without drafting early, but should consider in rounds one through five.

Running Back

I debated putting this in the primary section, but I don't think running back should be a primary need for any team — almost ever.

This is not to say that running backs don't matter, because they do, but it is a supply/demand thing to me.

There are a lot of starting quality running backs in the with more coming into the draft each year (aka a large supply).

Their impact is also highly reliant on factors outside their control and the expected points added (EPA) on a run play are significantly less valuable than passing plays, making the demand for top-tier running backs lower.

With that being said, the Cowboys do need to add one in this year's draft.

After Tony Pollard on the depth chart are undrafted free agents Malik Davis, , and veteran Ronald Jones who signed a minimal one-year deal.

An upgrade at RB2 is needed for 2023. Plus, with Pollard on the one-year franchise tag, a pick at the position could allow them to move on from Pollard in 2024.


Leighton Vander Esch signed a modest two-year deal and has fought injuries throughout his career. Damone Clarke flashed in the second half of his rookie season, while Jabril Cox and are still largely unproven.

Given the injury concerns of LVE and lack of behind him, I could see the Cowboys viewing this as a bigger need than most.

A selection as early as round one on the position wouldn't be shocking.

The versatility of safeties Jayron Kearse and Donovan Wilson to reduce down to nickel linebacker moves this to a need for me, but it is still a need.

Micah Parsons played 859 snaps on the and 195 in the box, according to PFF. He's part of the equation, but I don't want to take him away from rushing the passer.

Dallas Cowboys 2023 NFL Draft -- Teams needs by tier 2

Future needs

Positions that have quality starters and the depth to absorb an injury or two in 2023 but also have expiring contracts. There are also unproven young players that could make it a need as early as 2024.


Despite the Gilmore addition, Dallas could use another corner. As Dallas learned last year, you can never have too many corners.

When researching contracts, the need becomes significant in 2024.

Trevon Diggs, Gilmore, and Jourdan Lewis are all in the last year of their deals, though I'm sure Diggs will get tagged if a long-term deal isn't reached.

Assuming Diggs is back, that leaves him and DaRon Bland as the only players who can confidently be given significant snaps in 2024.

The lack of development from 2020 day-two picks and Nahshon Wright left the Cowboys working the during the last half of the 2022 season. The hope is for one or both to turn a corner in 2023, but hope is not a plan.

is a . He was a college cornerback who Dallas drafted in the to play .

Then in the biggest moment last season, Dallas threw him back at corner for over 40 snaps (per PFF) during the , and he played really well. It's just tough to rely on that limited sample size.

It's a premium position, so a pick here, even early, wouldn't be a bad choice.

Defensive End

Here is a list of current Cowboys' defensive ends that are under contract for 2024:

  • Micah Parsons
  • DeMarcus Lawrence
  • Sam Williams

For a position that usually rotates five to six players throughout a game, that is not enough.

They can easily survive 2023 with Dorance Armstrong and Dante Fowler along with Golston's versatility to play both inside and out.

As with corner, you can never have enough pass rushers, and if a pick isn't used on the position in this month's draft, there could be a major void heading into the 2024 offseason.


Wilson signed a three-year extension this offseason, but the other two starters, Kearse and Malik Hooker are in the final year of their deals.

As it currently stands, the 2024 safeties under contract are Wilson and 2022 undrafted free agent Markquese Bell who played 25 snaps as a rookie, according to PFF.

It's a weak safety class and the Cowboys usually don't draft safeties early, so don't expect anything over a day-three pick here.

Right Tackle

What's going on with Steele? The run game took a nosedive after his injury and for a homegrown success story, I would have thought the Cowboys would have looked to lock him up well before now.

Is Steele's asking price too high?

Is the internal evaluation of the front office and coaching staff lower than that of the fan base?

Do they believe or Josh Ball is the 2024 solution?

There are too many questions to rule out them selecting the position in a few weeks.

Wrap up

There are my tiers of needs for the upcoming draft.

Again, with the offseason Dallas had, there are nearly infinite ways they can play this draft.

Be on the lookout for Mock Draft 1.0 coming out later this week to explore one of those possibilities. Let me know in the comments which positions you think are too high or too low.

Damon Smith
Damon Smith
Lifelong Cowboys fan from the Gulf Coast. Love talking football and sharing my opinion especially when it comes to team building. Follow me on Twitter @DBailey22

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