Throughout the draft, Dallas stood pat and refused to back any trades. Positions of need were the focus of every pick, with a “best player available” strategy being thrown out the window. There are some picks I loved and others I'm a little skeptical about. Many project guys were taken in the later rounds with hopes they'll develop with time. Only time will tell if that happens, though.
Here are my grades for every Cowboys draft selection:
24th Pick: Tulsa OL Tyler Smith
At first, I completely rejected this pick. However, it’s started to grow on me a little bit. Smith is a great run blocker who is aggressive, tenacious and mean, which the Cowboys need across the roster.
I’m still not thrilled with this pick, though. Smith is a penalty machine, having committed 16 last season. That isn’t ideal for a team that committed the most penalties in the NFL last season. He’s a second-round talent and a project guy taken in the first round.
Smith is still extremely raw and will be thrown right into the starting lineup. Maybe, he will develop. Let’s hope he does.
56th Pick: Ole Miss EDGE Sam Williams
Dallas has been high on Williams for a while, and so have I. He’s a fantastic pass rusher, recording 12.5 sacks and a Pro Football Focus pass-rush grade of 90.2. Williams is quick off the line and excels at rapidly getting to the quarterback.
Say what you want about where Dallas took him; this is still an excellent selection. Yes, Dallas passed on linebacker Nakobe Dean here, but so did every team. Williams seems hand-picked by defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, having worked out with him at Ole Miss’ Pro Day. I think I’ll trust the man who completely turned around the Cowboys' defense last season.
88th Pick: South Alabama WR Jalen Tolbert
This is my favorite pick Dallas made. Tolbert, the 2021 Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year, presents a great combination of size and speed, catching 82 passes for 1,474 yards and eight touchdowns in 2021.
There’s much to like about Tolbert, but my favorite trait about him is his vertical speed. He gets off his break well and does a great job stacking on top of cornerbacks. This makes him a reliable deep threat, especially with his contested catching ability. Tolbert is a prime candidate for Dallas’ WR3 role in 2022, and I’m excited to see him play.
129th Pick: Wisconsin TE Jake Ferguson
I would’ve preferred Coastal Carolina’s Isaiah Likely at tight end, but Ferguson is a good pick. He’s a reliable red-zone target and is very versatile, having lined up at slot receiver, fullback and on the line of scrimmage for Wisconsin. Last season, he caught 46 passes for 450 yards and three touchdowns for the Badgers.
There’s potential for Ferguson to become a good run blocker, too, something Dallas lacked with its tight ends last season. Those blocking skills aren’t quite there yet, but I have no doubt they will develop. Ferguson will be a quality backup to Dalton Schultz and could potentially replace him one day,
155th Pick: North Dakota OT Matt Waletzko
Waletzko is not ready to start. Luckily for him and Dallas, he won’t have to. Waletzko is a massive prospect, standing at 6-foot-8 and weighing 312 pounds. For being that big, he’s a great athlete.
Waletzko received a 9.96 relative athletic score from Kent Lee Platte, the sixth-highest of any offensive tackle since 1987. The intangibles are there, and he’s got so much potential. He just needs time to develop. At this stage of the draft, you can afford to take project guys.
167th Pick: Fresno State CB DaRon Bland
Despite this, Bland isn’t a bad player. Last season, he logged two interceptions with five pass breakups. Bland is versatile, lengthy, quick, has many upsides and is another pick that’ll appease Quinn. Given Kelvin Joseph’s legal situation, he’ll be insurance as well.
However, other positions could’ve been targeted here, especially on the front seven. Bland is another project, though, so I will not write him off yet.
176th Pick: LSU LB Damone Clark
He’s got excellent speed, especially when pursuing ball carriers. Clark is explosive out of his stance, can close running lanes well and is very athletic. He is a pick for the future. But given what he can potentially turn into, I have no problem with that. Dallas just got a bargain.
178th Pick: Arkansas DT John Ridgeway
It’s evident with these picks that the Cowboys learned from their Wild Card loss to the 49ers. Dallas doesn’t want to get bullied anymore, and its draft reflects that.
Consider Ridgeway as someone who doesn’t get bullied. He’s a force in the trenches who uses his size to create power in his hands and hips. Ridgeway doesn’t give running backs much space to work with inside and can easily knock an offensive lineman back. He’s here to stop the run, something the Cowboys badly need to improve on.
193rd Pick: Oklahoma State LB Devin Harper
Here’s a linebacker that will actually play in 2022. I was initially skeptical about double-dipping at linebacker, but Harper is a solid player.
He fits the trend of being a great athlete with substantial upside. Harper provides valuable depth to the linebacker room after recording 11 tackles for loss, six sacks and a pass breakup last season at Oklahoma State.
I’m still not a fan of picking a linebacker twice, especially since Dallas needed to grab a running back or safety with this pick. It never hurts to have depth, though.
Overall, this was an impressive draft for Dallas. The Cowboys gained a quality haul of day-one starters, rotational options and developmental guys with upside. Dallas typically drafts well, and this looks like yet another hit.