Assessing the Cowboys' needs for the 2022 NFL Draft can be a difficult balancing act. Not all roster positions carry the same weight and some aren't as clear as others based on what we know of the current talent. Another factor to consider is players who are expected to miss games in 2022; how much could these anticipated absences affect Dallas' plans?
One of these possible scenarios has already been dealt with this offseason. After talk that Tight End Blake Jarwin's hip issue could cause him to miss the entire season, or at least a considerable portion, Dallas released him for some cap relief. That decision may have also contributed to Dalton Schultz getting the franchise tag and could lead to TE getting some help early in the draft.
Speaking of pass catchers, Michael Gallup is an even more critical offensive weapon than Jarwin and there's concern he won't be ready in September due to recent ACL surgery. Dallas was confident enough in Gallup's recovery to give him a new five-year contract in March, but now have to plan for probably being without one of their starting receivers to start the season.
Signing James Washington, an experienced veteran from Pittsburgh, will help. But the luxury of having a guy like Cedrick Wilson, now a Dolphin, as your number-four receiver is gone. Neither Noah Brown or Simi Fehoko have the proven ability to step into a WR3 role at this time.
Even if Gallup was 100% healthy many would still clamor for the Cowboys to prioritize WR in this draft. With Washington only here on a one-year deal, finding a young prospect who complements Gallup and CeeDee Lamb and completes the trio for the next 4-5 years would be a good addition.
But with Michael potentially missing the first quarter of the season or more, wide receiver gets bumped up the needs list even more. Even with Lamb and Gallup in place for years to come, Dallas could justify using a 1st-round pick at the position in this increasingly pass-focused league.
A different form of anticipated absences comes from veteran Offensive Tackle Tyron Smith. While not dealing with an issue the way Gallup is, Smith's recent uptick in missed games and general history for the last six years makes it hard to rely on him for 17 games in 2022.
After missing three games each year from 2016-2019, Tyron only played in two games in 2020 before neck surgery and then missed six in 2021 with an ankle sprain. Even if Smith's past both issues now, one can't help but wonder what the next malady will be.
The veteran's health issues and even general age and mileage at this point make his backup a key concern. After La'el Collins got discarded this offseason and presumably moved Terence Steele into a starting job at right tackle, second-year prospect Josh Ball is the likely candidate to serve as swing tackle.
Ball missed his entire rookie season as an NFL “redshirt” after a preseason ankle injury gave Dallas the opportunity to stash him on injured reserve. But while personal issues dropped Josh to the 4th Round in 2021 more than playing ability, can the Cowboys really trust him as the next man up behind Tyron?
Again, this makes OT a position of significance for the 2022 Draft. Dallas may have supreme confidence in Josh Ball based on their scouting and what he showed in training camp, but only they know that for certain. If there are doubts, we could see an early pick go towards a current backup and eventual replacement for Tyron Smith at left tackle.
Another situation altogether has just come up at cornerback. After recent news surrounding Kelvin Joseph's involvement in a homicide investigation, we're now waiting to see what Roger Goodell will do with the information.
Cowboys fans are naturally leery of Goodell's handling of anything related to Dallas players and the NFL's personal conduct policy. If Joseph does face a suspension then the Cowboys would be left with Trevon Diggs, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis as their only reliable CB talent.
Joseph didn't play much in 2021 due to groin issues but was coming on towards the end of the year. His absence would be a severe hit to the depth at corner, leaving raw prospect Nahshon Wright as the fourth man and dangerously close to starting.
Unfortunately, the league's review and decision on Joseph's future isn't likely to come in the next two weeks. Dallas will have to go into the draft with that uncertainty and could wind up spending a higher pick at cornerback than they would have otherwise.