Tight end is a position of great interest for the Cowboys as we get closer to the 2022 NFL Draft. How much Dallas prioritizes TE in the draft will be decided by several factors, one of which is how ready they are to rely on trust third-year prospect Sean McKeon with a larger role.
McKeon joined the Cowboys in 2020 as an undrafted free agent. He was carried on the active roster through final cuts as the fourth TE, reportedly because Dallas was worried they'd lose him on waivers or off the practice squad.
When Blake Jarwin was injured in the season opener, Sean's presence because more practical and he served as TE3 behind Dalton Schultz and Blake Bell. His playing time was minimal on offense, only 65 total snaps and zero targets, but he did see some work on special teams.
Things picked up a little in 2021. With Jarwin again injured and missing nine games, McKeon got more opportunities but still as TE3 behind Schultz and Jeremy Sprinkle. Even in his limited playing time, though, Sean scored his first professional touchdown in the Thanksgiving Day game.
Like Jarwin and Schultz, McKeon is a big-bodied receiver with good athleticism for his size. He wasn't a prolific college receiver at Michigan but that had a lot to do with Jim Harbaugh's offense. Most telling; the Cowboys have liked Sean enough to keep a fourth TE on the roster the last two seasons.
Now Jarwin is gone, being released in March for cap relief after concerns he might not play at all in 2022. Schultz will be back next season on at least the franchise tag if not a new contract. Dallas just re-signed Sprinkle last Thursday, likely to retain the same role as a blocker and special teamer.
Where does this leave Sean McKeon and the TE position? Does the team see him as a strong TE2 candidate, or are at least willing to let him and Sprinkle battle it out?
The answer to that question could significantly impact the Cowboys' 2022 draft. If they're happy with Schultz, McKeon, and Sprinkle as their three tight ends then the position may not get addressed until Day 3 at the earliest, or perhaps not even at all.
One of the major swing factors here is whether or not Dallas is pursuing a long-term deal with Schultz. If they're questioning his future beyond this single franchise tagged season, perhaps the Cowboys will take a TE high as his 2022 backup and 2023 replacement.
If Schultz is in the team's long-term plans, then their feelings about McKeon become the key issue. If Sean's not seen as a legitimate TE2 then the draft need could remain fairly high. If he is, then the depth chart is already arguably full for next season.
No, Sean McKeon hasn't been a major contributor thus far in his NFL career. But entering his third season, his presence and perceived potential could be a factor in the Cowboys' decision making during the 2022 Draft and the remainder of free agency.