We're still a couple of months away from the 2022 Dallas Cowboys Training Camp In Oxnard, but we got a little taste of some football action with the Cowboys Rookie Mini-Camp that wrapped up this last Sunday.
While it's always exciting to see videos of players making splash plays or hearing commentary from writers during scrimmages, I wanted to zero in on expectations for the Cowboys rookie class.
1. Tyler Smith, OL, Tulsa
With the 24th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys addressed their offensive line, but it wasn't the player most fans wanted.
Fans hoped the front office would go after Boston College Guard Zion Johnson, Texas A&M Guard Kenyon Green, or Iowa Center Tyler Linderbaum, but once it was their time to pick, they settled for Tulsa Guard Tyler Smith.
After the pick was made, many analysts were confused about why the franchise “reached” for this player, but the front office said they rated Smith higher than the others.
Jerry Jones said the club had LT Tyler Smith rated ahead of guards Kenyon Green & Zion Johnson.
While I could criticize the pick the whole time during this piece, fans should be optimistic about Smith since he adds nastiness to the line.
Likely a week-1 starter, the expectation around Smith is he should be able to hold his own as the season progresses, but don't be surprised when you see him drawing penalty flags.
He will show that he's an upgrade over Connor Williams and should hold down the left guard position for a while until Tyron Smith retires.
2. Sam “De” Williams, DE, Ole Miss
Although defensive end wasn't seen as a high need among all their draft needs, I'm drinking the kool-aid. I believe the franchise not only got another key defender but the gem of this class.
Because of his freaky athleticism and motor, I don't see any way that Williams doesn't touch the field but expect to see him in designated pass-rush situations to start.
However, the coaching staff continues praising Sam Williams, so my prediction is he will see more playing time as the season progresses, and he should see about 300-375 snaps.
3. Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama
It was just a season ago when people were talking about the Cowboys arguably having the best wide receiver trio in the NFL, but now there are questions about the group.
While two players remain from that trio (CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup), Lamb is the only healthy wideout poised to start the season, as Gallup is recovering from an ACL injury.
To fill the void, the franchise will rely on WR James Washington, who they signed in free agency, and South Alabama WR Jalen Tolbert.
Although it may not appear to be the prettiest situation, expect some splash plays from Tolbert.
I envision him securing that WR3 spot once Gallup returns. Last season, Cedrick Wilson Jr. finished with 602 yards as the WR3 and given that's he more talented than Wilson, I wouldn't be surprised to see Tolbert reach nearly 800 yards.
4. Jake Ferguson, TE, Wisconsin
Although Schultz will be catching balls from Dak Prescott this season, it may be his last year on the team. That is what likely prompted the Cowboys to target Ferguson, who was ironically compared to Schultz in most draft profiles.
Coming into this season, I wouldn't expect immediate playing time for Ferguson, but I predict he lands the backup TE gig.
However, don't be surprised when you see him steal some touchdowns from Schultz or be relied upon early to block on different personnel packages.
My Bold Prediction: *whispers *, he will be the starter next year.
5. Matt Waletzko, OT, North Dakota
While some were ready to dress Terrence Steele in place of Collins, who balled out in his previous starts due to injury, there was still uncertainty around that idea.
The Cowboys used one of their four fifth-round picks on North Dakota Tackle Matt Waletzko.
I predict he'll be a project at first, but will eventually become a giant piece of the Cowboys' offensive line.
If we forecast what to expect from Waletzko this year, I would tell fans that you're more likely to see him get reps in garbage time but expect big things in the future.
Waletzko has all the athletic traits and size you would dream of, but he needs time to develop. And given that Steele showed out in his starts, be patient with Waletzko.
6. DaRon Bland, CB, Fresno State
With the cornerback room already set for week one, the expectation should be that Bland sees more snaps on special teams.
The position is simply too full at the moment, and the Cowboys spent two picks on cornerbacks last year.
Bland has a shot at making the 53-Man roster, but he is more of a practice squad guy.
However, things could change if Kelvin Joseph's legal situation gets messy or the team needs to add depth to the active roster.
7. Damone Clark, LB, LSU
Known for taking risks on injured players in the draft, the Cowboys drafted Clark with hopes he could fully recover in time for the 2023 season.
While fans probably don't like the sound of wasting a pick on a player who possibly won't see the field until next year, selecting Clark could pay off in the future.
As of right now, the linebacker corps is led by Micah Parsons, and he does a damn great job.
Nonetheless, with Vander Esch expected to leave the team after this season, Clark (if fully healthy) will be the last part of a potential electric trio of linebackers as he could help set up the franchise for the next decade.
Don't expect him to sniff the field this season, but don't be surprised when he pops off. My expectation is you won't see his true form until his “second year.”
8. John Ridgeway, DT, Arkansas
Although the Cowboys are arguably deep at defensive tackle, the franchise still needed to add depth with big bodies, and John Ridgeway fits the bill.
Not known for his pass-rushing ability, fans can expect a player who can fill a huge gap for the run game. Expecting him to snag heavy playing time early is something you shouldn't do, though.
I can see the former Razorback “breaking necks” in his second year.
9. Devin Harper, LB, Oklahoma State
After drafting a linebacker in the previous round, the Cowboys double-dipped and snagged Oklahoma State LB Devin Harper, who has crazy speed.
Going off his athletic traits alone one can see he used them to his advantage to make plays at OSU, but his overall game is questionable.
In college, it's easier to excel if you're a freak athlete, but if your technique isn't there — it can be hard to make it in the NFL.
Expect Harper to see more playing time on special teams.