We still sit about a couple of months away from 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 videoes of players making splash plays or hearing commentary from writers during scrimmages, I wanted to zero in on expectations for the Cowboys Rookie Class.
Without further ado, check it out below.
1. Tyler Smith, OL, Tulsa
With the 24th pick, the Cowboys addressed their offensive line, but it wasn’t the player that most fans wanted. Fans hoped the front office went 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.
Once the pick was made, many analysts were confused about why the franchise “reached” for the player, but the front office said they rated Smith higher than those other players.
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 One 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 garner penalties.
However, he will show that he’s an upgrade over Connor Williams and should hold down the Left Guard position for a while until Tackle Tyron Smith retires.
2. Sam “De” Williams, DE, Ole Miss
Following the offensive line selection, the Cowboys switched to the other side of the ball and selected Ole Miss DE Sam “De” Williams. Although Defensive End wasn’t seen as a high need among all their draft needs, I’m drinking the kool-aid and believe the franchise not only got another key defender, but he will be 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 at first. However, because I keep hearing praise from the coaches so early, 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 couple of seasons ago when people were talking about the Cowboys arguably having the best WR Trio in the NFL, but now there are questions around the group.
While two players remain from that trio (Lamb and Gallup), Lamb is the only healthy WR that is poised to start the season as Gallup recovers 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 to help Lamb.
Although they may not sound like the prettiest situation, expect some splash plays from Tolbert, and I envision him securing that WR3 spot once Gallup returns. Last season, WR Cedrick Wilson Jr. finished with 602 yards as the WR3 and given that’s he more talented than him, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him reach near 800 yards.
4. Jake Ferguson, TE, Wisconsin
While people pointed out that the Cowboys shouldn’t chase after a TE since they had TE Dalton Schultz at their disposal, that didn’t stop the franchise from drafting Wisconsin TE Jake Ferguson.
Although Schultz will be catching balls from QB Dak Prescott this season, it may be his last year on the team, and that is what likely prompted the Cowboys to target Ferguson, who ironically was 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. If the Cowboys were confident in TEs Jeremy Sprinkle or Sean McKeon, they wouldn’t have chosen Ferguson.
However, don’t be surprised when you see him steal some TDs 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
With a big hole opening up on the left side of the offensive line as Starting LT La’el Collins was cut by the team this offseason, there were questions about who was replacing him. While some pointed to Tackle Terrence Steele, who balled out in his starts for Collins, there was still uncertainty around that idea.
In the fifth round, the Cowboys used one of their four fifth-round picks on North Dakota Tackle Matt Waletzko, who I predict will be a project initially but eventually become a giant piece to their offensive line.
If we forecast what to expect from 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 about Waletzko.
6. DaRon Bland, CB, Fresno State
With the CB Room already set with their Week One Starters, the expectation should be that Bland sees more snaps on special teams. The CB Room is too full at the moment, and the Cowboys spent two picks on Corner last year.
Bland has a shot at making the 53-Man roster, but he is more of a PS (Practice Squad) guy. However, things could change if CB Kelvin Joseph’s legal situation gets messy and if the franchise 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 continued their trend and drafted Clark with hopes he could fully recover for the 2023 season.
While fans likely don’t like the sound of wasting a player who possibly won’t see the field until next year, the Clark selection could pay off for their future.
As of right now, the LB core is led by Micah Parsons, and he does a damn great job. LBs Leighton Vander Esch and Jabril Cox are currently penciled in the other two starting slots, but Cox will be returning from an ACL injury.
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 LBs as he could help set up the franchise for the next decade.
However, 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 DT, the franchise still needed to add depth with big bodies, and Ridgeway fits the bill. Not known for pass-rushing ability, fans can expect a player who can fill a huge gap for the run game but expecting him to snag heavy playing time early is something you shouldn’t do.
However, I can see the former Razorback “breaking necks” in his second year.
9. Devin Harper, LB, Oklahoma State
After drafting an LB in the previous round, the Cowboys double-dipped and snagged Oklahoma State LB Devin Harper, who has crazy speed. Going off his athletic traits, you 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.