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Cowboys rookie review: Grading the rookies at mid-season

How has the 2022 Cowboys draft class performed so far?

SPORTS-FBN-HILL-COLUMN-FT Amanda McCoy/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The NFL has always been a young man’s game. One reason the NFL Draft is so intoxicating is it’s a beacon of hope to every team with its influx of young talent. The Dallas Cowboys have been drafting very well in recent years. Arguments are made on draft day that they take players out of position and/or too early, but then those analysts have to recant their opinions when said players perform above expectation. Have the Cowboys continued that trend in 2022? Each round has its own grade below, based on performance and draft capital used on each pick, for the first half of the season so far.


Tyler Smith

This was an exciting pick when it first came in. Cowboys Nation was screaming all offseason for a shiny new offensive lineman, and they got one. Smith was not the one everyone expected, but he was easily one of the best run-blocking linemen in the draft class. Fast forward to training camp, more specifically the end of camp, and Tyron Smith is out for much of the season. Cowboys Nation reverted to panic again, but wait. Tyler Smith was placed into the left tackle position and the results have been pretty good.

So far Smith has allowed 16 pressures, that’s less allowed than other fellow rookies such as Kenyon Green, Zion Johnson, Ed Ingram, Luke Goedeke, and the same number as Evan Neal. On top of what Smith has accomplished, he’s managed to do all this while learning on the job. He had zero snaps at left tackle in camp, little practice with the starting offensive line, and was thrust last minute into the role with a lot of pressure to get results. Tyler Smith has done well so far, and his foundation for his career is strong and impressive.

Grade: A-

Chicago Bears v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images


Sam Williams

The sack monster from Ole Miss was put through his paces in the draft process, and mostly by the Cowboys very own Dan Quinn. It was clear the Cowboys wanted a new pass rusher opposite Demarcus Lawrence, and it was also clear they wanted that guy to be Williams. Another amazing strike by the coaches and scouting team, as Williams had his coming out party versus the Detroit Lions, displaying raw strength and aggression. In that one game, on 14 snaps, he finished with three tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. More like a stat line you see from a savvy veteran.

Grade: A-

Detroit Lions v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images


Jalen Tolbert

We got to see a smattering of Tolbert last week, and it’s easy to see why he’s being left out the roster each week. There was high expectations for Tolbert, and when James Washington went out during camp, the pressure on Tolbert was higher than ever. Most people would be even more frustrated by Tolbert’s lack of development and usage if it wasn’t for the surprise breakout by Noah Brown. With Washington close to returning, the South Alabama rookie receiver looks set to drop down the depth chart further, and he needs to figure out a way to get up to speed fast.

Grade: F


Jake Ferguson

As soon as this pick was made, Dalton Schultz had to wonder what his 2023 contract would look like. The 12 personnel formations recently adopted by Kellen Moore have certainly brought Ferguson out, and those concerns Schultz had after the pick will be picking up after the last couple of games. Ferguson is riding two touchdowns in the last three games, his snap count is becoming more consistent, and you wonder how he will look after an offseason in the gym bulking up.

Grade: B+

Chicago Bears v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images


Matt Waletzko

DaRon Bland

Damone Clark

It was a shame to lose Waletzko before he had a chance to get out there. His promise looked intriguing, his body size and athleticism enticing, but all that will have to wait.

DaRon Bland however is one of the teams biggest surprises this year. Jourdan Lewis was sent to IR, and Bland became a beacon of light and hope at the slot corner position. This could mean the end of Lewis in Dallas. This is more a testament of how good Bland is, and also the upside of his ability and body type, which adds more dimensions to this defense than with Lewis. Bland showed great understanding of route combinations and concepts with his interception early this year, and the hype on him started in the offseason.

Damone Clark is the feel good story at Dallas this year. For a guy not expected to play this year, he hit rehab and practice hard, and the end result was seeing him take over when Anthony Barr left injured last week.

(John Ridgeway no longer on roster)

Grade: B

Chicago Bears v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images


Devin Harper

Has yet to take to the field on defense and is now on IR, but his ability to play special teams and high levels of athleticism could be helpful next year with pieces possibly moving on.

Grade: Ungraded


Markquese Bell

Peyton Hendershot

Malik Davis

So far the best UDFA the Cowboys have used significantly this season is Hendershot, and his touchdown against the Detroit Lions was a great moment for every Cowboys fan. Davis is averaging 2.9 yards per carry, after seeing his first real action against the Bears. Bell has seen very limited time, but that’s further proof of this team’s depth at defensive back, but the fact he has talent to compete is a great sign of his potential.

With more guys waiting on the practice squad, this rookie class in the UDFA market the Cowboys collected looks appealing for the next stage of the season.

Grade: B+

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

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