We’re still waiting on the Super Bowl to mark the end of the 2021 NFL season, but the Senior Bowl has already marked the beginning of the 2022 NFL draft season. Therefore, it is time to start looking at draft prospects and making mock drafts.
For the Cowboys, they’ll be looking to have a great draft considering all of the players they’re likely to lose this offseason over cap concerns. This mock draft makes a few assumptions about those players, so it deserves a larger than normal grain of salt. This mock also doesn’t factor in compensatory picks, which haven’t been announced yet. But it’s a fair bet that Dallas will end up having at least one more draft pick before all is said and done.
Now, time for the picks.
First round, 24th overall: Chris Olave, WR - Ohio State
That’s right, for the third time in four years the Cowboys use their first round pick to get a receiver. The assumption here is that they’re not parting ways with Amari Cooper but rather taking Chris Olave to fill the hole left by Michael Gallup. However, cutting Cooper to save cap space would make such a pick even more likely.
Either way you slice it, Olave would be a huge addition to this offense and one that would likely go higher were this receiver class not so top-heavy. You’d be hard pressed to find a better route runner in college football from this past season, and Olave excelled at creating separation no matter the coverage he faced. He presents a deep threat in much the same way Gallup does; a receiver that can separate well downfield and track the ball once it’s in the air.
Getting a player like Olave in this offense would be one way, and perhaps the only way, for the Cowboys to actually upgrade their receiving corps from last year. Most importantly, his ability to work on the outside would allow CeeDee Lamb to stay in the slot, where he’s at his most dangerous.
Second round, 56th overall: Isaiah Likely, TE - Coastal Carolina
Dalton Schultz is poised to get a big payday in free agency and Blake Jarwin has missed time with injuries each of the last two seasons. Investing in the tight end position seems like a good idea regardless of Schultz’s landing spot.
Isaiah Likely would fit perfectly into what Dallas uses their tight ends for, as well. Coastal Carolina used him in a variety of ways, but Likely is at his best as a receiving weapon in the middle of the field. He’s a dynamic mover after the catch and can be a threat up the seam of the defense. He also had extensive exposure as a blocker in college. While defenders in the Sun Belt don’t quite compare to NFL defenders, Likely demonstrated sound blocking techniques and a willing attitude.
In Dallas, Likely would become an early favorite of Dak Prescott. He would thrive as a quick option on play action bootlegs and as a chain-moving target on third downs. Some of the Cowboys’ best offensive games this past year came when Schultz was making an impact, so adding a player of Likely’s athletic profile would open things up for the rest of the group.
Third round, 88th overall: Boye Mafe, EDGE - Minnesota
Jerry Jones sounded optimistic about keeping Randy Gregory in Dallas only a week ago, and whether that looks like a long-term deal or a franchise tag, this mock is assuming Gregory sticks around for at least the 2022 season. Dorance Armstrong, however, will also be a free agent while DeMarcus Lawrence could become a cap casualty. Regardless, EDGE will be an area of focus for Dallas.
Boye Mafe was one of the bigger surprises from the Senior Bowl this past week, and he was everywhere during the game. Mafe recorded two sacks, three tackles for loss, and a forced fumble. He’s also a prototypical fit for what Dan Quinn looks for: a big, long ball of athleticism. Mafe plays like he’s shot out of a cannon on every play, and projects as an immediate fit as a situational pass rusher while he develops his all-around game.
Even if the Cowboys do keep Lawrence and Gregory, they’ll need to fill Armstrong’s place. Tarell Basham is entering the final year of his contract as well, and Chauncey Golston split time between EDGE and the interior this past year. Adding Mafe would give Dallas an athletic pass rushing presence who can spell the starters and potentially develop into something much more.
Fourth round, 127th overall: Tyrese Robinson, OG - Oklahoma
The Cowboys are going to have to answer some questions about their offensive line this offseason. Odds are that Tyron Smith, La’el Collins, and Zack Martin stay put. Tyler Biadasz is probably safe too, unless Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum is available in the first round. But Connor Williams is probably walking in free agency, and we already saw how Connor McGovern fared at left guard.
Enter Tyrese Robinson, a three-year starter at Oklahoma. He played guard his first two years, but moved to right tackle this past season out of necessity. Robinson looked much better at guard, where his scrappy play style allowed him to thrive in the Sooners’ zone blocking scheme.
The Cowboys could slot him in at left guard to compete with McGovern. He played with a technical refinery and edge that Williams lacked far too often, and seems to possess better natural talent than McGovern. Even if he’s unable to win a starting job right away, Robinson would offer valuable depth with his ability to play both guard spots and, if necessary, right tackle.
Fifth round, 166th overall: Mike Rose, LB - Iowa State
As of right now, Micah Parsons and Jabril Cox are the only linebackers under contract for next season. Parsons may be a one-man wrecking crew but they’ll need more than just him, and Cox is coming off an ACL tear that ended his rookie year prematurely. Even if Dallas re-signs Leighton Vander Esch or Keanu Neal, they’re likely to target the linebacker position at some point in this draft.
Mike Rose would be an excellent fit on this unit. His time with the Cyclones was often highlighted by his nasty demeanor, and Rose has a similar fiery presence to that of Parsons. That’s where the comparisons end, as Rose lacks the type of elite athleticism of the Lion. Still, Rose is a fundamentally strong run stopper who demonstrates solid contributions in coverage.
At the NFL level, Rose would likely thrive on special teams and offer a good rotational piece next to Parsons. His athletic limitations would keep him from being an every down type of player, but he’s strong enough in a variety of areas to provide value. His leadership and intensity would also be big additions to this defense.
Fifth round, 175th overall: Thomas Booker, iDL - Stanford
Last year’s defense-heavy draft class solidified the fact that Dan Quinn loves length and athleticism everywhere, but especially on the defensive line. He got that in Chauncey Golston and Osa Odighizuwa, but there’s more work to be done in the trenches.
Thomas Booker fits the profile. He’s got great length for the position and has a great first step, which is where most of his production came from. As a four-year starter at Stanford, Booker played just about every spot on the defensive line, which has contributed to his unimpressive statistics. But Booker projects best as an interior lineman in a deep rotation, where his speed and length can keep him fresh against the run while he develops his pass rushing skills.
The Cowboys struggled to find much reliable production in the interior of their defensive line in 2021. Odighizuwa had a strong start but faded as his snaps began to wear on him. Neville Gallimore looked good in his shortened season, as did Trysten Hill. The addition of Booker would give Dallas another versatile body who can add to the rotation, and specifically boost their run defense, while keeping others fresh for longer.
Sixth round, 200th overall: Jalen Nailor, WR - Michigan State
Consider this a Cedrick Wilson replacement, operating under the assumption that the former Boise State receiver goes elsewhere in free agency after playing well in relief of Michael Gallup this past season.
Nailor isn’t necessarily a Wilson clone, but he would offer similar traits. Nailor is a speedster who was a track star back in high school, and he translated that into being a big play machine for the Spartans in his two years as a starter. Nailor excelled at vertical routes and quick catches where his speed made it hard for defenders to bring him down. He was also a dynamic kick and punt returner, though Michigan State used him less and less in that capacity as he became more of a fixture in their offense.
Assuming that Dallas keeps Cooper and adds Olave alongside Lamb, Nailor’s fit would be very similar to what Wilson has done the past few years. He offers a lot of value on deep shots and quick screens as a depth receiver and can help out in the return game on top of that. In the sixth round, that’s about all you can hope for, and Nailor would seemingly check all of those boxes.