Would the Cowboys dare move on from DeMarcus Lawrence? That is a question we have to ask ourselves as we enter the 2022 offseason. With Dak Prescott carrying a much larger cost these days, the team has to be judicious about where their money goes. And when buzz started circulating that players like DeMarcus Lawrence could be potential cap hits, it made many of us stop in our tracks and try to figure out what is going on. So, here we are.
Every week Connor Livesay and Mark Schofield discuss all things 2022 NFL Draft on Talkin’ The Draft on the Blogging The Boys podcast network. Make sure to subscribe to our network so you get access to all of our shows. Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.
Yesterday, I laid the groundwork for how this front office has made some very big moves in the past in hopes of getting younger at a cheaper cost even if it came at the cost of moving on from a beloved veteran. Today, we’ll take a look at replacing Lawrence. For the record, this is not advocating for the team to move on from Tank, but rather exploring the options should that be what the front office is planning.
2022 NFL Draft Options to replace DeMarcus Lawrence
Strangely, this new draft class of edge rushers looks a lot like the 2014 class when the Cowboys selected Lawrence. There are two standout players in Aidan Hutchenson and Kayvon Thibodeaux (back then it was Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack) followed by a handful of high upside players. After two additional edge rushers were selected late in the first round (Dee Ford and Marcus Smith), the Cowboys saw the guy they loved still on the board so they made a move to trade up for him. It was a smart move.
The Cowboys sit in a very interesting spot in this draft when it comes to landing one of the better edge rushers. They have no chance for one of the top two guys, but are in great shape to get one of the players in the next tier as at least one of them is likely to be there at pick 24. What if the pass rusher the Cowboys absolutely adore is there when they are up? Could the front office think they could replace one great edge rusher with a brand new rookie?
Focusing on the four players who could be available when the Cowboys are up at pick 24, let’s examine the pros and cons of each passing rushing option. In no particular order, here they are...
GEORGE KARLAFTIS, PURDUE
Karlaftis broke onto the scene as a freshman in 2019 with an impressive 7.5 sacks and 17 tackles for a loss. He only played two games his sophomore season due to injury and COVID but was back in action last year where he recorded 4.5 sacks and 10 tackles for a loss.
What to love about him: You can’t help watching the tape and not wondering if he could be the next big pass-rushing superstar. Karlaftis is one of those relentless players who just pushes his way to where he needs to go. He’s a straight-line pursuer with a lot of power who keeps chopping away with very active hands. He’s very hard to stop.
What not to like: The biggest knock on him is his short arms. His lack of length could limit his ability to shed blocks from bigger NFL tackles. Karlaftis also plays a bit stiff as he doesn’t show much bend. While he gets off the line of scrimmage fast, he doesn’t have much twitch and is going to have to rely on his power to win.
TRAVON WALKER, GEORGIA
A fixture along the Bulldogs defensive line for the past three seasons, Walker has gotten better each year. His 2021 numbers include six sacks, but he’s one of those players whose impact doesn’t always show up on the stat sheet.
What to love about him: Walker doesn’t look like the prototypical edge rusher, but that’s what is intriguing about him. His frame might trick you into thinking he’s a bit slow, but that is not the case. He has freakish athleticism for a player his size and is just a wrecker who explodes through the gap. He’s got great get-off and has long arms to help convert speed to power. He’s shown the ability to be good in both pass-rushing and run-stopping situations and is just an overall great defender.
What not to like: Like Karlaftis, he’s not a bendy player. Walker is still growing as an edge rusher and hasn’t found his repertoire of pass-rushing moves. That could be viewed as a positive as it points to his potential, but it’s worth noting that’s an area he has yet to develop.
DAVID OJABO, MICHIGAN
It’s almost unfair that the Wolverines had both Hutchinson and Ojabo attacking the edges for them in 2021. As someone who has limited football experience, Ojabo has taken the bull by the horns and has scouts on high alert. He’s a player who’s still growing, yet still managed to rack up 11 sacks last year in the process. That’s some good on-the-job training.
What to love about him: Ojabo has great length and uses it well to attack through the blocks. Despite his limited experience, he already possesses an arsenal of pass-rushing moves. He’s an athletic player who has great get-off and tremendous range to chase down his target.
What not to like: While his upside is intriguing, he’s still a dice roll because he still has a lot of his game to develop. He’s quick off the snap, but he’ll take missteps at times which completely nullifies the burst. Ojabo still needs to add some muscle to his frame and projects to be a situational pass rusher to begin his career.
JERMAINE JOHNSON, FLORIDA STATE
Johnson spent his first two years of college at Georgia but transferred to FSU to get more opportunities. What a great decision that was because he put together an 11.5 sack season that also included 17.5 tackles for losses. His dominance also showed up at the Senior Bowl as he demonstrated he is one of the top edge rushers in this draft.
What to love about him: He’s just one of those effective football players. Johnson is active in pursuit, clever in how he gets where he needs to go, and uses his length to swat at the ball. He’s a smart player who reads the play quickly and can be good against both the pass and run. On the latest episode of Talking the Draft, Connor Livesay and Mark Schofield referred to Johnson as Demarcus Lawrence Jr. which is a perfect description. The size, the smarts, the physical attributes, they are all very Tank-like.
What not to like: He doesn’t have a lot of bend to him, his get-off is so-so, and he doesn't have the best hands in this draft class. Johnson is a more jack-of-all-trades and master of none type player which is why it’s easy to underestimate the true value he brings to the game. Remind you of anyone?
Is there any one of these players you’d love to have at 24? If so, do you think they have the ability to replace Lawrence?