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Cowboys news: Cowboys ranked a top 2021 draft class, now need to do it again

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NFL: Pro Bowl-NFC at AFC Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys’ 2021 rookie class ranked top 10 in the NFL thanks to ‘home run’ pick Micah Parsons - Brice Paterik, Dallas Morning News

The 2021 draft was a success!

After a season that didn’t end as well as the Cowboys hoped, Dallas fans can look to the future to assuage the pain of an early playoff exit for signs of hope. For those fans, this crop of Cowboys rookies gives them plenty to be hopeful about for the future.

On Thursday, ranked the rookie classes of all 32 NFL teams. Dallas cracked the top 10 at seventh place on the list, thanks largely to the help of AP Defensive Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons and his phenomenal first season.

Nick Shook of evaluated the Cowboys’ class and had glowing praise of Parsons

“Dallas hit a 450-foot home run with its selection of Parsons, going best player available over clear need at 12th overall and reaping the rewards,” Shook said.

Parsons was the first Cowboy to win Defensive Player of the year and the first unanimous pick in the award’s history. The linebacker was top 10 in the NFL with 13 sacks, 67 quarterback pressures, 20 tackles for loss and nine forced throwaways while ranking 118th in pass rushing attempts.

Yes Parsons was a big part of Dallas’ successful rookie class, but he wasn’t the only first year player to make an impact. Defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa, Dallas third round pick out of UCLA, also made an impact as a rookie.

“[Odighizuwa’s] defensive snap counts tailed off as the season wore on, and he didn’t draw a strong Pro Football Focus grade, but he did produce an optimistic outlook,” Shook said.

The defensive tackle started 12 of the 16 games in which he played, finishing the season with six tackles for loss, two sacks and 11 QB hits.

Dallas did well bolstering the defense, especially up front, and Shook took notice of the contributions from the Cowboys’ rookie defensive linemen.

6 defensive prospects the Cowboys will be watching at the NFL Combine - David Howman, Blogging the Boys

The Cowboys should have their eyes on these guys in Indy.

Jalen Pitre, S - Baylor

One of the better traditions of draft season as a Cowboys fan is spending months falling in love with a safety prospect only to watch the team ignore the position until it’s far too late. Out of respect for that tradition, I’m here to sell you on Jalen Pitre.

In all seriousness, Pitre seems like a prospect Quinn should fall in love with. Baylor deployed him at a plethora of positions, including both safety spots, as a cornerback, and even in the box as a safety/linebacker hybrid. And Pitre thrived in every single one of those roles. He’s a physical presence whose versatility would shine on a defense already featuring Parsons, and Quinn should salivate at the thought of scheming around those two.

The biggest question for Pitre, though, is his athleticism with regards to being able to play as more of a traditional coverage safety. The combine will answer that to an extent.

2022 NFL mock draft: New 3-round projections heading into combine - Luke Easterling, Draft Wire

What do the Cowboys do in this three-round mock draft?

24. Dallas Cowboys | Washington CB Kyler Gordon

Trevon Diggs has obviously emerged as one of the NFL’s best playmakers at corner, but the rest of the group in Dallas needs work. Gordon checks every box league decision-makers are looking for in a shutdown corner, and the track record of success that proves he knows how to use those tools.

Is free agent TE Dalton Schultz a franchise tag option for Cowboys? - Ben Grimaldi, WFAA

Could Schultz be franchised tagged?

That leaves tight end Dalton Schultz as the most likely option to be tagged. At a projected $10.9 million tally, the Cowboys might be able to find a way to afford Schultz.

The question is, with other issues to address up and down the roster, is Schultz worth that cost? If Dallas wants to keep their most productive tight end, they might be willing to pay the quote.

However, there are reports that the team will not be tagging Schultz.

Time will tell if this is true, but Schultz does feel like the logical candidate as of now. Things can change over the course of the next few weeks but Schultz is the best player at his position for the Cowboys.

The fifth-year TE had his best season in 2021 as one of the focal points of the offense. Schultz took over for fellow tight end Blake Jarwin as the featured option in the offense due to Jarwin’s injuries throughout the year and following Schultz’s breakout 2020 campaign.

The NFL’s top 30 offensive free agents - Mark Schofield, Touchdown Wire

Which Cowboys land on this list?

Dalton Schultz is just one of the decisions facing “America’s Team.” The Cowboys also face a decision regarding their wide receiver room this off-season, as Michael Gallup is set to hit free agency, and there have been rumblings about a move regarding Amari Cooper from a cost-cutting perspective. While the organization might want to find a way to keep Cooper in the fold — and looking at Dak Prescott’s production with Cooper on the field might point you to the reason why — that could make Gallup the receiver that ends up finding a new home.

Gallup operated primarily on the boundaries last season, seeing 46% of his snaps aligned wide to the left and another 46% of his snaps aligned to the right, and projects best to an offense that needs a vertical receiver that can be used as both an X or a Z receiver. Gallup has the ability to beat press-aligned defenders with jukes and stutters at the line of scrimmage, but also has the upper-body strength to fight off most press coverage defenders throughout the route stem and at the catch point. Gallup sinks his hips well on breaks, and has enough speed to get over the top of defenses and to erase soft cushions from cornerbacks.

While he might not be a true WR1 for teams, those looking for a second option across from that WR1 are going to like what he brings to the table.

Dante Fowler is an intriguing free agent target for Dallas Cowboys - Cole Patterson, A to Z Dallas

Dante Fowler anyone?

Randy Gregory is expected to be re-signed by the Cowboys. The talented pass rusher has had some difficulties staying on the field, but his upside is through the roof.

What the Dallas Cowboys opt to do with DeMarcus Lawrence is worth monitoring. There is smoke that the veteran Pro Bowler could be a cap casualty this offseason as the Cowboys work around the salary cap.

Lawrence would be a big on-field loss and make the need for defensive end that much greater. That is even more true when factoring in that Dorance Armtrong is yet another EDGE on the team up for a new deal.

Fortunately, there are some potentially cheap options on the free agent market for the Cowboys to explore in adding. Dante Fowler is among the players that Dallas would be smart to look into.

Fowler is connected to Dan Quinn, which makes this possibility more likely of happening. The 2015 first-rounder played for Quinn with the Falcons in 2020 and at the University of Florida back in 2011.

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