We’ve now moved past the East-West Shrine Bowl and the Senior Bowl as the 2022 NFL draft slowly crawls closer. Next stop on the draft train is the combine, but until then let’s take a look at a two-round mock draft for the Dallas Cowboys.
24. Dallas Cowboys
Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
The Cowboys’ scouting department has gone with the best available prospect in the first round of each of the past two drafts (wide receiver CeeDee Lamb in 2020, linebacker Micah Parsons in 2021), avoiding reaches to improve positions of strength. They could do that again with Dean, who could replace free-agent-to-be Leighton Vander Esch. Although Dean is a little undersized — 6 foot, 225 pounds — his play speed, smarts, leadership ability and physicality match every trait of the modern-day off-ball linebacker. Adding Dean would allow Parsons to remain on the edge full time as a versatile defender.
It worked last year, so the Cowboys go back to the linebacker well in round one. In truth, the Cowboys could be desperately looking for linebacker help to pair with all-everything Micah Parsons. Leighton Vander Esch is a free agent and the Cowboys passed on picking up his fifth-year option, tipping their hand that they could live without him if it came down to it. Vander Esch rallied with some quality games down the stretch of the 2021 season, but the Cowboys have a lot of mouths to feed in free agency and Vander Esch might be one they don’t feed.
Similarly, Keanu Neal is a free agent, and while he is one of Dan Quinn’s guys, his performance after moving to linebacker left something to be desired. His return to Dallas is by no means assured. That would leave the Cowboys without two of their top three linebackers from 2021, and Parsons spends quite a bit of time at defensive end, so there is a huge need for linebacker help. Jabril Cox is an intriguing prospect, but we just don’t know enough about him after he tore his ACL during the season before he had seen significant playing time.
So Nakobe Dean makes sense here. As noted above, he is a little undersized but he has the skill set for the modern game at linebacker. He was one of the leaders on the Georgia national championship team and would be a good fit in Dallas. As a sidenote: The Eagles scooped up edge Jermaine Johnson at pick #15 and center Tyler Linderbaum at pick #19. Both those players have been mentioned in association with the Cowboys and the draft in various ways this offseason. Also the Cardinals, at one pick before the Cowboys, picked up interior offensive lineman Kenyon Green, another name tossed around for Dallas.
In the second round, the Cowboys address their offensive line.
56. Dallas Cowboys
Sean Rhyan, OL, UCLA
With center Tyler Biadasz still inconsistent and Connor Williams potentially leaving in free agency, the Cowboys could look to find reinforcements for the interior of their offensive line. Rhyan played left tackle for the Bruins, but he has the skill set and strength to kick inside and become an instant impact contributor.
The interior of the Cowboys offensive line has become a ‘need’ position based on what was noted above about Connor Williams and Tyler Biadasz. The Cowboys will need to address it at some point in the draft.