Dane Brugler, The Athletic’s NFL draft guru, published a full seven-round mock draft on Thursday. As a well-respected draft expert, and someone who’s well-versed in the way the Dallas Cowboys approach their current roster needs, we should probably pay close attention to what he has to say. As such, we will take a look at his nine picks for the Cowboys.
1.24 - OG Zion Johnson, Boston College
Per Dane Brugler:
I’ll be surprised if this pick is anything other than an offensive lineman or wide receiver. Treylon Burks will be an enticing option for Dallas, but I’m giving the edge to the plug-and-play left guard who will help bring stability to an inconsistent unit.
No surprises here. The Cowboys biggest roster need right now is replacing Connor Williams at left guard and selecting Zion Johnson here would solve that issue. Johnson is regarded by many as the top-ranked OG in the entire 2022 draft class and has the ability to be a 10+ year starter in the NFL.
2.56 - EDGE Sam Williams, Ole Miss
Dane Brugler on Williams (from his draft guide, The Beast):
Williams must improve his discipline to be a more consistent edge-setter and rusher, but he has the upfield acceleration and attacking mentality to affect the game as a quarterback hunter. He is an exciting pass rush prospect in subpackages with potential to be more.
Sam Williams is a name on the rise for the Cowboys. He is regarded as a third-round pick by many, but in order for the Cowboys to secure his services they will likely have to take him at 56 instead of hoping he lasts until 88. He would probably be a pass rush specialist as a rookie until he can develop into a full-time starter and Randy Gregory replacement in a year or two.
3.88 - TE Jelani Woods, Virginia Tech
Per Dane Brugler:
At some point in rounds 2-4, the Cowboys are expected to draft a tight end. Over the last calendar year, Jelani Woods has gone from borderline draft pick to surefire draft pick to an expected day two draft pick. At 6-7 and 253 pounds, he ran a 4.61 40-yard dash and 6.95 three-cone, and the tape shows a productive pass catcher.
Jeremy Ruckert and Cade Otton were also in play here, so it would be a little interesting to see which direction the Cowboys would go if they decide to draft a TE here. Woods is definitely a player whose arrow was trending upwards and seems to have the skill set to develop into a full-time starter as soon as Year 2. He could sit and learn behind Dalton Schultz for a year before taking over full-time in 2023.
4.129 - WR Erik Ezukanma, Texas Tech
Dane Brugler on Ezukanma (from his draft guide):
Ezukanma is a predictable route runner with only average speed, but he is a natural ball-tracker with toughness and talent down the field. He projects as a WR4/WR5 who could see opportunities and move up the depth chart in the right situation.
Considering the amount of interest the Cowboys have shown in some of the top wide receivers throughout the draft process, it’s hard to imagine them waiting until the fourth-round to select the WR. However, Erik Ezukanma was one of their pre-draft visitors, so there is an interest there. He’s a similar player as far as size, speed, and skill set is concerned to what Dallas has in Michael Gallup, but not near as nuanced as a route runner.
5.155 - K Cade York, LSU
After suffering through the inaccuracy of Greg Zuerlien in 2021, it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see the Cowboys invest in who many believe is the top-ranked kicker in the 2022 draft class. Dallas isn’t known as a team who invests draft capital in kickers or punters, however, they are in need of some stability and accuracy from the position moving forward. York has that kind of game-changing ability.
5.167 - RB Abram Smith, Baylor
Dane Brugler on Smith (from his draft guide):
Smith won’t be an ideal fit for every scheme, but he is tailor-made for outside/split zone run game with his one-cut quickness and feel for lane development. He not only brings value to the backfield but is well-versed on defense and special teams to potentially offer three-way versatility.
With Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard cemented in as the Cowboys top two RBs in 2022, running back isn’t a big need for the Cowboys. But, things could change next year when Pollard becomes a free agent and Zeke has an out in his contract that could make him a contract casualty. In Abram Smith, the Cowboys would be getting a versatile player and a potential starter in 2023.
5.176 - LB Brandon Smith, Penn State
Per Dane Brugler:
The Cowboys have a strong track record when drafting Penn State linebackers in the last decade between Micah Parsons and Sean Lee. Smith isn’t anywhere near the level of those two players, but Dallas will be intrigued with the raw size-speed traits that he offers as a subpackage rusher or backer.
After re-signing Leighton Vander Esch and Luke Gifford, and with the expected emergence of Jabril Cox, LB is an interesting spot for the Cowboys in the draft. If they are wisely keeping the future in mind a player like Brandon Smith makes sense. He has all of the athletic traits to become an every down starter in the NFL, but probably needs more time to develop his skill set before he’s ready for that kind of role.
5.178 - OT Ryan Van Demark, Connecticut
Dane Brugler on Van Demark (from his draft guide):
Van Demark must continue to develop his core strength and pad level concerns, but he has the quickness, handwork and intelligence to earn an NFL roster spot as a swing tackle.
After releasing La’el Collins and with Terrance Steele taking over as the full-time starting right tackle, the Cowboys definitely need to find a new swing tackle and add depth to position. Ryan Van Demark is an intriguing, developmental late-round prospect. He would be competing with last year’s fourth-round draft pick Josh Ball for the No. 3 OT job.
6.193 - CB DaRon Bland, Fresno State
Dane Brugler on Bland (from his draft guide):
Bland has only average hips and will lose his feel for the route at times, but his length, speed and toughness are desirable traits for NFL teams to develop.
DaRon Bland is listed as a priority free agent in Brugler’s draft guide, so to see him being selected in the sixth-round for the Cowboys is a bit of a head-scratcher. But, his size (6’0”, 197), speed (4.46), and length (32” arms) are intriguing. In a passing league, teams can never have enough CBs.