The dust has settled on the first three rounds of the 2022 Draft, and the Cowboys addressing offensive line, defensive end, and wide receiver comes as no surprise. The path to getting there may have been unconventional, but they got there.
The Cowboys weren’t the only team to send out smoke signals just before the draft that the strength of this class is the later- round depth. They’re positioned nicely to add even more depth on day three with six picks left to make. Finding immediate starters with impact potential still needed to be a priority for Dallas with their top-100 picks, and overall they did an above average job here.
We covered Cowboys starters that could be on notice during the draft early in March, and - big surprise - things change quickly in the NFL. Instead of Kelvin Joseph, Neville Gallimore, and Tyler Biadasz seeing the team draft potential replacements at cornerback, defensive tackle, or center, it’s the fringe players at guard, defensive end, and receiver facing more competition now.
Your winners are the three mentioned above: Kelvin Joseph, Neville Gallimore, and Tyler Biadasz. Also, Dak Prescott wins because he got a guard and a wide receiver.
Here is a closer look at where the Cowboys roster stands heading into day three of the Draft.
Round 1, Pick 24: OT Tyler Smith, Tulsa
Roster Fit: This pick has looked marginally better since the Cowboys have made it, even with the fact that Smith graded higher than Kenyon Green or Zion Johnson. Smith had an impressive first press conference with the team, and was a reported trade up target by the Titans at the end of the first.
There’s still no doubt the Cowboys have a lot of work to do with Smith to realize his potential, and will be doing so with the expectation he can step in at left guard immediately. The Cowboys lost Connor Williams in free agency, one of the more expected moves of this offseason. Drafting Smith was much more unexpected on Thursday, especially since the Cowboys could deal with the same struggles they went through in Williams’ game with Smith.
Speed and change of direction gave Smith issues at Tulsa, where he plays with a slim base and struggles with footwork and balance. Moving him to guard should help with his footwork, but Smith’s inconsistent hand placement and ability to generate power are immediate coaching points for Joe Philbin. Though edge rushers and bigger defensive tackles gave him issues, Smith is a force to be reckoned with on the second level, digging out linebackers to create holes in the run game.
Players on the bubble after the pick: Smith told the Dallas media he’s a “left side player” here, so a long-term future as Tyron Smith’s replacement could be in the cards. The Cowboys also need a better contingency plan behind Terence Steele at right tackle, where Smith could be an emergency option.
For now, it’s players like Matt Farniok, Isaac Alarcon, and Connor McGovern that are set to learn how first-round picks gain an inside track to playing time once the roster battle at interior OL heats up.
Round 2, Pick 56: DE Sam Williams, Ole Miss
Roster Fit: Dan Quinn got his guy in the second round as the Cowboys addressed the need for pass rush left behind by Randy Gregory. With no plans to make Micah Parsons a full-time defensive end, the Cowboys had a lot of room for improvement at the position behind DeMarcus Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong, and new addition Dante Fowler.
Armstrong and Fowler are best used in certain packages and situations, and the same is true of Williams entering his rookie season. This is a workable pass rusher with plenty of pro-ready traits, bursting off the ball quickly and using his hands to leverage blocks. The Cowboys defense wants to force teams into obvious throwing situations again this season, whether that’s by stopping the run at a high level or playing from ahead thanks to the offense. Doing so would not only be best for Armstrong and Fowler to get pass rush reps, but Williams as well, who also shows plus range against the run.
Players on the bubble after the pick: The Cowboys don’t have a ton of depth here, and their position flex up front means every player has a chance to find a home at the moment.
Chauncey Golston is a second-year player that lined up at both end and tackle, but bringing back Carlos Watkins gives the Cowboys solid depth inside. Now Williams is another name for Golston to compete with for snaps on the edge.
It’s highly unlikely the Cowboys give up on Golston this season, but cutting down to 53 is never easy, and Williams will have his say in how the Cowboys build this defensive line.
Round 3, Pick 88: WR Jalen Tolbert, Southern Alabama
Roster Fit: The mock draft simulations I ran just before Thursday night felt like the final, desperate cramming for a final exam, but the board did line up best for the Cowboys when starting off the draft with a wide receiver at 24. Not only did they get wiped out early here, but a second-round run on receivers pushed arguably their biggest need to the third round. Fortunately, Dallas was still able to come away with an impact player that fills their biggest need for speed at the position.
Tolbert ran a 4.49 second 40-yard dash at the Combine, and there is not a single wasted movement in his game. This is a player that sells all of his routes the same, making it hard for defensive backs to mirror. Tolbert is light on his feet, gets upfield quickly with the ball in his hands, and floats vertically at the catch point to climb over defenders.
With the loss of Amari Cooper, every player in the Cowboys receiver room is taking a step up this season. CeeDee Lamb goes from a high end number two to the team’s alpha, and Michael Gallup is no longer the three that makes unscripted plays flying under the radar. More of Lamb and Gallup’s touches should come in the scheme of Kellen Moore’s offense, but adding Tolbert gives them that safety valve option with big play potential. Tolbert’s route running precision should help the Cowboys spacing even when he’s not the primary target, a third-round pick with a real chance to see the field very early.
Players on the bubble after the pick: Like defensive end, this also isn’t a very deep position for the Cowboys, but their current roster has a few names that could be pushed by Tolbert.
T.J. Vasher and Brandon Smith are the obvious choices, but even Simi Fehoko should be expected to compete for his job after contributing nothing in 2021. Tolbert can play in the slot or outside, giving the Cowboys plenty of maneuverability at receiver under first year coach Robert Prince.
With one pick in the fourth, four more in the fifth, and one in the sixth, the Cowboys could be putting even more current players on the roster bubble to close out the draft. For a team that needs depth, they’ll absolutely settle for these day three picks starting off as backups going into 2022, but their class so far has a strong emphasis on filling roles that are vacant.
Smith, Williams, and Tolbert all bring something that was missing from this team at critical points of last season, with high upside to develop as the Cowboys work through rebuilding on the fly around Dak Prescott. Drafting him a new left guard and receiver is a good start, with more picks to come as the Cowboys enter day three with needs at tight end, cornerback/safety, and linebacker.