Just two picks after the Cowboys landed LSU linebacker Damone Clark, they were on the clock again. At 178th overall, and the penultimate pick of the Cowboys’ current draft arsenal, they selected Arkansas interior defensive lineman John Ridgeway.
As a native of Illinois, Ridgeway played both offensive tackle and defensive tackle in high school. However, as a 2-star recruit, Ridgeway only received one scholarship offer: hometown Illinois State. Ridgeway committed to the FCS program and made the permanent switch to the defensive line. After redshirting his first year, Ridgeway became a starter and actually earned FCS Freshman All-American honors. The next year, Ridgeway earned all conference honors.
Due to COVID-19, the FCS shifted their 2020 season to the spring of 2021. Ridgeway performed well enough in that shortened, unorthodox season to earn the opportunity to transfer to the SEC and play for the Arkansas Razorbacks. In his final year of eligibility, Ridgeway posted 39 tackles, four tackles for loss, and two sacks as a run-stuffing nose tackle.
Ridgeway didn’t test very well, but his measurables are what you’d expect from a guy his size. Ridgeway is a big-bodied presence in the trenches, standing at 6’5” and 321 pounds with 33.5” arms.
Ridgeway’s selection represents an attempt by the Cowboys to beef up their defensive trench after being let down by their run defense far too often in 2021. Ridgeway projects to a similar role to last year’s rookie Quinton Bohanna as a space-eating run stopper who doesn’t offer much value as a pass rusher.
Considering the Cowboys have three interior defensive linemen they seem to like as pass rushers - Neville Gallimore, Osa Odighizuwa, and Trysten Hill - it makes sense that they’ve now got two big run defenders in Bohanna and Ridgeway.
Ridgeway may not possess the athletic traits that many of the Cowboys’ other picks this year have, but for the role he’ll likely fill, that won’t matter as much for Ridgeway. He has long arms, great size, and the strength to hold up as a two-gapper. That’s something Dallas was sorely lacking last year after Brent Urban was lost for the season. This is a good start towards shoring up that part of their defense.
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