It’s officially in the books. The Dallas Cowboys have made their nine selections in the 2022 NFL Draft. After they addressed the three biggest needs via OL Tyler Smith, EDGE Sam Williams, and WR Jalen Tolbert on the first two days in Las Vegas, they had a hectic day three with six selections, all in a relatively short stretch from 129 through 193. Here is a look at the new acquisitions from those picks and how they can fit in with the team.
Round 4 (129) TE Jake Ferguson, Wisconsin
While it was not as severe, tight end was also a spot the Cowboys needed to shore up on their roster while working out their plans for Dalton Schultz. After seeing some prospects they liked go before they went on the clock, they still got one of the top 10 TEs on Dane Brugler’s list. (Scouting info for this article taken from Brugler’s The Beast at The Athletic.)
Ferguson was an All Big 10 selection last year, and is more of a possession style pass catcher. notching 30 catches all four of his seasons with the Badgers. No other tight end in this year’s class could claim that. He lacks speed, but looks to have good value as a blocker. He won’t be challenging Schultz anytime soon, but is definitely in the mix to compete with Jeremy Sprinkle and Sean McKeon for snaps.
Brugler’s summation: Overall, Ferguson doesn’t have much style, but he has substance because of his above average ball skills and competitiveness as a blocker. He has the upside to be an NFL team’s No. 2 tight end.
Round 5 (155) OT Matt Waltzko, North Dakota
With Tyler Smith expected to kick inside to guard, Waltzko looks like OT depth with a possible future as a swing tackle. He is from a non-Power 5 conference, a new trend for the Cowboys after a strong preference for big school products the past few seasons. He is long and bendy with good movement skills. This will likely be a developmental project if he sticks with the Cowboys.
Summation: Overall, Waletzko has length that cannot be coached along with functional foot/body quickness, but he must continue developing his strength and stature before he is ready for live NFL reps. He has legitimate NFL upside but will require patience.
Round 5 (167): CB DaRon Bland, Fresno State
The small school trend continued here. However, Bland was one of the team’s 30 pre-draft visits. Dallas uses those visits to identify targets, and Bland appears to have impressed. His importance as a draftee is amplified by the shadow hanging over Kelvin Joseph with his off-field incident. Brugler had him as a seventh-round option. His size does seem to fit the Cowboys’ template.
Summation: Overall, 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.
Round 5 (176): LB Damone Clark, LSU
This time Dallas went fishing in the big, big pond of the SEC. They also went with a possible injury special, as Clark may be facing a “redshirt” year as he recovers from spinal surgery that he delayed until after the NFL Combine. Had he not been injured, he would have gone much earlier after leading the SEC in tackles last year.
Summation: Overall, Clark is a good-sized athlete and consistently stays ahead of schedule due to his play speed and ball-hunting skills, but he needs to expand his tunnel vision vs. the run and pass to be a complete NFL player. A projected day two draft pick based on talent, he is expected to miss his rookie season in the NFL due to recent spinal surgery, which will be an anchor on his draft projection.
Round 5 (178): DT John Ridgeway, Arkansas
It was another SEC product just two picks later for the Cowboys. They always seem to wait until the later rounds to address the interior of the D line, so this was very much in character. He is another superior athlete who will need to work on technique to fully thrive in the NFL. His biggest value will be on running downs, where he has the size to really help close down those lanes in the middle.
Summation: Ridgeway will be limited to early downs in the NFL, but he is burly, long and strong with the base power to stand up double teams and two-gap. He has NFL starting potential as a nose tackle.
Round 6 (193): LB Devin Harper, Oklahoma State
The final Dallas pick of 2022 is both a Power 5 product and one of the 30 visits. Harper adds needed depth to a linebacker group that is short on numbers and makes it easier to give Clark time to rehab. He is speedy and a hard hitter, with some value as a blitzer but not as good in coverage.
Summation: Overall, Harper’s coverage lapses on tape are bothersome, but he shows the downhill speed and demeanor to be a nickel defender and special teams standout.
Like the first two days of the draft, the picks on Day 3 started out a bit weak but got stronger later on. The Cowboys did a good job in filling some holes, but did not have enough picks to address running back, safety, and kicker. Look for those to be addressed as UDFAs.