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Grading the Cowboys 2022 NFL Draft including the undrafted free agents by value against draft boards

How did the Cowboys grade in the 2022 NFL Draft?

NFL: APR 28 2022 Draft Photo by Jeff Speer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the 2022 NFL Draft and undrafted free agency now done with, we can assign it a grade based on where well-advised media members had these players at in their official grades.

We’ll use my personal big board, Dan Brugler’s big board, Daniel Jeremiah’s big board, and a consensus big board put together by The Athletic’s Arif Hassan to do our grading today. Let’s get to grading.

Round 1, 24th Overall

Tyler Smith, OL, Tulsa

NCAA Football: Tulsa at Central Florida Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports

Your first round pick is one of the only picks you have to try and nail in the NFL Draft. With so much uncertainty projecting day two and day three picks, good teams normally do a great job of getting good value and players with their day one selections. According the all big boards listed, this was a pretty big reach for the Cowboys. Though noted by many, Tyler Smith out of Tulsa has an extremely high ceiling, but also has one of the lower floors in this class. For a team that has a relatively small window with the QB going into year two of his contract, and big-time players such as Micah Parsons, CeeDee Lamb, and Trevon Diggs likely searching for market-setting deals in the next two-three seasons this team’s window is shorter than some fans want to admit.

GRADE: D-

Consensus Ranking: 47th

Dane Brugler: 50th

Daniel Jeremiah: 42nd

Connor Livesay: 70th

Ranking Average: 52nd

Round 2, 56th Overall

De Williams

Sam Williams is listed as De Williams. A reminder that he specifically asked Cowboys fans to refer to him as that when he joined BTB’s coverage of the draft (explainer here).

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Mississippi at Baylor Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

This was one of the hardest picks to grade for the Cowboys. Some evaluators loved Williams coming out of Ole Miss, and some viewed it as a huge gamble due to some of the inconsistencies on the field and some murky issues off the field. All in all, the Cowboys got really good value here from a productive SEC pass rusher with elite physical and athletic traits. Williams is an exceptional athlete who racked up 12.5 sacks in his final year at Ole Miss. In year one he has the potential to be a top three pass rusher on this team, and make a difference on third downs.

At the end of the day, the consensus board views this as another big reach, while my ranking on Williams are more in line with good value. We’ll use the three rankings to average out a grade for the Cowboys second round selection.

GRADE: C

Consensus Ranking: 83rd

Dane Brugler: 91st

Daniel Jeremiah: 80th

Connor Livesay: 48th

Ranking Average: 76th

Round 3, 88th Overall

Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama

NCAA Football: South Alabama at Tennessee Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

Most people’s favorite selection by the Cowboys came in the third round, in South Alabama WR Jalen Tolbert. After going offensive line and edge rusher in the first two rounds, we had a good feeling it was going to be a receiver or a tight end. While we weren’t totally sure they would go for a smaller school prospect here, they ended up doing the smart thing and getting some strong value here in Tolbert. He is a well built boundary receiver, with above average speed, ball skills, hands, and route running abilities. While he isn’t overall dynamic in one area, he has an NFL ready skillset, and one of the higher floors in this class. The Cowboys finally got some great value in the third round, and the rankings agree.

GRADE: A-

Consensus Ranking: 74th

Dane Brugler: 59th

Daniel Jeremiah: 88th

Connor Livesay: 53rd

Average Ranking: 69th

Round 4, 129th Overall

Jake Ferguson, TE, Wisconsin

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 30 SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl - Wisconsin v Arizona State Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If you haven’t noticed yet, this draft feels eerily similar to the 2018 NFL Draft. After going with a smaller school athletic ''traitsy” project in round one with Tyler Smith (Leighton Vander Esch), they back it up with going a position of need in round two in De Williams (Connor Williams) that may need some time to develop, and a productive, NFL ready, small-school prospect in round three in Jalen Tolbert (Michael Gallup). In round four, what do you know, they add another high-floor, lower-ceiling tight end prospect out of a school that has success putting tough, physical players into the NFL in Wisconsin’s Jake Ferguson (Dalton Schultz). Ferguson isn’t what we would call a sexy pick, but he’s consistent, reliable, and has some impressive ball skills for a big-man. While he’s not an elite blocker, he’s willing and has shown strides in that area of his game. It wasn’t Jelani Woods, Jeremy Ruckert, or Cade Otton so naturally some fans are mad with this pick, but it’s not bad value at all for the player and what this team needs in a tight end right away and down the road.

GRADE: C

Consensus Ranking: 135th

Dane Brugler: (5th Round Grade)

Daniel Jeremiah: Not Ranked

Connor Livesay: 135th

Average Ranking: N/A

Round 5, 155th Overall

Matt Waletzko, OT, North Dakota

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 02 Reese’s Senior Bowl Practice Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The next few selection for the Cowboys were quite the head-scratchers, and areas where this team needs to improve. Looking at the Cowboys fifth-round selections over the years is not a fun thing to do, and the start of fifth round gave me an eerily similar feeling. Matt Waletzko is the definition of a project possessing the physical and athletic traits at the tackle position, but has a lot of work to do from a technical and fundamental standpoint before he’s ready to make any sort of impact at the NFL level. This was also a massive reach by most, and while it is the fifth round, the Cowboys need to do a better job of finding contributors in this round and on day three.

GRADE: D-

Consensus Ranking: 152nd

Dane Brugler: (7th Round Grade)

Daniel Jeremiah: Not Ranked

Connor Livesay: 221st

Average Ranking: N/A

Round 5, 167th Overall

DaRon Bland, CB, Fresno State

Fresno State v Hawaii Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

Last year Dan Quinn got his guy in Nahshon Wright, and this year it seems like he got another one of his guys in DaRon Bland out of Fresno State. Bland is a well built corner at 6’0” 197lbs, with 32” arms, and possessing 4.46 speed. Bland doesn’t have bad tape by any means, and he’s an extremely high-effort player in coverage and in run support. He’s more of practice squad guy than a player you’d expect to make a NFL roster right away, but he has some traits the Cowboys are obviously interested in developing.

With only one of our boards having Bland with a draftable grade, it’s tough to put a fair ranking on Bland. I personally didn’t have enough games on him to put a fair assessment together. Jeremiah seems to be higher on him than anyone, and that does hold some weight, pulling what looked to be a F up to a D-.

GRADE: D-

Consensus Ranking: Not Ranked out of 300

Dane Brugler: Priority Free Agent Grade

Daniel Jeremiah: 121st

Connor Livesay: Not Ranked out of 225

Average Ranking: N/A

Round 5, 176th Overall

Damone Clark, LB, LSU

LSU v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

After two questionable picks in the fifth, the Cowboys come back and smack back-to-back bombs to close out the fifth round. While the medicals are a concern for Damone Clark, taking a risk on a what would have been second-round player in the fifth is well worth the chance. Clark is expected to make a full recovery from his spinal fusion surgery he underwent back in March, and Stephen Jones even told us on Saturday that they seem him having a realistic chance to play in 2022 if all goes as planned. Realistically, the outlook should be to view Damone Clark as a potential Vander Esch replacement in 2023, after he takes the time to make a full recovery from a serious surgery. If he makes it back to form, Clark is a force linebacker with the ability to trigger downhill, play sideline-to-sideline, and make plays in coverage and as a blitzer.

GRADE: A-

Consensus Ranking: 103rd

Dane Brugler: 7th Round Grade (due to injury)

Daniel Jeremiah: Not Ranked out of 123

Connor Livesay: 88th

Average Ranking: N/A

Round 5, 178th Overall

John Ridgeway, DL, Arkansas

Arkansas v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

After landing some excellent value with the 176th pick, they come back and do the same with 178th overall pick. John Ridgeway is a day one starter at nose tackle or the 1-technique position, and should compete for snaps right away on early downs with Carlos Watkins and Quinton Bohanna. Ridegway is a tough, physical, stout run defender with a no nonsense mentality in the middle of a defense. While it’s another “not sexy” pick, expect Ridegway to play plenty over the next four years for the Cowboys as a run-stuffing defensive tackle.

GRADE: A

Consensus Ranking: 142nd

Dane Brugler: 3-4th Round Grade

Daniel Jeremiah: Not Ranked out of 123

Connor Livesay: 111th

Average Ranking: N/A

Round 6, 193rd Overall

Devin Harper, LB, Oklahoma State

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 04 Big 12 Championship Game - Oklahoma State v Baylor Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Cowboys closed their draft out with some some juice at linebacker. While Harper is likely more of a special teams add than a defensive addition here, there are things to like about his game as a developmental linebacker. Harper is a pretty freaky athlete for an undersized linebacker. While the boards were not too fond of the selection, Harper is likely a guy they wanted to add, but did not want to get in a bidding war on in undrafted free agency.

GRADE: D

Consensus Ranking: Not Ranked out of 300

Dane Brugler: Priority Free Agent Grade

Daniel Jeremiah: Not Ranked out of 123

Connor Livesay: Not Ranked out of 225

Average Ranking: N/A

Notable Undrafted Free Agent Additions

Alec Lindstrom, OC, Boston College

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 04 Colgate at Boston College Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

GRADE: A

Consensus Ranking: 182nd

Dane Brugler: 6-7th Round Grade

Daniel Jeremiah: Not Ranked out of 123

Connor Livesay: 182nd

Markquese Bell, S, Florida A&M

Grambling State v Florida A&M Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

GRADE: B

Consensus Ranking: 211th

Dane Brugler: 6-7th Round Grade

Daniel Jeremiah: Not Ranked out of 123

Connor Livesay: 225th

Aaron Hansford, LB, Texas A&M

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 27 Texas A&M at LSU Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

GRADE: B+

Consensus Ranking: 195th

Dane Brugler: 5-6th Round Grade

Daniel Jeremiah: Not Ranked out of 123

Connor Livesay: 202nd

Juanyeh Thomas, S, Georgia Tech

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 20 Georgia Tech at Notre Dame Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

GRADE: B

Consensus Ranking: 241st

Dane Brugler: 5-6th Round Grade

Daniel Jeremiah: Not Ranked out of 123

Connor Livesay: Not Ranked out of 225

Isaac Taylor-Stuart, CB, USC

Oregon State v USC Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

GRADE: B-

Consensus Ranking: 265th

Dane Brugler: 6th Round Grade

Daniel Jeremiah: Not Ranked out of 123

Connor Livesay: Not Ranked out of 225

Overal 2022 NFL Draft Grade: C

All-in-all, the Cowboys had an okay draft from a value. For most, they had big reaches in the first, second, and three-of-their four fourth-round picks when you factor in Damone Clark’s injury. While it’s not the grade you would want to see, we should preface this by saying a lot of the players drafted have extremely high ceilings. It sure seems like the Cowboys had a type going into this draft, and that type was big, nasty, athletic guys who could develop into blue chippers if they reach their ceiling. It may have more boom-or-bust than we may like, but they had a plan and they stuck to it. We’ll see what happens over the next two to three years, that really gives us the true grade of the 2022 NFL Draft.