The Cowboys have made a pretty good habit out of finding gems in undrafted free agency year in and year out. Some of the most legendary players in franchise history, including Tony Romo, Drew Pearson, Everson Walls, and Mark Tuinei, all went undrafted. While players like Luke Gifford, Terence Steele, and Cooper Rush have had some success as undrafted free agents in Dallas, it’s been a while since anyone really achieved the kind of status as the aforementioned names.
With Dallas signing 19 undrafted free agents from this year’s 2022 draft class, there are several names who seem to be in a good spot to continue that tradition for the Cowboys. Here is a quick introduction to all 19 of those players.
Markquese Bell, S - Florida A&M
As the first announced UDFA signing for Dallas this year, Markquese Bell seemed to be a priority target. That’s reinforced by his place as one of the Cowboys’ top 30 pre-draft visits. A full scouting report of Bell can be found here, but he played with great athleticism in a hybrid role at Florida A&M and gives Dallas a great developmental safety dripping with potential.
Big Kat Bryant, EDGE - UCF
Markaviest “Big Kat” Bryant originally committed to Auburn as a 4-star recruit, joining the Tigers with lofty expectations. Over four seasons with the Tigers, Bryant never lived up to the hype, registering just 10 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss in four years there. He took advantage of the COVID-19 eligibility freeze and played one more year, this time with UCF after a transfer. With the Knights, Bryant tallied six sacks and 13 tackles for loss, a significant jump in production.
Listed at 6’4” and 254 pounds with 34” arms, he has an ideal frame for success on the edge. However, he’s struggled to develop his technique thus far and lacks the elite athleticism to overcome his poor fundamentals. Bryant is a project, for sure, but one Dan Quinn is likely eager to get to work on.
Juanyeh Thomas, S - Georgia Tech
Juanyeh Thomas was one of many names on this list that was a surprise to go undrafted. At 6’1” and 215 pounds, Thomas is very well built for a safety and he tested in the 85th percentile at the combine. Through three years as a starter with the Yellow Jackets, he amassed 195 tackles, four interceptions, 11 passes defensed, and six forced fumbles.
Many draft experts considered Thomas to be an early Day 3 pick, offering great physicality that would add value on special teams. He has some weaknesses in coverage, which led to some suggestions he may transition to linebacker in the NFL.
Isaac Taylor-Stuart, CB - USC
Much like Big Kat, Isaac Taylor-Stuart was a highly touted recruit who struggled to live up to the lofty expectations set for himself. Taylor-Stuart was a 4-star recruit who committed to his hometown Trojans, but the production never followed. Through 24 games at USC, he totaled 80 tackles, two interceptions, and seven passes defensed.
However, he tested off the charts at the combine, recording the fastest 10-yard split of any cornerback in attendance, as well as running a 95th percentile 40-yard dash. Taylor-Stuart offers some great physical traits, but his college tape just lacked the production necessary to get drafted.
Ty Fryfogle, WR - Indiana
To those who watched Hoosiers football games closely over the last three years, you know Ty Fryfogle as a great competitor who simply keeps his head down and puts in work. At 6’1” and 204 pounds, he has a great frame for the position and he has 2,231 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns during his time in Indiana. Fryfogle put up some of the best vertical and broad jump measurements of any receiver at the combine, but otherwise tested well below his fellow receivers.
Amon Simon, OT - Texas A&M-Commerce
Not much is known about Amon Simon, which is a side effect of his playing at a lesser known school. Simon was high school teammates with Texas A&M guard Kenyon Green, a popular first-round target for the Cowboys this year. He measures in at 6’5” and 303 pounds with ridiculous 35” arms. His pro day test numbers were dismal, though, but the Cowboys must be intrigued by his incredible frame.
Aaron Shampklin, RB - Harvard
Unless you pay close attention to Ivy League football, Aaron Shampklin isn’t a familiar name. That may very well change. Shampklin is a little light at 5’9” and 194 pounds, but he ran a 4.48 40-yard dash and posted an incredible 37.5” vertical jump. Not only that, he averaged just under six yards a carry on 323 career carries at Harvard, leading CBS’ Chris Trapasso to name him this draft’s “most likely to be the next surprisingly good undrafted free agent running back.”
Alec Lindstrom, C - Boston College
Here’s another name that was a big surprise to go undrafted. Alec Lindstrom’s brother, Chris, plays for the Falcons; he was drafted 14th overall in 2019 by Dan Quinn’s Falcons. Now, brother Alec joins another Quinn-coached team.
Lindstrom was considered by many to be the third or fourth best center in this draft, and a likely late-Day 2/early-Day 3 pick. At 6’3” and 296 pounds, he is slightly undersized for a lineman but he tested well above average at the combine and brings the experience of a three-year starter at Boston College.
Jonathan Garibay, K - Texas Tech
So, the Cowboys didn’t draft a kicker like many fans wanted them to, but they did add one in undrafted free agency. A native of California, Jonathan Garibay transferred to Texas Tech after two seasons in the JUCO ranks near his hometown. He didn’t see the field until the 2020 season, when he jumped the Red Raiders’ starting kicker after hitting eight of his 11 field goals.
Garibay entered the 2021 season as the Red Raiders’ starting kicker, and he delivered a great season. Garibay hit on 49 of his 50 extra point attempts and 15 of his 16 field goal tries, making him one of the most accurate kickers that year. He also hit on all 14 of his attempts inside of 50 yards, and he broke an NCAA record for longest game-winning field goal when he drilled a 62-yarder against Iowa State.
Dontario Drummond, WR - Ole Miss
While the college football world was fawning over quarterback Matt Corral this past season, Dontario Drummond was enjoying a career year as his favorite target. After transferring to Ole Miss from a JUCO school, he spent two seasons as a rotational receiver before leading the Rebels in receptions, and touchdowns this past season en route to a 10-win season.
Drummond tested poorly at the combine, especially in the 40-yard dash, which functioned as a kiss of death for him. However, he has good size - he’s 6’1” and 215 pounds - and has experience playing all over the field with a well-developed route tree.
La’Kendrick Van Zandt, S - TCU
La’Kendrick Van Zandt spent the past two years as a key contributor at safety for the TCU Horned Frogs, during which time he amassed 81 tackles, nine tackles for loss, two interceptions, and three fumble recoveries. As is usually the case for TCU alums, Van Zandt has some exceptional athletic traits, placing in the 95th percentile of safeties in the vertical jump and the 85th percentile in both the short shuttle and 10-yard split.
Aaron Hansford, LB - Texas A&M
The Cowboys may have drafted two linebackers this year, but Aaron Hansford should have a good shot at making the tail end of the Cowboys roster based on his past. After slowly rising on the depth chart in his first three years in College Station, he became a starter for the Aggies defense this past season. He responded by leading the team in tackles and was an all-around playmaker. At 6’2” and 239 pounds, Hansford promises to offer solid value in the special teams game.
Peyton Hendershot, TE - Indiana
Peyton Hendershot is looking to continue a trend of basketball players becoming productive NFL tight ends. An Indiana native, Hendershot transitioned to football and committed to the hometown Hoosiers. While his junior season was interrupted by COVID-19, he averaged 12 yards per reception and four touchdowns in both 2019 and 2021.
Standing at 6’3” and 246 pounds, Hendershot offers good size for the position. He also ranked in the 85th percentile or higher in the bench press, 10-yard split, short shuttle, and 3-cone drill. He started all four years at Indiana and was a team captain, offering good experience and production as he joins the Cowboys.
Storey Jackson, LB - Liberty
Malik Willis got all the attention at Liberty this past year, and rightfully so, but Storey Jackson was a star on defense for the Flames. He easily led the team in tackles with 102, 22 more than the next defender, and also led the team with 13 tackles for loss and seven sacks. He wasn’t overly athletic, but at 6’1” and 224 pounds he has the production to translate to special teams. That’s where he’ll have to make his mark in Dallas.
Mika Tafua, EDGE - Utah
Mika Tafua fits the bill as a hidden gem. He was a productive rotational rusher for Utah his first three seasons before breaking out with 9.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss this year. He also tested in the 85th percentile or higher in every single drill, showing some great athleticism. John Owning’s Twitter thread below does a great job detailing what kind of potential Tafua has:
Malik Davis, RB - Florida
Malik Davis saw most of his time at Florida as a rotational change-of-pace back, as Dameon Pierce (drafted in the fourth round this year) handled the lion’s share of the load. Davis still ran for 487 yards and five touchdowns on 92 carries in 2021. His explosion measurables (vertical and broad jumps) both tested in the 95th percentile. That, combined with a very low workload in college (Davis never crossed 100 carries in a season), makes for some promising potential.
Dennis Houston, WR - Western Illinois
A native of San Antonio, Dennis Houston is returning home to Texas after spending his college career at Western Illinois. Standing at 6’2” and 205 pounds, he offers a good frame and desirable catch radius. In his sole season as a starter for the Leathernecks, Houston caught 90 passes for 1,015 yards and six touchdowns. His vertical jump and bench press performance both placed in the 90th percentile among draft-eligible receivers this year.
Jaquarii Roberson, WR - Wake Forest
Jaquarii Roberson joins the Cowboys after two impressive seasons as a starter for the Demon Deacons, in which he tallied 2,004 yards and 16 touchdowns on 133 catches. That’s an average of 15 yards per reception. Roberson’s elite athleticism - including explosion measurements in the 97th percentile - made him a dynamic weapon in Wake Forest’s efficient passing offense.
James Empey, iOL - BYU
James Empey probably should have been a draft pick given his body of work. As a four-year starter at center in BYU’s zone blocking scheme, he excelled in run blocking and was in charge of making all the calls and adjustments at the line. However, at 6’3” and 297 pounds, Empey was already a bit small. Then, he tested horribly at just about every drill at his pro day, which dashed any hopes of hearing his name called. Still, he has loads of experience and demonstrated high football IQ in his college career, and could offer versatility at either guard spot as well.