Over the years, since Will McClay has taken over taken on a larger role in the NFL Draft as the VP of Player Personnel, the Dallas Cowboys have developed tendencies and trends. For those of us who play closer than normal attention to Dallas’ draft strategy, these tendencies/trends have develop into the Cowboys draft “10 Commandments” if you will.
Prior to the NFL Draft each year the Cowboys “10 Commandments” is something that’s become almost a given as to how they approach each pick on draft day. As K.D. Drummond of the Cowboys Wire laid out for us recently, Dallas was expected to stick to their normal tendencies and trends, however, surprisingly enough, they ended up going off script.
Today, we’re going to take in look at the Dallas Cowboys “10 Commandments” per K.D.’s write-up to see which one of them they broke and trying to analyze why they may have decided to do so.
#1 - Thou shalt not covet small-school players
As a rule of thumb, the Dallas Cowboys typically shy away from drafting players outside of the Power 5 (SEC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12, ACC). That wasn’t the case for them in 2022. From the get-go the selection of Tyler Smith with the 24th of role the first time around broke this rule and then they doubled up with their third in the Top 100 by drafting Jalen Tolbert at 88. That’s almost unheard of by the Cowboys, making this the biggest broken commandment.
#2 - Thou shalt use your 30 official visits wisely
If you were paying attention to the Dallas Cowboys 30 pre-draft visitors, then you probably recognized a few of the players they drafted, and some of the undrafted ones, who have a chance to make the team this year.
- RB Malik Davis, Florida (UDFA)
- Edge De Williams, Ole Miss
- LB Devin Harper, Oklahoma State
- CB DaRon Bland, Fresno State
- S Markquese Bell, Florida A&M (UDFA)
- S La’Kendrick Van Zandt, TCU (UDFA)
#3 - Thou shalt use your first pick on a “best at his position in the entire draft” prospect
Overall, the Dallas Cowboys stuck to their guns as for as this commandment is concerned. Tyler Smith was clearly there top-rated offensive lineman and De Williams, Jalen Tolbert were probably their top pass rusher and wide receiver in rounds two and three. An argument could be made Jermaine Johnson should’ve been Dallas’ selection with the 24th overall pick, but the Cowboys were obviously targeting the best OL in the first-round.
#4 - Thou shalt take huge risk in Round 2
While some may view De Williams as someone who falls in the “risk” category, the case can be made that his off-the-field issues that raised any red flags have been resolved and are behind him. Because of that, he isn’t in the same category as others who Dallas have taken in the second-round in the past like Kelvin Joseph, Jaylon Smith, or Randy Gregory. If there is any risk, it’s minimal, so for me at least that doesn’t qualify here.
#5 - Thou shalt prioritize certain positions over others
It’s almost become a joke around Cowboys Nation the Dallas Cowboys obviously prioritize certain position over others. We can almost rule out the safety and defensive tackle in the first two rounds, and normal only drafting quarterback, running back, tight end at some point on Day 3. Not so surprisingly, they stuck to their guns once again in the 2022 NFL Draft and more than likely continue to do so moving forward.
#6 - Thou shalt follow the money
Follow the money, as in trying to prepare for the future based on players currently on the roster who are entering contract years. This fits in with the thinking as to why they drafted Tyler Smith and Jake Ferguson, among others. With Tyron Smith’s continued inability to stay healthy and Dalton Schultz playing on the franchise tag, Smith and Ferguson were both drafted in the hopes they can take over as the eventual starters in the not-too-distant future.
#7 - Thou shalt not trade away your first-rounder
So the Cowboys obviously didn’t trade away their first-rounder, nor did they make a single trade in the entire 2022 NFL Draft. As far as trading away their first-rounder is concerned, the Cowboys seem to have learned their lesson after doing just that to acquire Amari Cooper from the Raiders a few years ago. While the trade led to differing opinions, it didn’t exactly pan out as well as they were probably hoping.
#8 - Thou shalt pay close attention to the front office interviews and pre-draft presser
The Jones’, both Jerry and Stephen, have an almost ingrained ability to give away their draft plans every year whether they are trying to do so or not. This year was no exception. Everybody knew they were targeting offensive lineman and wide receivers early in the draft. There probably wasn’t a single mock draft written that didn’t have them selecting one of those two positions early. It’s almost laughable, albeit frustrating for their fans.
#9 - Thou shalt follow one of two trends when drafting offense vs defense
After having a heavily defensive minded draft the Cowboys typically go heavy on the offensive side of the the next year, and vice versa. Because of that, Dallas was expected to go heavy on offense in 2022 after going 73% defense last year, and while that’s true to an extent, the scales were pretty balanced when all was said and done. In the end though, the draft favored the defensive side of the ball 5 to 4, thus slightly breaking this commandment.
#10 - Retired: Thou shalt prioritize getting premier athletes
Over the last few years the Dallas Cowboys have kind of shied away from uber-athletic players in the draft and their commitment to SPARQ scores. While we may have believed they had retired that way of thinking, it came back with a vengeance in 2022. It was pretty obvious Dallas was targeting athletically gifted prospects with upside this year, starting with Tyler Smith. Not all of their draft picks fit the bill this year, however, the majority of them do.