The Dallas Cowboys front office has gained a reputation as one of the best at drafting across the NFL. Since 2010, the Cowboys lead the NFL in most All-Pro draft picks with nine. Specifically, the Cowboys have been very reliable when it comes to finding talent in the first-round. They struck gold in 2021 when they selected DE Micah Parsons. In 2021 they had a stellar first two rounds, selecting WR CeeDee Lamb in the first round and CB Trevon Diggs in the second round. The success is evident even as recently as 2022, when they surprisingly selected OL Tyler Smith in the first round. Despite criticism surrounding the pick, Smith had a very effective rookie season. He is following it up with an All-Pro caliber season at left guard. Despite their success at drafting, the Cowboys have received little to no impact from their 2023 rookie class through the first five games of the season.
DT Mazi Smith
The Dallas Cowboys have yet to receive a first-round caliber impact from their 2023 pick, DT Mazi Smith. The Cowboys went need over best player available when they selected Smith with the 26th pick in the draft. Some notable names they passed on were CB Joey Porter Jr., TE Sam LaPorta, LB Nolan Smith, and TE Michael Mayer. The front office chose Smith hoping that he would provide relief in stopping the run, a problem which has plagued this defense for several seasons. Smith has yet to consistently see playing time this year, as DT’s Osa Odighizuwa and Jonathan Hankins have received a majority of the workload through five weeks. However, Smith did receive his largest workload against the 49ers in Week 5, taking 22 defensive snaps. Smith was not able to make a difference as he was consistently pushed around by the 49ers offensive line. The Cowboys as a team allowed 170 rushing yards in the game.
It is hard to judge a defensive tackle solely based off his rookie season, let alone five games. However, Smith has looked pedestrian at best for the Cowboys. Through his first five games he has accumulated one pressure, zero tackles for loss, zero QB hits, and has a 52.4 PFF grade. While the Cowboys did pass on more talented prospects to draft the need of a defensive tackle, they also passed on Saints rookie DT Bryan Bresee. Bresee had a stellar preseason and so far has a PFF grade of 73.5 for the Saints in the regular season. He has looked like the much better draft pick up to this point.
TE Luke Schoonmaker
The Cowboys weren’t shy about their interest in the tight end position heading into the 2023 draft. They were heavily linked to tight ends like Dalton Kincaid and Michael Mayer throughout the process leading up to the draft. While they didn’t select a tight end in the first round, they did pull the trigger on Michigan’s Luke Schoonmaker in the second. They notably passed on LB Drew Sanders, WR Tank Dell, WR Jalin Hyatt, and WR Josh Downs.
Selecting a tight end as high as the second round led many Cowboys to believe that Schoonmaker had a legitimate shot to become the team’s first-string over TE Jake Ferguson. That has not been the case, as Ferguson has started each of the first five games. Schoonmaker has been unable to make any sort of real impact, receiving just six targets, catching one of them for a one-yard touchdown, and having two drops.
The ball placement from Dak Prescott on this pass to Luke Schoonmaker is as good as it gets.— Harrison Reno (@HarrisonReno) October 4, 2023
You have to come down with that football if you're Schoonmaker. pic.twitter.com/WeuXKpA9pB
LB DeMarvion Overshown
Overshown was one of the more intriguing and exciting picks from the 2023 draft class, as he was a Texas favorite in college with the Longhorns. After a stellar camp and good start to the preseason, Overshown unfortunately tore his ACL and is out the entire 2023 season.
Not having Overshown hurts even more after it was revealed on Monday that LB Leighton Vander Esch will be heading to IR as he nurses a neck injury.
Cowboys plan to place LB Leighton Vander Esch (neck) on injured reserve this week and are discussing a potential veteran addition. Test results been promising, and there is hope Vander Esch could be designated to return later this season, a person familiar with situation said.— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) October 9, 2023
Along with succeeding with their first-round picks, the Cowboys front office has a tendency of finding diamonds in the rough. They often find players in late-rounds who are able to make an impact on the team.
Notable late-round picks still on the Cowboys:
- QB Dak Prescott (2016)
- RB Tony Pollard (2019)
- TE Jake Ferguson (2022)
- DE Dorance Armstrong (2018)
- CB DaRon Bland (2022)
- LB Damone Clark (2022)
- S Donovan Wilson (2019)
However, they have yet to receive an impact from any of their late-round picks in the 2023 draft class. DL Viliami Fehoko, OL Asim Richards, WR Jalen Brooks, and CB Eric Scott Jr. were all inactive for Sunday night’s game against the 49ers. They also haven’t played any meaningful snaps in the four other regular season games.
The biggest name for the Cowboys from day three of their 2023 draft class is RB Deuce Vaughn. Vaughn turned heads by his explosive play in the preseason, making him an early favorite among the fanbase. However, he hasn’t gotten many opportunities behind RB’s Tony Pollard and Rico Dowdle to start the season.
Vaughn could be in line to make his impact on special teams, with star kick/punt returner KaVontae Turpin suffering a high-ankle sprain on Sunday.
The Cowboys simply are not receiving enough production from their rookie draft picks. The team received many negative grades after the draft, as many people believed they continuously passed on players with high-ceilings so they could fill needs.
The Dallas Cowboys had one of their worst draft classes in recent memory this offseason, and it’s hurting them this season. The Cowboys will need to receive more of an impact from players like Mazi Smith and Luke Schoonmaker if they hope to change this narrative.