It’s no secret that the Dallas Cowboys are very successful when it comes to drafting players. The belief that the Cowboys have in their scouting department is a key reason why the team rarely trades away draft picks, and aren’t typically heavy spenders in free agency during the offseason. The Cowboys are benefiting greatly from their 2022 draft class this season.
Round 1: LG Tyler Smith
With the 24th pick of the first round in the 2022 draft, the Dallas Cowboys selected Tulsa offensive lineman Tyler Smith. The selection immediately faced immense criticism from national media and Cowboys fans, as Smith had a bad penalty problem in his final collegiate season. However, the Cowboys scouting department had belief in his physical traits and raw talent and potential. The Cowboys were rewarded with their draft pick of Smith in his rookie season. Due to an injury to LT Tyron Smith, Tyler Smith had to start the season at left tackle in his rookie year, and impressed early.
Throughout the 2023 season, Smith has been playing at the left guard position for the Cowboys. He’s not only improved from his impressive rookie season, he’s playing at a level that is as high as any guard in the NFL currently. Through 12 games he has played 698 snaps and allowed just one sack. He is especially impressive as a run-blocker, showing off his size and athleticism at the position.
Check out Cowboys’ left guard Tyler Smith on The Great Fred Warner. You don’t see this kind of athleticism often with an O-lineman. (Apologies to that “other” 73, Larry Allen. The best I have seen, BTW) pic.twitter.com/k4I8jQ38D4— Babe Laufenberg (@BabeLaufenberg) October 11, 2023
Smith is playing at a level in 2023 that should earn him his first career Pro Bowl selection as well as a All-Pro honor.
Round 2: DE Sam Williams
When the Cowboys drafted Ole Miss DE Sam Williams in the second round of the 2022 draft, some analysts believed they reached in selecting him. However, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn was locked in from Williams throughout the entire draft process and wanted to ensure he would be a Cowboy.
Through 15 games in his rookie season, Williams registered four sacks for the Cowboys. He also forced three fumbles, recovering one of them. Through 12 games for the team in 2023, Williams has four sacks again. While the sack number isn’t particularly high for Williams, he has had several impressive plays for the Cowboys this year, one coming on special teams.
The Cowboys have arguably the deepest pass-rushing unit in the NFL, with several big-time talents at the position. Williams hasn’t had the opportunity yet to be an every-down defensive end on this defense. However, he has shown flashes of the talent that garnered the attention of the Cowboys in his draft process and is someone that any team would be happy to have on their team. He should continue improving and getting more opportunities throughout the remainder of his rookie contract.
Round 3: WR Jalen Tolbert
It is hard to think of a player in recent Cowboys memory who had a more disappointing first season with the team after being drafted than WR Jalen Tolbert. The Cowboys spent their third-round pick on Tolbert in the 2022 draft with hopes that he could bring an immediate impact to the wide receiver room. However, he was only active in eight games for the Cowboys in his rookie season, starting just one of them. He finished his rookie season with a measly two receptions for 12 yards.
Tolbert has bounced back in a big-way for the Cowboys in his sophomore season, being active for all twelve games played this season and starting five of them. So far this season, Tolbert has 17 receptions for 200 yards and one touchdown for the Cowboys. He has also been receiving more opportunities this year as veteran WR Michael Gallup has been inconsistent throughout the season.
Jalen Tolbert has not had an incredibly statistic-filled season for the Cowboys, but he has drawn some critical penalties and been a factor in his own way.— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) December 1, 2023
We have seen a lot of growth and development from him in year two.
Tolbert still has plenty of room for improvement as a wide receiver in the NFL. With that said, his improvement from his rookie to sophomore season is a good sign that he is trending in the right direction for the Cowboys.
Round 4: TE Jake Ferguson
Tight end Jake Ferguson showed flashes in his rookie season with the Cowboys last year, showing his athleticism and play-making ability. With that said, he still only had 19 receptions for 174 yards and two touchdowns in his rookie year. His snaps were limited as he was the team’s backup behind proven TE Dalton Schultz. When Schultz signed with the Houston Texans this offseason, it opened up a door for Ferguson to make a consistent impact as the starter for the team. He has more than answered the call in 2023.
Through 12 games, Ferguson has 46 receptions for 498 yards and five touchdowns. He has been a consistent go-to option for QB Dak Prescott in the passing attack throughout the season. Ferguson has quickly become a fan-favorite in Dallas with his dynamic play and his tough attitude. He made headlines for his swagger against the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday Night Football.
I understand why the Seahawks defenders were so pissed at Jake Ferguson and were yanking his facemask and spearing him in the head. He absolutely embarrassed them! Breaking ankles, running right through them, and even jumping over them. It was awesome! pic.twitter.com/MIJexR2RKn— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) December 2, 2023
Ferguson has solidified himself as the team’s starting tight end this year and likely for the foreseeable future, making him a great pick in the fourth round.
Round 5: LB Damone Clark
The Cowboys took a chance when they drafted LB Damone Clark with their fifth-round pick in the 2022 draft. Clark was a talented prospect from LSU before he saw his stock plummet after an MRI at the combine revealed a herniated disc that would require spinal fusion surgery. However, Clark had a remarkable recovery, as he was able to play in his rookie season and show flashes of talent at the linebacker position.
Entering the 2023 season, there was a lot of anticipation that Clark would have a breakout season with more time to train and get back from his injury. His breakout season has certainly arrived. Through 12 games, Clark has started all of them and leads the team in total tackles with 77. He has been reliable for the Cowboys and has showed consistency at a position that was left with thin depth following LB Leighton Vander Esch having his season ended in week five against the San Francisco 49ers.
We don’t talk enough about how much of jump Damone Clark has made in yr 2.— Shane Carter (@ShaneCarterTx) December 7, 2023
Especially after moving over to the MIKE LB position. https://t.co/ndZOrZjUDK
Round 5: CB DaRon Bland
The Dallas Cowboys selected Fresno State CB DaRon Bland in the fifth-round of the 2022 draft. In his rookie year, Bland saw the majority of his snaps come from the slot corner position, where he led the team with five interceptions.
Bland came into 2023 hoping to build from his impressive rookie season, expecting to lock down the slot with CB’s Trevon Diggs and Stephon Gilmore on the outside. However, when Diggs suffered a torn ACL in practice before the third game of the season, Bland was moved to the outside position. Bland has not only improved his play while lined up on the outside, he is playing among the best cornerbacks in the NFL this season. Bland has eight interceptions through 12 games, with five of them being returned for a touchdown (NFL regular-season record).
Not only has Bland done a great job at being a ballhawk at the position, he has also been solid in coverage throughout the majority of the season. He has allowed a coverage grade of 52.4 this season, the third-highest at the CB position this year. Bland is currently the leader in Pro Bowl votes among NFC cornerbacks and is set to receive his selection. He is also in line to be selected as a first-team All-Pro and is in the discussion for Defensive Player of the Year of the 2023 season. Bland could go down as one of the best day-three picks in Cowboys history if he continues his career the way he has started it through his first two seasons.
DARON BLAND SAID: “Y’ALL BETTER STOP PLAYING WITH ME”— Dallas Nation (@TheDallasNation) December 1, 2023
The Dallas Cowboys are benefiting greatly from their 2022 draft class this season. They are a vital part of the team being 9-3 and being considered a serious Super Bowl contender. This could age as one of the best draft classes in Dallas Cowboys history by the time their careers are over.