The Senior Bowl came and went last week, unofficially kicking off the start of draft season for the 2023 NFL offseason. While it’s still too early to know exactly what positions the Cowboys will end up targeting in the draft, these ten potential targets all turned heads at the Senior Bowl.
Tulane RB Tyjae Spears
The Cowboys will have a few decisions to make regarding the contract status of both Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard this offseason. Many expect both players to return at different price tags, but there does exist the possibility that Dallas looks to find a new running back in this draft.
Tyjae Spears is one running back in this class who’s looking to emerge after a strong career at Tulane. He nearly ran for 1,600 yards this past season and averaged 6.8 yards per carry over his four years there. At the Senior Bowl, Spears continued his upward trajectory, looking fast, agile, and showing off some added value as a pass catcher, an area that Spears didn’t see much usage in college.
At 5’10” and roughly 190 pounds, Spears is similar to Pollard in terms of his style of play. Spears was especially impressive at the Senior Bowl, and the Cowboys surely liked what they saw from him. The only question is if Dallas will even have a need for his services.
Stanford WR Michael Wilson
The Cowboys haven’t been shy about wanting to upgrade their wide receiver corps just a year after dismantling the position; their pursuit of Odell Beckham Jr. and signing of T.Y. Hilton proves as much. But if they’re looking for a receiver in the draft as well, Michael Wilson will be an interesting name to watch.
Wilson came to Stanford as a four-star prospect with lofty expectations, but he’s struggled to remain healthy. He suffered season-ending injuries in both 2020 and 2022, and also missed a chunk of games in 2021. Wilson has looked incredible when on the field, and he was also a team captain this past year, but it’s such a small sample size.
At the Senior Bowl, Wilson once again looked great. Almost everyone in attendance agreed that Wilson looked like the most complete receiver at the event all week, consistently winning in one-on-one drills and looking ready for the NFL. It definitely didn’t look like he’s lost a step, but the biggest question for Wilson is whether he can remain healthy going forward.
Michigan State WR Jayden Reed
The Cowboys have drafted a receiver in five of their last six drafts, and yet they’re still looking to solidify the position. It might be time for the Cowboys to reevaluate the way they evaluate the wide receiver position. If they do so, then Jayden Reed will likely pop up on their radar big time.
At 5’11” and roughly 190 pounds, Reed doesn’t fit the size profile that the Cowboys have generally looked for in their receivers as of late. But Reed proved throughout his college career that it didn’t affect his playmaking abilities, and he backed that up with a dominant Senior Bowl performance.
Wilson may have been the best receiver of the week, but Reed was a close second. He has top flight speed that made him a dangerous deep threat at Michigan State, but was also one of the most reliable pass catchers in college throughout his time with the Spartans. In Mobile, Reed continued to flash his trustworthy hands and fluid route running skills.
Much was made of Reed having been teammates with his college quarterback from middle school through high school, and that definitely looked evident in their chemistry at Michigan State. But Reed’s consistent Senior Bowl week proved that he has a knack for becoming any quarterback’s best friend, and he would be a welcome addition for Dak Prescott if the front office is willing to overlook his average size.
Oregon State TE Luke Musgrave
The Cowboys will have to make a decision at tight end after Dalton Schultz played this last season on the franchise tag. Regardless of what they do with Schultz, Dallas has two solid youngsters in Jake Ferguson, who recently got a shout out from Travis Kelce, and Peyton Hendershot.
If the Cowboys are still looking to infuse the position with youth, though, Luke Musgrave will absolutely be a target. He’s the son of a coach, for starters, and father Bill Musgrave was a longtime NFL offensive coordinator who comes from adjacent West Coast roots as Mike McCarthy.
But this Musgrave is more than that. He measured in at 6’5” and 255 pounds in Mobile, Alabama and followed it up with the sensational athleticism that had scouts so anxious to see what he could do. Musgrave is a tantalizing height-weight-speed prospect for the position, and his raw talent would make him a central figure in McCarthy’s offense.
The issue for Musgrave is that he’s got very limited tape. After showing flashes as Oregon State’s second tight end in 2021, Musgrave entered this past year as the top guy. Unfortunately, he was injured just two games in, and it ended his season. Still, Musgrave offers gobs of potential and could end up being the first tight end drafted this year just on his physical abilities alone. And if the Senior Bowl was anything to go off of, Musgrave is exactly as advertised.
TCU OL Steve Avila
Steve Avila is a name that many Cowboys fans will likely become very familiar with over the next few months. A Texas native, Avila committed to TCU as a guard and got valuable experience playing multiple positions before settling in at center the last two years.
Avila looked impressive in his TCU career, especially this year when the Horned Frogs marched all the way to the National Championship Game. At the Senior Bowl, Avila got another chance to show off his positional flexibility, and many were particularly impressed with how he looked at left guard.
Avila measured in at 6’4” and 334 pounds in Mobile, which is just one of several factors that will have some thinking of Tyler Smith when watching Avila play. While Avila isn’t as naturally athletic as Smith, he plays with similar strength and physicality. It’s unclear so far as to whether Smith will go back to left guard for 2023 or remain at left tackle, but the idea of eventually playing Smith and Avila next to each other on the left side of the line should be a very appetizing notion for the Cowboys.
Iowa State EDGE Will McDonald IV
The Cowboys aren’t necessarily in need of more edge rushers right now, especially considering how little Sam Williams just played as a rookie despite consistently looking great, but you can never have too much pass rush. That’s why Will McDonald is a name to know, even if he may not be a top target for the team.
Few players have been as productive as McDonald throughout his time at Iowa State, as the edge rusher has tallied 40.5 sacks in five total seasons. McDonald hit 13 sacks in both 2020 and 2021, and was limited to 7.5 this year after getting more attention from offensive lines.
He continued that dominance and consistency in the Senior Bowl, looking extremely comfortable while going up against some of the best offensive linemen across the country. McDonald has flown somewhat under the radar thus far, relative to his production, which could make him a realistic target for the Cowboys.
Cincinnati LB Ivan Pace Jr.
Perhaps no individual player gained more at the Senior Bowl than Ivan Pace Jr. He finished out a solid college career by becoming the first unanimous All American selection in Cincinnati Bearcats history, and carried that momentum with him to Mobile.
Pace was a heat-seeking missile for the Bearcats, often deployed on blitzes with great success; Pace led all linebackers in pressures and was actually tied for third most sacks of any defender in the nation. But at the Senior Bowl, Pace had a chance to show off his skills in coverage as well, and he ended up earning Defensive MVP honors for his efforts.
Pace will inevitably draw comparisons to Micah Parsons, which is extremely unfair to him, but it also highlights how versatile Pace is. And while he’s not the same caliber of a player like Parsons, he would certainly make for a great complementary piece in this Dallas defense.
Washington State LB Daiyan Henley
The Cowboys have some degree of uncertainty at linebacker right now with the impending free agency of both Leighton Vander Esch and Anthony Barr, as well as the little experience for Damone Clark and Jabril Cox. If they look to add a player at the position in the draft, Daiyan Henley is likely on their radar after the Senior Bowl.
Henley entered Mobile without much fanfare, but he played well enough to elicit this praise from draft expert Daniel Jeremiah:
The big test for Henley was how he would hold up in coverage against all-star competition. Well, he passed that test with flying colors. He’s instinctive and he can run. Henley has a chance to be a Day 2 (Rounds 2-3) pick.
Kansas State CB Julius Brents
It’s no secret that Dan Quinn has a type when it comes to defensive backs. He likes them tall and long, and preferably with good ball skills. That’s why Quinn was likely blowing up Will McClay’s phone when watching Julius Brents during the Senior Bowl.
Brents is listed at 6’4” and just over 200 pounds, offering exceptional size for the cornerback position. The Cowboys already have two other defensive backs that tall, in cornerback Nahshon Wright and hybrid safety Israel Mukuamu, but why not have more?
Brents was showing off his length all week in Mobile, frequently disrupting passing lanes and throwing receivers off their route patterns. It wasn’t much of a surprise, as Brents picked off four passes just this past season at Kansas State. He also possesses physicality as a tackler, with 45 or more tackles in each of his last two years, and that physicality was also on display in the Senior Bowl.
Brents will undoubtedly be on the Cowboys’ radar, as they have some questions to answer at the position this offseason. But the biggest question for Brents now is how high his stock will soar after his performance at the Senior Bowl.
South Carolina CB Darius Rush
For as eye-popping as Brents was in Mobile, he was still outplayed by Darius Rush, who easily took home the crown of best cornerback of the week in most people’s eyes. Rush also has good size at 6’2” and 200 pounds, though his numbers at South Carolina weren’t particularly flashy.
Rush’s performance at the Senior Bowl, though, will make everyone go back and watch his tape closely to figure out what he really is. That’s because Rush was consistently locking down every receiver he went against, and recorded multiple interceptions as well. It was near impossible to find anything wrong with Rush’s game throughout the week, which has put him on every team’s radar now.
As with Brents, the biggest question will be how high his draft stock goes from here on out. But Rush is almost certain to get a good, long look from the Cowboys as they embark on this draft process.