The NFL combine is underway. A lot is going to change about what we know about these prospects when it is all over. The picture of how teams feel about these players and where they may land will become a little clearer, and we may get a closer look at just how the Cowboys front office feels about this year’s class when the week is done.
Before things change drastically let’s take one final pre-combine look at just how draft weekend may shake out for the Dallas Cowboys:
1.26 CB, Deonte Banks, University of Maryland
6’1” 190 lb | 1 interception, 1 pass defensed, and 27 tackles last season
Deonte Banks has been a contributor on defense since his freshman year (2019) and has played in 30 career games. Banks’ 2021 season ended early due to an injury, but he returned for the 2022 season as the starting corner and had his best season overall. Banks had 38 total tackles, eight pass break-ups, and one interception. At 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, Banks profiles as a big, physical corner who has surprisingly smooth transitions in and out of breaks to match and mirror wide receivers.
Banks has shown the ability to play both press and odd coverage at a high level. In press, Banks shows to be very physical and wants to get into physical combat with receivers because he is confident in his natural strength to disrupt the timing of their release and route. Once into the route, Banks can stay on top of receivers or play a trail technique—he is able to show off his athleticism in either. Banks has smooth, fluid hips and can sink in and out of breaks to stay in phase with receivers to make a play on the football. At the catch point, Banks has the awareness and the length to challenge receivers for the football and make catches difficult to make. In off-coverage, Banks is able to come out his back pedal quickly, plant, and drive to break up passes on underneath routes as a physical defender.
It is clear that the Cowboys will look to improve their secondary one way or another this offseason, and many believe it will be with an early draft pick. Banks would come in and be an immediate contributor to pair with Trevon Diggs on the outside. Banks possesses the skills and size that Dan Quinn covets, and although the Cowboys have been linked to other corners throughout the draft process, they can leave round one feeling really good about this pick.
2.58 WR, Nathaniel Dell, University of Houston
5’10” 155 | 109 receptions, 1,398 yards, and 17 TDs last season
Tank Dell is a junior wide receiver for the Houston Cougars who originally transferred in from Independence Community College. In Dell’s career at Houston, he has been highly productive and has consistently seen his production and utilization increase, finishing with more than 100 receptions, 1300 yards, and 15 touchdowns in the 2022 season. While Dell has a slight frame, he profiles as an explosive playmaking receiver prospect that can be used as a versatile offensive weapon, a vertical big-play threat, and also has value as a special teams returner.
Dell takes the majority of his snaps as a slot receiver but has shown the ability to line up as an outside receiver, line up in the backfield, or be in motion to have free access releases at the snap. When lined up as an outside receiver or in the slot, Dell uses speed using rapid foot-fire to win against press situations. Dell’s quickness has the ability to make defensive backs miss—if they miss Dell with their punch, he has the ability to immediately get upfield and stack defensive backs. Dell runs quick, snappy, and precise routes, and is difficult for most defensive backs to match and mirror within his route. With the ball in his hands, Dell is an electric player. He has great short-area quickness and change of direction which allows him to make defenders miss in close confined spaces. Dell also profiles to be a quick accelerator and has the speed to simply outrun defenders and defeat pursuit angles.
Despite not having the ideal size the Cowboys typically covet, ‘Tank’ Dell is far too explosive and productive for the Cowboys to ignore. Dell would be a homerun pick for the Cowboys in round two and would instantly add the explosiveness they’ve desperately been needing on offense. The hope is if presented with the opportunity the front office does not over think this one and passes the card in.
3.90 RB, Devon Achane, Texas A&M
5’9” 185 | 1,102 yards, 5.6 YPC, 8 TDs last last season
A football and track star throughout high school and college, Devon Achane was a complementary back in 2020 and 2021 before taking over as the Aggies’ lead back in 2022 and was one of four running backs in the SEC to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards during the regular season.
Achane is a compact, shifty, and explosive running back that is a threat to take it the distance on any play. He features elite top-end speed and acceleration that makes it difficult for defenders to get a pursuit angle that would allow them to arrive squared up and in a good position to make a tackle. Achane features lightning-fast stop/start ability that enables him to quickly change directions and explode up the field. Achane forces his share of missed tackles in space with his shiftiness and acceleration. He offers an appealing skill set as a receiving threat out of the backfield that is a difficult cover for any linebacker. Achane showcases confident hands and elusive route-running skills. He is a creative runner that mostly demonstrates good vision, discipline, and patience. He does well to remain balanced while stringing together moves and he knows when to square up and get downhill. For his career, Achane returned 20 kicks in college, averaging more than 31 yards and taking two back for touchdowns. He’s a big play waiting to happen and has done well to this point with ball security.
There are a lot of questions to be answered about the Cowboys running back room before next year, but what cannot hurt is adding a track star to the group. Achane is electric with the football and whether he is the guy they want to lean on or be a complement to someone else, this young man possesses the skill set to do so. In the NFL, anytime you can acquire rare ability it is advantageous to do so and Achane fits that description.
4.129 ED, Karl Brooks, Bowling Green University
6’4” 295 | 10 sacks, 12 QB hits, 13 TFL last season
Originally an unranked recruit, Brooks played his high school football for Sexton High School in Lansing, Michigan. He was a member of Bowling Green’s recruiting class of 2018 after initially committing to Grand Valley State and receiving minimal offers. Bowling Green offered him late in the process and he quickly flipped his commitment.
Brooks has some really enjoyable moments on film; he’ll bull-rush tackles or finesse against oversets and come crashing into the pocket to disrupt opposing passers. You wouldn’t necessarily expect such a diverse pass-rush pallet from a bigger guy, but he’s flashing inside counters, spin moves, and all sorts of rush counters with his hands. I like that he is capable of straight bulling soft setting tackles, too—that gives him an element to fall back on as he continues to develop as a player. He’ll need it too, given I don’t think his first step is going to be a consistent threat in the NFL. But he’s going to give himself an opportunity to find snaps on passing downs because he clearly offers a rush plan and he’s a high-motor and effort player who can be relentless in pursuit. He’s a bit of a tweener from a skill set perspective relative to his build and athletic profile, though, and he’s going to have to evolve one way or another to build up his opportunities beyond a designated pass rusher role in the right situation.
Karl Brooks has the ability to play multiple spots in the NFL. At Bowling Green Brooks played on the edge but is widely believed to be able to kick inside and play three-technique in the NFL as well. These are the kind of guys the Cowboys love. Ones that show versatility and the ability to generate pass rush from anywhere is something the Cowboys are always going to pay close attention to. Will McClay and company would feel really good about being able to get that in the fourth round
5.163 CB, Jakorian Bennett, University of Maryland
5’11’ 200 lb | 2 interceptions, 2 PD and 28 tackles last season
Jakorian Bennett is a senior cornerback for the Maryland Terrapins who spent the first two years of his collegiate career at Hutchinson Community College before transferring. At Maryland, Bennett is utilized in multiple positions, depending on personnel groupings and formations Bennett will play CB, safety, or nickel and should be viewed much more as a defensive back prospect than just a pure cornerback prospect.
As a defensive back, Bennett appears to be comfortable when he is playing off coverage or a bail technique, which allows him to quickly get eyes on the quarterback while keeping the receiver in his view. Playing this technique allows Bennett to be able to read the receiver and the quarterback and give himself an opportunity to make a play on the football. Throughout his career at Maryland Bennett has been productive on the football, tallying multiple interceptions and PBUs in his career. Bennett’s technique also allows for him to be an asset in run defense. Bennett does a fairly good job of closing to blockers and inserting himself on run plays becoming a willing tackler on the perimeter.
The Cowboys take care of their secondary in this draft with another player who happens to be teammates with their first-round pick. The Cowboys are able to get Deonte Banks teammate in the fifth round to usher them into the future of this secondary together. Bennett has the ability to play multiple spots and with that coupled with special teams attributes to tap into this is a value pick the Cowboys are smiling about as it gets later into the draft.
5.170 LB, Cam Jones, Indiana University
6’3” 224 | 25 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FF last season
Indiana linebacker Cam Jones projects as a physical, run-defending linebacker at the NFL level. Jones has an NFL build, plus length, and some explosive hitting power—which he unleashed in a breakout 2022 before a foot injury ended his season at the midway point. Jones is one of just a handful of Hoosiers to be honored as a three-time captain and figures to be an excellent addition to any NFL locker room that welcomes him from an intangibles and character standpoint.
Originally a 3-star recruit, Jones played his high school football for St. Benedict at Auburndale in Cordova, TN. Jones was a two-way player there, also logging time at wide receiver while collecting four consecutive special teams player of the year honors in high school. His top five programs at the end of his recruiting program were Tennessee, Memphis, Missouri, Mississippi State, and, of course, Indiana. Jones played one season as a safety for the Hoosiers as a true freshman before converting to linebacker in 2019.
In drafting Cam Jones, the Cowboys would be getting a leader and a high character guy you are going to love to have in your locker room. On the field, Jones adds depth and physicality to a young linebacker room that may look very different than the year prior. The Cowboys will look for Jones to bring that big-hitter tenacity and add some more toughness to the defense and special teams groups.
5.176 OG, Chandler Zavala, North Carolina State
6’5” 325 lb | position rank: 28th
There isn’t much information circulating about Zavala out there, but the intrigue on his size and intangibles are enough for the Cowboys to do their homework and make the selection here. Late in the draft you are looking for traits and things to build on, and Zavala certainly has that. Ideally the Cowboys would be able to address this position earlier in the draft, but the board just has not fallen the way you would hope through three separate mocks.
6.212 S, Trey Dean III, University of Florida
6’3” 207 | 255 total tackles, 13.5 TFL, four interceptions in his career
Pros: Trey Dean III is a former corner that moved to the safety position. Dean is a big-bodied defensive back that has great height and length. Dean appears to be a good athlete from the way he can play sideline to sideline. Against the run, Dean does a good job of flowing downhill to the line of scrimmage to meet the ball carrier. Dean is a contact seeker that likes to deliver the big blow. In pass coverage, Dean’s experience shows in his ability to play the ball in the air. On deep throws, Dean has the speed to run with receivers down the field and locate the football.
Safety is one of the stronger and more complete positions on the Cowboys roster with four legitimate guys that get playing time and make an impact. However, with Donovan Wilson being a free agent there may be some tough decisions and roster-churning going on at the position. A guy like Trey Dean III may be able to come in and provide some cheaper, and younger depth in the back end.
With a tough mentality and willingness to come down and make a big hit, Dean looks to be much in the mold of what Wilson is, and if they feel strongly enough about the prospect, they may think he can come in and develop into the role Wilson once occupied freeing up money while doing so.
7.246 TE, McCallan Castles, UC-Davis
6’5” 233 | 30 receptions, 347 yards, 2 TDs last season
Pros: McCallan Castles is a small-school prospect with high-level traits. He is a former transfer from Cal and was a top recruit out of high school. He offers very good size and length and is a good overall athlete. He primarily operates as a receiving tight end for the Aggies and is moved all across the formation to create mismatches. Castles offers good speed off the line and eats up grass with his long stride. He is able to stress the seam vertically and can clear past second-level defenders with ease. He has excellent ball skills, hands, and body control and can easily locate and track the ball. Castles has a large catch radius and is a nightmare to cover in the red zone. He runs a full route tree and offers good wiggle and fluidity and the top of the stem in and out of breaks to create separation. He is a difficult tackle with the ball in his hands and runs hard gaining yards after the catch.
With the belief that the Cowboys move on from Dalton Schultz, it would not be a bad idea to bring in another young player to compete. The Cowboys like the state of their young tight ends and with some development from Castles he could very well be a sneaky player to watch on this roster next season.