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2023 NFL Draft: 5 players who could be surprise 1st-round picks for the Cowboys

The Cowboys could shock us in the first round of the 2023 NFL draft.

Alabama v LSU Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Today, we’re going to identify a handful of players who could be surprise first-round picks for the Dallas Cowboys in the 2023 NFL Draft. We based our predictions on the current team needs and how they’ve already addressed those needs via free agency, as well as the value they’ve placed on certain positions in the first-round in the past.

DT Mazi Smith, Michigan

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 03 Big 10 Championship - Michigan vs Purdue Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Russell Maryland (first overall) and Kelvin Pritchett (20th overall) were the last defensive tackles the Dallas Cowboys drafted in the first round. That was way back in 1991, over 30+ years ago. That makes it highly unlikely things change in 2023, however, a player of Mazi Smith’s caliber could be too tempting to pass up and there’s already some interest there.

The 6’3”, 323-pound DT is an immovable force in the middle of defensive line. He still is very much a work in progress as a pass rusher, but as a run defender he is arguably the best in the entire draft class. His ability to control the line of scrimmage would help free up others around him to make plays.

TE Dalton Kincaid, Utah

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 24 Utah at Arizona State Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Much like defensive tackle, the Dallas Cowboys haven’t drafted a tight end in the first-round in quite a while. The last time that happened was way back in 1997 when they selected David LaFleur with the 22nd overall pick. But, with Dalton Schultz likely leaving via free agency, a dynamic receiving threat like Dalton Kincaid could possibly be in the cards.

Kincaid is just a half-inch shy of being 6’4” and weighs in at around 246 pounds. He is the best pure receiving TE in the entire 2023 draft class, but is still a little inconsistent as a blocker. He could immediately challenge Jake Ferguson for the TE1 job and also help take pressure off of CeeDee Lamb in the passing game.

CB Kelee Ringo, Georgia

2022 CFP National Championship - Georgia v Alabama Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Drafting a cornerback in the first-round seems a little unlikely after the Dallas Cowboys traded a fifth-round pick to acquire Stephon Gilmore from the Indianapolis Colts. However, for a player with the kind of elite physical profile and athleticism Kelee Ringo possesses it might be too difficult for them to pass up on.

The former Georgia CB checks all of the boxes Dan Quinn looks for in an outside CB as far as size (6’2”, 207), length (31 14 inch arms), and speed (4.36 40-yard dash). However, he sometimes struggles to anticipate in coverage which has led to him giving up big plays in the past. Despite that, his rare physical attributes are really intriguing.

OG/C Steve Avila, TCU

TCU v West Virginia Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

If the 2023 season were to start today, Tyler Smith would replace Connor McGovern as the Dallas Cowboys starting left guard. However, due to Tyron Smith’s inability to stay healthy, Dallas would be wise to at the very least add another starting caliber LG, which could be why they’ve shown an interest in Steve Avila early on throughout the draft process.

The 6’3”, 332-pound former TCU offensive lineman is a local prospect (Arlington, TX) who has started at both right and left guard, center, and right tackle. He could be a plug-and-play player at LG with the Cowboys from Day 1 and eventually form a big, physical duo on the left side with Tyler Smith whenever he takes over full-time as a starting LT.

RB Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 31 Allstate Sugar Bowl Photo by Chris McDill/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With Ezekiel Elliott officially released and Tony Pollard playing on a one-year franchise tag, the Dallas Cowboys could find themselves in the market for a new long-term running back. While Bijan Robinson would be the ideal pick in the first-round if he’s still available at No. 26, Jahmyr Gibbs is the more likely of the two to still be available.

The former Alabama RB by way of Georgia Tech is a little undersized at 5’9”, 199-pounds, but is one of the most dynamic and versatile running backs in the entire 2023 draft class. He is a threat to take it to the house anytime he touches the ball as either a runner or receiver, and would provide a much-needed explosive threat to Dallas’ offense.

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