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Dallas Cowboys mailbag: 2023 draft prospect questions

People have questions about the Cowboys, and we strive to provide the answers.

NFL Combine Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Every week, we will be taking questions on Twitter about Dallas Cowboys players and other questions surrounding the team. So let’s get right into it.

@IveBowl68- What’s your analysis on WR AT Perry from Wake Forest?

Mike: A.T. Perry keeps catching my attention on tape when I’m watching other prospects, usually when that happens it’s a good sign. The last two years at Wake Forest he’s been a monster target and in that time he’s produced 2,389 receiving yards and 26 touchdowns, that’s huge production. Standing at 6’3” and measuring at 33 12 arm length gives him a huge reach advantage. The speed is fine, but since he’s so rangy, high-pointing the ball for him is no problem, winning those contested catches is his specialty. Perry tracks the ball really well and adjusts with good anticipation and timing. His acceleration is good both from the snap and during the play, his 10-yard split at the combine came in 1.59 seconds.

The issues for Perry, especially on tape, will be utilization and route running. Wake Forest plays the spread offense extensively and as such limited Perry’s route tree to just a couple of routes. Even with those routes he ran he would fail to create much separation leading to constant fights with the ball. His release and getting loose at route stems is an obvious weakness to his game. In the the last two years, Perry’s constant battle with defenders to make a play on the ball at the catch point has led to him having 15 dropped catches, this will be a huge hurdle for him in the NFL.

Perry will make a solid red zone threat with his size, length and ability to win vertically in the end zone. His appeal of red zone production along with versatility to play anywhere along the receiver positions will see him get called early day three, possibly third round. A solid WR3/4 that can help offenses remain in scoring position.

Brandon: The production is certainly there, as Mike alluded to. A big thing for me during the draft process is that production translates. Wake Forest football isn’t what it used to be. It is a legitimate program that has built itself up to become competitive. Perry played a significant role in their offense and was a reliable receiver. The one thing I kept seeing repeatedly was a willingness to come back toward the ball. This season, some receivers on the Cowboys would let the pass come to them, which created contested catches and resulted in interceptions. Perry would definitely be a welcomed addition to the team and receiver room. He reminds me of Brice Butler, who had a similar physical frame, but I think Perry has a higher upside.

@Lazmattz- Is Jalin Hyatt worth taking in the second or better to take later in the draft?

Brandon: It would be great if the Cowboys could draft Hyatt in the second round, but he won’t make it to pick No. 58. The talent is too good for him to last that long. Hyatt ran a 4.40 in the 40-yard dash, but many expect him to play faster when the pads come on. There isn’t a set order of who is the top wide receiver in this class, which could get Hyatt drafted sooner than expected.

Hyatt reminded me of Anthony Schwartz out of Auburn a few years ago. Both players ran really well at the NFL combine, and Schwartz’s boom-or-bust potential got him drafted in the third round by the Cleveland Browns. Hyatt was way more productive in his final collegiate season, where I think his floor is the second round and could go in the first if a team in the late 20s feels he could add something to the offense (i.e., Kansas City or Philadelphia).

Mike: After the combine I would say Hyatt has value as a mid-round two receiver. His limited route running and being made to play from the same position and formation at Tennessee is concerning. There is a little of the one-trick-pony effect with him. But that one trick led him to burn Alabama for a historic game. His speed on tape shows up but his testing at the combine is both concerning and confusing. The Pro Day at Tennessee will hopefully shed more light on this. The Cowboys did have an informal visit with Hyatt so there is some interest there.

@BishopW- Is the fourth round too late to draft a running back? Which RB’s are good value in the fourth?

Brandon: Unlike previous Cowboys drafts, a late-round running back could become an eventual starter on this team. Dallas has drafted backs like Mike Weber and Bo Scarbrough in the past, and they wouldn’t make it out of camp being seventh-round draft picks. The Cowboys drafted Tony Pollard in the fourth round, and he’s turned into a “must-have player.” A back like Mohamed Ibrahim out of Minnesota would be a great value in the fourth or fifth round that could be a big-bodied back to fill the void of Ezekiel Elliott if the team decides to move on. Another name would be Eric Gray from Oklahoma, but he might be a third-round player after the combine. This draft runs deep at the running back position, so if they take someone in the fourth round, they could become an impact player.

Mike: Definitely not. One of the deepest positions in this year’s draft is running back. All the main positions of need for Dallas are deep in this year’s draft. Running back is the one place where waiting to round three or four will be the sweet spot in terms of talent and value (one the big reasons why I’m not keen on drafting early round talent among the running backs). The west coast offense being implemented with Mike McCarthy means the Cowboys need a multipurpose, shifty and speedy type running back. In the fourth round that looks like Tulane’s Tyjae Spears. At the Senior Bowl his pass catching, route running along with his rushing ability really got people diving more into his tape. Failing that, the other running back worth looking at that fits the bill would be Syracuse’s Sean Tucker. Has all the tools requisite for the Cowboys role, he just needs to work on doing what he does well with more consistency.

@SamSimkins- How does Texas A&M Antonio Johnson compare to Donovan Wilson?

Mike: Besides position and both playing at A&M, you do see some glaring comparisons with the tackling ability and playing down in the box in run support. Both are good at diagnosing the play on the move and coming down quickly to get to the ball carrier. Size and weight they look fairly similar along with most of their athletic traits. What is the difference though is Wilson is not necessarily as physical as Johnson but he’s certainly stronger. Wilson looks to be a little more faster in his running and jumping ability and he’s more explosive when hitting on tackles. For Johnson, he’s definitely more twitched up in his change of direction, he will track the ball better on pass plays and also has great understanding of passing routes. As a prospect coming out of Texas A&M, Johnson is a little more refined than what Wilson was. But last season we saw Donovan Wilson take a huge step up in his game proving to be one of the best box-safeties in the NFL. If the Cowboys struggle to retain Wilson, then Johnson would make an excellent replacement.

Brandon: Antonio Johnson gives you more as a coverage safety than Donovan Wilson. That’s nothing to take away from Wilson, who had a career season in 2022, but that’s never been his strong suit. For instance, Jayron Kearse has a nose for the football with intercepting passes. Wilson’s instincts are more with blowing up receivers over the middle of the field or behind the line of scrimmage. Johnson is a mix of the two. He’s not as physically a hitter as Wilson’s become, but that’s not to say he can’t get there. Wilson was drafted in the sixth round, with the Cowboys betting on his traits. Johnson may go as high as the fourth round because he’s a better prospect than Wilson. As Mike mentioned, this is a great comparison, starting with the fact that they both played for the Aggies.

Be sure to check @kenfigkowboy and @brandoniswrite on Twitter for the weekly post, asking you for your questions for the weekly mailbag

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