It feels like only a year ago when the Dallas Cowboys set the world on fire (or at least their fanbase’s world) with the selection of Tulsa tackle Tyler Smith with the 24th overall pick. The move created a stir for a couple of reasons. First, Smith was graded somewhere in the middle of the second round. From a talent perspective, it didn’t seem like the Cowboys got the best player available and that the pick was a reach based on the need along the offensive line. Additionally, there were a lot of other prospects available that fans would have preferred at that spot. Even before the pick was made, people were expressing their dissatisfaction with such an idea.
Me seeing the sudden Tyler Smith to the Cowboys buzz pic.twitter.com/W2HCF1a8mX— Tom Downey (@WhatGoingDowney) April 28, 2022
If they take Tyler Smith in Round 1, I will submit my retirement papers. #WinWin https://t.co/AhM6paHJRN— Bob Sturm (@SportsSturm) April 28, 2022
There was even one front-page writer over here at Blogging The Boys who was very against the idea of picking Smith, but we don’t need to mention any names. Fine, it was me.
If the Cowboys draft Tyler Smith today, I am not going to lipstick this pig one iota and pretend I'm okay with it. I identified him as a pick 24 whiff a couple weeks ago, and nothing's changed. Please don't do it! https://t.co/4qvwUjK8QU— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) April 28, 2022
Needless to say, all of us naysayers were wrong. The Cowboys' scouting department loved the raw strength of Smith, and while there were some things that needed developing, they knew he possessed the talent to be a strong player in this league. And they were right.
The public disdain towards the Smith pick got us thinking. Which 2023 draft prospect fits that profile? Who are some names we don’t want to hear called at 26? Every draft season, the list of “players to avoid” always circulates, and this year is no different. Here are a few players who aren’t necessarily the favorites among fans or pundits for the team’s first-round selection.
RB Bijan Robinson, TEXAS
This one is weird because Robinson is one of the top talents in this draft class. The chances of him even making it to 26 seems rather slim, so it’s odd to get upset about a player who’s probably too good to still be available when the Cowboys are on the clock. And if he’s there, it would seem like an obvious choice, especially when the team just released Ezekiel Elliott and only has Tony Pollard for one more season as he’s playing under the franchise tag.
The argument against Robinson isn’t so much due to the player himself as it is the idea that the team could find quality running backs later in the draft without having to use their top draft resource on one. We all want the team to get the most they can out of a draft, and that concept seems to dissipate if the Cowboys kicked things off with a running back at 26.
TE Michael Mayer, NOTRE DAME
This one is very similar to the last one because grabbing a top tight end immediately replenishes one of their biggest offensive voids with the departure of Dalton Schultz who left in free agency. Additionally, it’s another choice where positional value isn’t strong, so it again raises the question of whether or not it’s the best choice for the pick.
This draft class does feature some talented tight ends at the top of the draft, and it would be nice to have one of those guys, but does it warrant the 26th pick? The Cowboys also have Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot on the roster so it’s not like they are in dire straits at the position. Finally, tight end is a position that typically comes with a little bit of a learning curve, so we shouldn’t expect immediate contributions from a rookie tight end regardless of how early he’s selected.
Oddly enough, NFL Mock Database has both Robinson and Mayer as the players with the highest percentages of being the Cowboys’ most likely selection at 26.
While the disapproval of those selections has more to do with positional value, another approach has some fans uneasy and that matches what we believed the Cowboys did a year ago with Smith and that is overdraft a player based on need. If we focus solely on that concept, who fits the description this year?
OL Steve Avila, TCU
You could argue that the team’s most pressing need is at left guard as they have lost both Connor Williams and Connor McGovern in free agency in each of the last two seasons. Last year’s first-round pick, Tyler Smith, could be an option at left guard, but eventually, his services will be needed on the outside. Finding a good interior offensive lineman is necessary for this team at some point, so why lollygag?
Avila is one of the team’s 30 visits and he possesses the strength and flexibility that the team loves to go after so it makes sense why the Cowboys are interested. The drawback is that he’s stacked outside the top 40 players in terms of average draft position, so taking him that early would not be a good use of draft resources, right? Unless that is, the scouting department sees it differently as they did a year ago with Smith.
Any RB in round 1 will be disappointing. Avila or a TE without traded down will be a little disappointing.— Permanent Grin (@AddictCowboy) April 9, 2023
Sometimes the best pick isn’t the most popular pick. Which player’s name do you absolutely not want to hear called at 26?