Everyone remembers The Ugly Duckling story from when they were in grade school. This is a story about The Ugly Mock Draft.
For the past five years, the Dallas Cowboys have nailed the draft by selecting players who impact the team immediately. In almost every mock draft for 2023, they end up with an impact player either on the offensive line, tight end position, or for Dan Quinn’s defense.
What happens when things don’t go right, everything is code red, and there are no trade-back options? Who are the players left Dallas can pick from to salvage things? Think of this mock as a best-worst-case scenario where from rounds one through four, the Cowboys still end up with impact players—maybe not the ones you’re thinking of.
Round 1 (No. 26): Jahmyr Gibbs, RB - ALA
Jahmyr Gibbs is not the running back most Cowboys fans hope falls to the team at No. 26. In this scenario, Bijan Robinson, Steve Avila, O’Cyrus Torrence, Dalton Kincaid, Michael Mayer, and a few other names were off the board.
Quentin Johnston from TCU and Drew Sanders from Arkansas were available. Gibbs is the pick because he has better hands than Johnston and could become as good of a back as Robinson at the next level. Not to mention his explosive play-making ability is something Dallas could use more of.
Gibbs is similar to what the Cowboys already have in Tony Pollard, but with Pollard on a one-year franchise tag, the running back from Alabama would be the lead back once Pollard leaves in 2024. Last season for the Crimson Tide, No. 1 had a career-high 926 rushing yards and added 444 receiving yards with ten total touchdowns. Spread the offense five wide with CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, Michael Gallup, Pollard, and Gibbs, and see which defense can stop all of the mismatches.
Round 2 (No. 58): Tucker Kraft, TE - SD St.
Kraft was the best player available when Dallas was on the clock at pick 58. Mike McCarthy has talked about his love for 13 personnel and working three tight ends into the offense. The Cowboys have Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot to ease Kraft into the system, but he could quickly become Dak Prescott’s go-to target.
Kraft played nine games in his final season at South Dakota State but was a weapon for their offense in 2021. That season he had 65 receptions for 770 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 11.8 yards a catch.
Kraft is a versatile player who can stay in-line as a blocker or receiving threat but can flex as a wideout, creating more mismatches. Pro Football Focus says he had 171 snaps from the slot with the Jack Rabbits. He might not be the starter at TE for Week 1, but he could be by Week 4.
Round 3 (No. 90): Jaquelin Roy, DT - LSU
Any time the Cowboys visit with a prospect, their name gets circled on the list of draft-eligible players. When owner and general manager Jerry Jones is mentioned by name to meet with certain players, it becomes a blinking red light.
With Jones being the GM, the hope is he gets to meet every player that comes in for a 30-visit. However, he still has a busy schedule as the NFL’s Tiffany franchise owner, so it’s a big deal when he visits with any player.
Jaquelin Roy is an interesting player because he was highly recruited for college but didn’t develop the top-end traits to be a first or second-round pick. Is the third round too high for the Cowboys to select him? Well, Dallas has telegraphed in the past that the third round is where they value defensive tackle (Neville Gallimore & Osa Odighizuwa).
Roy has excellent get-off for his size with pass rush ability but doesn’t maintain gap integrity well enough to be an excellent run defender. The third round might be early for someone like Roy, but with Dan Quinn looking to keep a rotation of pass rushers at the position and Gallimore entering the final year of his rookie deal, he could become the Cowboys’ next pass-rushing DT.
Round 4 (No. 129): Juice Scruggs, G/C - Penn St.
First, the 2023 draft might be one of the all-time greats regarding prospect names. Secondly, Dallas needs to address their depth along the offensive line, and Juice Scruggs could provide that, especially in the fourth round.
Scruggs is a solid consolation prize if the Cowboys miss out on the top guard talents at the top of the draft. He has center and guard flexibility and is an intelligent player. Depending on the front office’s plans with Tyler Biadasz, the Nittany Lion could be their “Joe Looney” as a bridge to someone else.
His best position might be at guard, where he can play with less to think about around him and rely on his fundamentals to become a solid pass protector. Having the communication skills playing center in his back pocket helps a lot in film study and could be a valued resource along the line.
The Cowboys met with Scruggs early in the draft process, so if he’s in the fourth round, don’t be surprised if they send the card in.