It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s the newest members of the 2023 Dallas Cowboys!
Even though there is still some time left until fans know the latest jersey to buy, that doesn’t mean we can’t use the remaining time to have fun with player comparisons. During the draft process, members of the media love to compare prospects to NFL players giving people a ballpark range of what to expect at the next level.
What if, instead of comparing potential picks to current players, they had superhero counterparts?
Here are some potential draft targets for the Cowboys and who they resemble most from comic books.
Michael Mayer, TE = The Thing of the Fantastic 4 (Marvel Comics)
One of the first things said about Micahel Mayer as a prospect is that “he’s solid.” Put him along with a character like The Thing; you get “solid as a rock.”
Undoubtedly, Mayer is one of the premier talents in the 2023 draft. However, he doesn’t have a trait that makes him a generational talent by evaluators. He’s good at running routes, has solid hands as a pass catcher, and is good at getting yards after the catch—not outstanding in any of the categories.
When someone thinks about the strongest characters on Marvel’s roster, Hulk is usually the first that comes to mind. The Thing is your average, reliable hero that is as dependable as he is strong—just like Mayer. When looking at Mayer’s build, he’s a big-bodied receiver that is tough to bring down—but not on the level of his classmate, Darnell Washington.
Mayer will never be the Hulk (Travis Kelce), but he can become someone a quarterback can rely on. Just like The Thing is a member of the Fantastic Four, Mayer needs a team around him to be the best version of himself. That will, in return, make him more productive than if he was the focal point of an NFL offense.
Deuce Vaughn, RB = Throg (Marvel Comics)
A comic book comparison that’s a match made in heaven. Deuce Vaughn is entering the league being the shortest player (5’5”) ever measured in combine history. Just because he’s small doesn’t mean he hasn’t shown to be a durable running back.
During his final year at Kansas State, Vaughn had 293 carries (5th most), 1,558 rushing yards (8th most), and 133 yards on 22 carries against Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Not to mention he had 235 carries in 2021 as well.
In the comics, Throg is a human-turned-frog that was given all the powers of The Mighty Thor. Even though he’s one of the smallest superheroes, he never lets his size get in the way of being the best.
Similarly, Vaughn never allows his size to prevent him from being a surprisingly good pass protector. He’s a willing blocker and uses his height as an advantage to create leverage against rushers or go for a cut block.
It’s unsure how long Vaughn’s career will last in the NFL, but his love for the game and willingness to overcome his size should keep him around longer than expected.
Dawand Jones, OT = Goliath (Marvel Comics)
Dawand Jones is a large human being. Not only is he one of the tallest players at his position at 6’8”, but he also has an 87 7/8” wingspan. That’s almost the same wingspan as a fully-grown male crane.
Because of his size, it’s creating a buzz of him potentially going in the first round of the draft. However, scouts wonder how well he would fair against pass rushers that beat him with speed, which can hurt him in the NFL. That’s why some mocks have him as high as No. 31 to Kansas City or as low as the third round.
Goliath was one of the biggest superheroes in Marvel’s early history but is constantly overlooked for heroes of similar stature. In the MCU, Marvel picked Ant-Man/Giant-Man to fill the role of their “big hero.” Like Goliath, Jones doesn’t get the spotlight among his peers and as one of the class’s top tackles.
Right now, Jones might be a second-tier offensive tackle on teams’ draft boards because he can sometimes look like a 25-foot man trying to move quickly. However, if he can figure out how to marry his size and tools as a professional tackle, he’ll soon become one of the best tackles in the class and be considered “superhuman.”
Lukas Van Ness, EDGE = Bucky Barnes (Marvel Comics)
When I saw Lukas Van Ness in person playing against Rutgers in 2022, my immediate comparison was to J.J. Watt. Both men were measured at the combine to be 6’5” and to have 34-inch arm length. Watt was a little heavier coming out of college at 290 pounds than Van Ness’s weight at 272. The future Hall of Famer stayed in college a year longer than Van Ness to develop his professional build.
Crowning Van Ness as the next Watt might be jumping the gun a bit. That’s why a better comparison would be Bucky Barnes. Before Barnes became The Winter Soldier, he was the young sidekick to Captain America during World War II. Barnes never had superhuman strength but hoped to become his own Super Soldier someday.
If J.J. Watt is Captain America, then Van Ness still needs time to grow into that role, with the potential of someday getting there. Given that the former Hawkeye is just 21 years old, there’s a lot of projection of where he could be five years from now as a pro.
Right now, Van Ness is Bucky Barnes trying to find what path he’s about to head on. One road is becoming the Winter Soldier, a hired assassin for defenses that bounces from team to team, guaranteeing at least five sacks a season. The other is becoming Captain America, where he’s a franchise player for the next decade and a half getting a few Pro Bowls and All-Pro nominations along the way.