We’re almost halfway through the 2023 NFL Draft and, at least for now, the Dallas Cowboys have made their three most significant selections. How will their rookie additions from Rounds 1-3 fit into their positions, and which current Cowboys may have just been pushed onto the precarious roster bubble?
First-round pick Mazi Smith, the big defensive tackle out of Michigan, walks into the position with some rarely seen pedigree. He’s the highest-drafted DT for Dallas since Russell Maryland went first overall in 1991; their only other first-round DT in over 30 years.
Naturally, Smith is expected to hit the ground running and command a sizeable chunk of the Cowboys’ defensive snaps. He will likely start as the 1-tech DT in the base scheme and see plenty of work in other packages, forming a new starting duo with third-year stud Osa Odighizuwa.
Smith’s arrival would seem to put another third-year prospect, Quinton Bohanna, in a fight for a roster spot. The 31-year-old Johnathan Hankins was a mid-season free-agent addition last year and was just re-signed after a solid showing. He was the team’s best run defender at DT last season, quickly stealing snaps from Bohanna.
While still having two years left on his rookie deal, Bohanna was just a sixth-rounder in 2021 and got leapfrogged by Hankins a year ago. While he could have co-existed with Hankins in a rotation, the addition of Mazi Smith could be Bohanna’s undoing in Dallas.
It’s possible that Smith will simply take Carlos Watkins’ unfilled roster spot, leaving Bohanna, Hankins, and Neville Gallimore all as the returning depth players. But having three run-stuffers would be unusual for the Cowboys; it feels more likely that they would hang on to another guy with some pass-rushing skills.
Luke Schoonmaker’s arrival is much less of a game-changer. He steps into the spot formerly held by Dalton Schultz, naturally assumed to be the new starter as a second-round pick. If there is a battle with Jake Ferguson for that job this summer, we hope it’s because Ferguson is delivering on perceived potential.
Last year, Dallas generally kept four tight ends on the roster with Sean McKeon appearing in 13 games. That shouldn’t change in 2023; it would take another new arrival for McKeon’s spot to be threatened.
That said, McKeon was probably hoping that Dallas would hand the reins to Ferguson and give him a better opportunity to ascend the depth chart. So while this doesn’t change the status quo from last year, it does force McKeon back into occasional inactivity and perhaps even some time on the practice squad.
Dallas addressed another big need with its third-round pick, taking Texas LB DeMarvion Overshown. The former safety fits the mold of what Dallas likes at the position, particularly in pass-defense schemes. He could help spell Jayron Kearse in that hybrid role the veteran has become known for.
Having not yet re-signed Anthony Barr or added anyone to replace him, the Cowboys needed at least one more significant linebacker this offseason. They brought back Leighton Vander Esch and still have Damone Clark and Jabril Cox as intriguing prospects. Clark will likely move up into Barr’s role in the base defense, with Overshown and Cox seeing more work in the nickel.
To say this pushes anyone to the bubble would be a stretch as guys like Devin Harper and Malik Jefferson were already there. Overshown’s arrival certainly hurts their hopes of finding a more significant role in 2023, but they were longshots before the draft and remain so now.