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Cowboys draft analysis: Why the Cowboys selected defensive end Viliami Fehoko in the fourth round

The Cowboys continued to add to their defense to kick off day three.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 13 Utah State at San Jose State Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys came into the final day of the 2023 NFL Draft with their first selection at pick 129. Since Will McClay started running the Cowboys’ draft back in 2014, the fourth round has been a sweet spot for Dallas.

Out of the eight players McClay and the Cowboys have selected in the fourth round, five are still with the team, and the last six selections have all been significant contributors.

  • 2022: Jake Ferguson, TE
  • 2020: Tyler Biadasz, C
  • 2019: Tony Pollard, RB
  • 2018: Dorance Armstrong, DE
  • 2018: Dalton Schultz, TE
  • 2016: Dak Prescott, QB
  • 2015: Damien Wilson, LB
  • 2014: Anthony Hitchens, LB

This year, the Cowboys used their fourth-round pick to add another defender, selecting defensive end Viliami Fehoko out of San Jose State.

Check out Viliami Fehoko’s career highlights at San Jose State

Fehoko, who shares a last name but is not related to current Cowboys’ wideout Simi Fehoko, was extremely productive during his five-year career at San Jose State. The edge rusher recorded 23 sacks in his 45-game college career, including an impressive nine in his final season. Fehoko also added an extremely impressive 19 tackles for loss, showing his ability to make consistent plays in the backfield.

It’s hard to understate Fehoko’s dominance in getting to the quarterback at San Jose State. For his career, Fehoko won 21.5% of his pass-rush attempts, an extremely high number.

Fehoko isn't just a one-trick pony either, the 23-year-old was very good against the run during his college career, ranking in the 99th percentile for run defense grade, via Pro Football Focus.

Another tool Fehoko brings to the table is the versatility to play both inside and out, something the Cowboys really value on their defense.

Here’s what our own David Howman had to say about the San Jose State product in his scouting report.

Pass Rush Moves: Name the move and he’s got it. Fehoko has the deep bag of pass rush moves you’d like to see from someone with as much experience as he has. He has busted out nearly every pass rush move in the book by now, and does a great job of layering his counters to beat linemen even if he can’t win on the first try. There are very few defensive linemen in this draft as refined in this area as Fehoko.

Run Defense: He was an elite run defender at San Jose State. He’s a beast at the point of attack, which enabled him to set the edge with consistency against the run. Fehoko is great at shedding blocks to pursue the ball-carrier. Of all the EDGEs in this draft, nobody posted a higher run stop rate than Fehoko. As dominant as he was in the pass rush game, he was equally effective in run defense, making him a prospect capable of playing on any down.

Dane Brugler of The Athletic had Fehoko ranked as his 24th defensive end. Here’s what Brugler had to say about the 23-year-old.

A four-year starter at San Jose State, Fehoko lined up as a defensive end in defensive coordinator Derrick Odum’s 3-4 base scheme. The Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year in 2022, he led the Spartans in tackles for loss each of the last three seasons, including a career-high 19.0 as a senior. He finished his career No. 2 in school history in tackles for loss (47.0) and No. 5 in sacks (23.0). With the hands to free himself as a pass rusher, Fehoko counters without thinking and always seems to have a backup plan for his backup plan. Though he diagnoses quickly and is urgent in his reaction to movement, his body tightness will leave him lingering on blocks. Overall, Fehoko is missing the top-tier athleticism and length most desire on the edge, but he will appeal to defensive coordinators because of his energetic play style and refined handwork. He projects as a backup and rotational base end in the NFL.

Fehoko will add to an already impressive Cowboys’ pass rush and will instantly become one of the better run-defending defensive ends on the roster.

Overall, this was a solid selection. Fehoko’s ability to get to the quarterback and stop the run gives him the potential to become an extremely productive player at the next level.

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