The Dallas Cowboys have been prioritizing Senior Bowl players in the draft for years, and landed their second of the 2023 class in the fifth round with North Carolina’s Asim Richards. For a team that prides themselves on offensive line talent, this also marks the third straight year the Cowboys have taken a tackle on day three, and second in the fifth round specifically.
With last year’s selection Matt Waletzko basically taking a medical redshirt year, and Tyron Smith and Terence Steele’s health also being of concern, the Cowboys came into this draft still very much needing depth at tackle - finding it with Richards.
Though undersized for the position, Richards started 27 games at left tackle over the last two years for North Carolina. The Cowboys certainly have an archetype they look for in linemen, seeking out position flexibility and a mean streak to show in the run game. Dallas realized this in the limited reps Tyler Smith got as their top pick last year at left guard, and NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein sees similar traits from Richards if moved to the interior.
Pass protection concerns will be diminished with a move inside, but there will still be work needed when it comes to getting his feet in position to slow interior rushers. Richards’ drive blocking and potential position versatility give him a shot at a backup role with upside.
Left guard is the most open position on the Cowboys line right now, with tackles Josh Ball and Steele even being considered here. It will be a while until anything is sorted out as far as who gets the starting nod, and until then it’s hard to know if Richards is needed as a developmental guard or tackle. The Cowboys’ good fortune drafting offensive linemen early hasn’t exactly panned out in the later rounds lately though, and they’d love nothing more than the former high school tight end and defensive end to pan out at either guard or tackle.
Richards’ arm length and height are the most noticeable improvements when projecting him from his current position of tackle to inside at guard, currently in the eighth percentile for height at the tackle position.
The Cowboys will be in their second month of regular season games in October when Richards turns just 23 years old, making him an ideal day three pick that projects to get on the field later rather than immediately. When Bleacher Report’s scouting department points out that Richards has “vice grips for hands”, Cowboys fans should know that Will McClay and the Cowboys front office would be interested.
Overall, Richards is a powerfully built, durable blocker with very good length, lower half strength and vice grips for hands that make him an obstacle to work around or through. Richards has mediocre quickness but is nimble enough on his feet to compete for a swing backup role at tackle or guard with starting potential within his first contract if he lands in the right situation.
The Cowboys took a risk passing on potential day one starters Steve Avila and O’Cyrus Torrence in the second round, and continued to focus on building up their defense in the fourth round with Viliami Fehoko, but still found a way to address the future of their offensive line with their third-to-last pick in this year’s draft.