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How the 2023 NFL Draft affects the Cowboys current depth chart

Breaking down the roster to figure out the place for the rookies.

NFL: NFL Draft
We know where he is on the depth chart.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s in the books. The Dallas Cowboys have made eight selections in the 2023 NFL Draft. While the UDFA signings could come into play in August when the team makes the lone cutdown this year, that is very much to be determined. However, the team prefers to keep as many of their draft picks as they can, a tendency that was likely reinforced by the failure of John Ridgeway to clear waivers last season when they tried to sneak him onto the practice squad.

Of course, all draft picks are not created equal. Here is a look at where each one of this year’s draftees impacts the depth chart. There will be some changes once the Cowboys get into camp, but this is how they seem to fit right now.

1st round - DT Mazi Smith, Michigan

Dallas always wants to get an immediate starter with any first-round selection, even when they are late in the order as they were this year. Defensive tackle is one of the only positions on the entire team where they could do so. This seems to have been a bigger factor than we might have realized coming into the draft, which is why most of us were surprised when Smith’s name was called on Day 1.

Once the initial shock wore off, however, this pick started to make a lot of sense. There was an obvious focus on the run defense in this draft. They were vulnerable last year, failing far too often to get off the field when the opponents were in third and short or going for it on fourth down. In many ways, this is a direct acknowledgement that the Philadelphia Eagles are now the big obstacle in the NFC East. They have become nearly unstoppable in short-yardage with Jalen Hurts keeping the ball and his offensive line plowing ahead to move the sticks or get into the end zone.

Smith is the new starter, an athletic freak. He is incredibly strong, so much that the training staff at Michigan had to come up with new equipment because he needed more weight to move than their old machines could provide, and at times even broke the ones they had.

His explosiveness is just incredible for a man of his size.

Smith is going to be a force in the middle of the defense and will make those around him better, including Micah Parsons. He will draw a double team almost all the time. He moves Johnathan Hankins to the backup role, but that is not a bad thing. These big guys need breathers, and having a very capable big man like Hankins to spell Smith will mean things won’t fall off much when he does.

This could be bad news for Quentin Bohanna, however. It is unlikely that the team will carry three big NT types. Bohanna could well be released in August, with the team hoping to get him back on the practice squad as insurance.

2nd round - TE Luke Schoonmaker, Michigan

In wake of the departure of Dalton Schultz, there was a lot of talk about the need to take a tight end early in the draft, but Schoonmaker was on very few radars, and certainly not as early as they took him. Many feel that he is just going to be a backup for Jake Ferguson, and some think Peyton Hendershot is going to be ahead of the new TE as well.

However, Ferguson only had 19 catches last season, and Hendershot 11, for a combined total of 277 yards. That was largely due to Schultz eating up so many targets, with 57 catches. But it means that Ferguson and Hendershot are still not that proven. In some ways, Schoonmaker is more similar to Schultz than either of them. And while he may be penciled in as the TE3, he is really in a competition to be the TE1 by the end of camp. Otherwise, he would not have been taken at 58 overall.

This puts Sean McKeon on notice, although the team may elect to carry four TEs.

3rd round - LB DeMarvion Overshown, Texas

With Leighton Vander Esch back, Overshown is in a competition with Damone Clark for the LB2 job. The way Dan Quinn uses his personnel, the Cowboys sometimes only have one pure off-ball linebacker on the field, utilizing hybrid player Jayron Kearse instead. But just as Smith was brought in to shore up the run defense, Overshown is going to be in his own competition to move ahead of Clark. The latter had a very impressive rookie season, especially in light of coming off surgery that many expected to cause him to miss the entire season. The key is going to be which one is the best run defender. This could become a case of them having different roles, with one used more in passing situations.

Overshown’s addition is to replace Anthony Barr, so it is possible he won’t force either Jabril Cox or Devin Harper off the roster, although both of them may have to make the team primarily as special teams assets. However, linebackers are very good for that role. I just don’t think Overshown is going to have to rely on that. He should be among the top three LBs at a minimum.

4th round - DE Viliami Fehoko Jr, San Jose State

This was one of the more interesting picks, because the fourth round is still seen as a good place to get usable talent, but the Cowboys have a very crowded DE room. Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence, Sam Williams, and Dorance Armstrong are the top four, which throws Fehoko into competition with Dante Fowler Jr and Takk McKinley for a fifth and possibly sixth spot. Something has to give. Given his draft position, Fehoko will make the roster unless something goes very badly in camp, and push someone else off.

This also seems to impact defensive tackle, since it likely signals Chauncy Golston is going to be playing there full time as a 3T along with Osa Odighizuwa and Neville Gallimore.

5th round - OT Asim Richards, North Carolina

This one is complicated, because at the moment there is certainly a possibility the plan is to move him inside to guard, one position the team did nothing else to address in the draft. It was seen as one of the most pressing ones, too, which is one of the reasons this draft class was not seen as very impressive to many.

All signs continue to point to the starting offensive line being LT Tyron Smith, LG Tyler Smith, C Tyler Biadasz, RG Zack Martin, and LT Terrence Steele. That may mean Richards is being brought in to become the swing tackle as well. This could be valuable as it would meant the team would not have to move Tyler Smith back out to LT if something causes Tyron Smith to miss games, which is unfortunately very likely. And offensive line depth is a real mess right now, or at least quite uncertain. Matt Waletzko missed last season and Josh Ball is being tried at guard. Matt Farniok is probably going to be the primary backup to Biadasz and can play guard as well.

Richards has an excellent chance of being on the roster if he does well. However, this year has seen some real changes in the thinking inside the Star, shown in the trades for Stephon Gilmore and Brandin Cooks, as well as taking a DT in round 1, both things that the team just hadn’t done in many, many years - over 30 in the latter case. Normally being a fifth-round pick would offer Richards protection, but that simply may not be true anymore. He is going to have to prove himself.

Rd 6 (via trade) - CB Eric Scott Jr, Southern Mississippi

Dallas wanted this player enough to trade away a 2024 fifth-round pick to get him. He may be this year’s injury special, as he hurt himself at the combine and ran the 40 on a bad leg, leading to a very slow time.

The role envisioned for him is a bit of a mystery at the moment. With Gilmore, Trevon Diggs, Jourdan Lewis, and DaRon Bland, the top of the CB group is good. Nahshon Wright is probably the biggest competition for Scott if the team keeps just five (with C.J. Goodwin not really counting since he is a special teams ace.) Scott may be a future play with hope of stashing him on the practice squad for future development.

Rd 6 - RB Deuce Vaughn, Kansas State

First things first. If you didn’t choke up at the video of Vaughn’s father, Dallas running back scout Chris Vaughn, making the call to tell his son the card was going up to make Deuce a Cowboy, you have a heart of stone and need to take empathy lessons immediately. It was perhaps the best feel good moment in the entire history of the NFL Draft.

And it should make you pretty excited about what it means for the offense, too. Vaughn is an electrifying, incredibly agile and elusive runner and receiver. Get him the ball in space or give him a hole - he doesn’t need a big one - and he is one of the hardest players to lay your hands on you are going to find. Tony Pollard is RB1 in Dallas, but with him now the featured runner, Vaughn is the new change of pace back. It’s a two back league now, and Vaughn could become a real steal in the late sixth round. There was nothing sentimental or gimmicky about his selection. He was brought in to help Dak Prescott and make the offense better, and he almost certainly does. The competition at RB is for the third RB, one who is bigger than either Pollard or Vaughn, likely to come down to Ronald Jones and Malik Davis.

7th round - WR Jalen Brooks, South Carolina

Frankly, Brooks looks like a bit of a flyer. Not very fast, and not highly productive in college, plus he missed the Gator Bowl due to what his head coach described only as an off-field issue. It is hard to see Brooks making the 53-man roster.

That is how I see each of the draftees impacting the roster. Let us know in the comments how you see them fitting in, or if they have a chance of sticking at all.

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