The NFL Draft is less than a month away, but it still feels like an eternity before fans of the Dallas Cowboys will hear the names of their 2023 draft class. The team has done a great job filling voids to where they can approach this draft with the plan of seeking out quality talent regardless of what position they might play.
When it comes to the first round of the draft, the Cowboys could essentially go any direction they choose, and it’s really a mystery as to what they actually do. There’s a long list of potential candidates spread across several different positions. Ideally, the Cowboys would want a guy who could immediately step in and contribute. Last year they selected Tyler Smith in the first round and he just so happened to log the most snaps on the entire team. That’s contributing.
Today, we wanted to hypothesize what new college prospect, if selected 26th overall, might have the biggest impact on the upcoming season. First off, let’s just go over what you won’t find in this article. Sorry, but there will not be a Jaxon Smith-Njigba mentioned. Not because he might not slide that far (anything’s possible), but rather because his expected contributions could be lessened due to the Cowboys already having CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, and now Brandin Cooks on the roster. He could still end up being a star, but would he be a star in 2023?
Another player you won’t find listed is [insert favorite tight end here]. Rookie tight ends don’t typically hit the ground running in the NFL and if the Cowboys drafted one, they would be worked into the mix with both Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot. They might eventually emerge as “the guy” but it likely wouldn’t be right away.
And finally, as great as it would be to see the team select one of the better corners in this draft, they would still spend part of the year developing behind three proven starters Trevon Diggs, Stephon Gilmore, and DaRon Bland. Unless a starter got hurt, that’s a pick that would be more valuable for the future.
Now that we got that out of the way, what players at what positions are most likely to provide the most contribution this season? We have three candidates we’d like to nominate for this exercise.
OT Brodrick Jones, Georgia
We are going to kick this thing off thinking big. The monster tackle from Georgia has an average draft position of 19th so there’s a good chance he’s not on the board when the Cowboys pick. That said, we’re no strangers to having studs fall into the Cowboys' laps on Day 1 and Broderick Jones is the type of player that could have fans jumping for joy if his name is called.
Jones is an incredible athlete. He has the lateral quickness to dance with quick edge rushers as well as the strength to fend off the more powerful ones. Despite the upside, Jones’ experience is limited as he’s only started 19 games. He has some fundamentals that need to be cleaned up and that might deter teams from using a premium draft resource on him.
But as we’ve seen from this Cowboys team, that is not an issue for them. Similar to Tyler Smith before him, the team could ease him in on the inside to hide his limitations. Or if he’s sharp out of the gate, they could move Smith inside. Either arrangement could instantly give Dallas one of the most promising up-and-coming offensive lines in the league. Think of the possibilities for Dak Prescott and this offense.
DT Bryan Bresee, Clemson
It’s been over 30 years since the Cowboys selected a defensive tackle in the first round of the draft, but that streak could come to an end if Clemson’s Bryan Bresee is still on the board at 26. The Cowboys aren’t big on taking heavy interior defensive linemen early, but Bresee offers a unique skill set that might help the front office change their thinking.
Yes, he is a gap penetrator who will be a force in defending the run and he will draw double teams. But he also plays with a suddenness that often finds him in the backfield chasing quarterbacks. Pairing him with the veteran Johnathan Hankins on early downs as well as working alongside Osa Odighizuwa on passing downs could be the DT rotation that this team has been missing.
Bresee’s versatility and high upside will be appealing to any team, but his journey to the NFL is a story that melts the heart of an owner like Jerry Jones. Bring that perseverance to Dallas.
RB Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama
While there’s a lot of debate around whether or not it would make sense to draft Texas running back Bijan Robinson, it’s important to understand a couple of things. First, elite players are elite players, so if they fall to you in the draft, you pounce! And second, elite players aren’t likely to slide all the way to the back of the first round.
While there is a great chance Robinson isn’t in play for Dallas at 26 making that entire debate moot, the same might not be true for Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs. Sure, Robinson is the consensus top running back in this draft, but Gibbs might be the 1B to Robinson’s 1A. The Bama back is NFL-ready and brings many traits to the table. He has great vision, can cut on a dime, and is equally explosive as a receiver. If the Cowboys paired him with Tony Pollard, they would have an outstanding running back duo for the upcoming season as well as a green light to let Pollard walk next offseason.
Which of these players do you think would have the most immediate impact on the Cowboys? Or, is there another player you believe would have a greater chance to contribute in 2023?