What was your takeaway from this action-packed weekend?
1. Dan Quinn’s influence is significant
As it should be, right? There was a palpable buzz on Cowboys Twitter whenever Quinn entered the war room. It hinted a defensive player was in the mix, and sure enough Dallas went defense-heavy with their early crop of picks.
Quinn is a defensive mastermind and Dallas’ defensive personnel is one of the best in the league, but not even DQ could overcome the team’s shortcomings stopping the run. Lo and behold, the Cowboys drafted the top nose tackle in the 2023 class in Mazi Smith with the No. 26 overall pick.
A tight end was a given in Round 2, but Dallas circled back to Quinn’s defense in the third round with athletic Texas linebacker DeMarvion Overshown at No. 90 overall and again in the fourth with San Jose State DL Viliami Fehoko.
Quinn’s been floated as Mike McCarthy’s potential successor if the Cowboys come up sort in the playoffs again. That feels like a given at this rate (if McCarthy is canned, obviously), because Quinn’s DNA is all over Dallas’ 2023 class.
Keep in mind you have to throw Cooks, Hankins, and Gilmore into this year’s draft haul.
This will lead to the inevitable backlash against instant analysis, with some trotting out the bromide that you must wait at least three years to accurately judge a draft class.
The rebuttal: not this time. What the Cowboys did with the capital they had in this draft makes it an unqualified success.
The acquisitions of Stephon Gilmore and Brandin Cooks must be factored into the assessment of this class. The same goes for defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, who was picked up during last season for a sixth round pick in this draft.
Do that, and an otherwise pedestrian haul for a team coming off consecutive 12-5 seasons takes on a much different look.
Instead of what happened, here is what could have been.
What If? Making the Bills’ Trade
Buffalo gave up their fourth-round selection to jump Dallas and select Dalton Kincaid. They weren’t interested in Kincaid, but because that’s going to be the narrative no matter what (re: Dallas Goedert)… what would things look like if Dallas had made a similar move and given Jacksonville No. 129? Here’s how I would’ve done it.
1.25: TE Dalton Kincaid, Utah
2.58: WR Marvin Mims, Oklahoma
3.90: LB Dorian Williams, Tulsa
5.169: RB Eric Gray, Oklahoma
6.212: CB Cory Trice, Purdue
7.244: DT Jerrod Clark, Coastal Carolina
Many thought cornerback was going to be a top priority for Dallas, even after using a fifth-round pick to acquire Stephon Gilmore. Here’s what a shadow draft looks like if they went CB with 1.26.
1.26: CB Joey Porter, Jr., Penn State
2.58: OG O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida
3.90: TE Darnell Washington, Georgia
4.129: DT Jaquelin Roy, LSU
5.169: WR Kayshon Boutte, LSU
6.212: RB Zach Evans, Ole Miss
7.244: LB Isaiah Land, Florida A&M
Cowboys Claim ‘We Hit All the Bases & Got Better!’ NFL Draft Pick-by-Pick Analysis - Mike Fisher, Sports Illustrated
Are the Cowboys better in 2023 than they were in 2022?
Round 2, No. 58: Luke Schoonmaker, tight end, Michigan - To actually “make the football team better,’’ Schoonmaker would have to be superior to Dalton Schultz, who left for Houston via free agency.
That seems unlikely.
Round 3, No. 90: DeMarvion Overshown, linebacker, Texas - Is he going to leapfrog over incumbent young backup Jabril Cox and get snaps with the defense? No way to predict that. Is he going to replace the departed Luke Gifford (to the Titans via free agency) as a core special-teamer? That makes sense.
But will he be “better’’ than Gifford? That’s a lofty prediction.
Round 4, No. 129: Viliami Fehoko, D-Line, San Jose State - How does he find a place inside a rotation of pass-rushers featuring Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong and Dante Fowler? Second-year guy Sam Williams already finds it tough to get his snaps. How will “Junior’’ get his?
We think this is a good pick but a longer-term play as Fehoko might eventually be a kid who plays on the edge and inside.
Round 5, No. 169: Asim Richards, O-Line, North Carolina - The Cowboys wanted to find somebody who might start at left guard. That seems a bit much to predict here, but if they found somebody who can compete at left guard, and who also has position flex as a tackle? Richards qualifies as a candidate.
But again, “better’’ than Connor McGovern? “Better’’ than Jason Peters? That’s a dream.
Dallas might have found another contributor without the use of a draft pick.
His collegiate accomplishments garnered media attention but didn’t seem to place him quite high enough on any team’s draft board.
Still, it’s hard to look at his list of achievements and not be a little excited (or at least curious) about what he could do for the Dallas Cowboys. The most notable of those achievements include:
19 sacks, 43 tackles, and 25.5 tackles for loss in 2021
Buck Buchanan Award winner (2021)
First Team AP FCS All-American (2021)
SWAC Defensive Player of the Year (2021)
First Team All SWAC (2021, 2022)
Cowboys undrafted free agents: Analyzing what Dallas got in their signings - LP Cruz, Blogging The Boys
Don’t forget about the players that the Cowboys added post-draft.
According to Marcus Mosher of Locked on Cowboys, eight of those players were ranked in Dane Brugler’s top 300 of eligible draftees. The Cowboys appear to have excellent value after the draft if that’s any indication of the talent they’ve just picked up. Long rumored to be in the market for a receiver during the draft, the Cowboys signed three receivers on Saturday. David Durden, Jalen Moreno-Cropper, and Jose Barbon.
— UWF Football (@UWFFootball) April 29, 2023
Durden was once a baseball prospect signed by the Boston Red Sox but returned to the gridiron and posted 54 receptions for 1,128 yards and 13 touchdowns his senior year at West Florida while being a special teams contributor. He’s got experience in both returning punts and playing the gunner position. Moreno-Cropper is a speedy slot receiver that earned All-American honors last year.
The team also added two cornerbacks in their undrafted crop. Myles Brooks and D’Angelo Mandell are both corners that fit the size archetype that defensive coordinator Dan Quinn covets. Mandell and Brooks would serve as developmental boundary corners that would be in direct competition with Nashon Wright. Mandell and Brooks would best serve to play in press-man coverage. With almost ten-inch hands, Brooks has ball skills and is adept at defending the pass. He intercepted three passes last season.
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