With this year’s draft in the rear view along with rosters getting filled across the league, there are plenty of new names to keep an eye on as the regular season starts to come into focus. The Dallas Cowboys have added eight new players in the draft from the latest crop of college athletes looking to stake their claim at the professional level.
Of these eight selections, the franchise took only one offensive lineman and waited until drafting Asim Richards in round five to address this area. On the surface, waiting this long to draft a need could mean that the team is fine with what they’ve got on the roster. The projected starting five is Tyron Smith, Tyler Smith, Tyler Biadasz, Zack Martin, and Terence Steele. If this is the case, then taking a flyer on a player with potential like Richards makes sense. Also, if it doesn’t work out for whatever reason with him, then only a fifth-rounder that was used in the grand scheme isn’t really that much.
Aside from Richards, players like Matt Farniok, Chuma Edoga, and even Josh Ball are in contention to fill out the bench along the offensive line. However, the best way to get a better grasp on putting together the best depth is to bring in a handful of players, both rookie and veteran, to let them duke it out for the backup job. This type of competition will typically bring out the best in each player, and in the long term make the whole unit just that much better.
In the case of adding in more competition, there is a particular player who was added as an undrafted free agent that not only has a good shot at making the team, but eventually becoming a starter for the Cowboys if the stars align and that player is offensive lineman T.J. Bass.
Bass, who has been a fixture along the offensive line the past three seasons for the University of Oregon, originally went the junior college route via Butte College before joining the Ducks ahead of the 2020 season. As a high schooler and member of the 2017 recruiting class, he was an unrated prospect with zero Division-1 offers. The decision to go the junior college route from 2018 to 2019 seemingly paid off as he was a consensus top-50 junior college player and was ranked as the top offensive guard in the country. Due to this, his offer sheet got quite full as offers came in from schools like Auburn and TCU before deciding on taking his talents to Oregon.
While at Oregon, he started all 34 games where he played at either left guard or left tackle. Regardless of where he played along the offensive line, Bass, in three seasons in Eugene, only gave up three total sacks. In his final two seasons in school, PFF had him graded as high as 86 overall with a high of 90.5 in the run blocking department. These type of numbers show you just how good of a player Bass was in college and the awards will back that up as he earned back-to-back Coaches Pac-12 All-Conference First Team in 2021 and 2022. He would also nab The Athletic All-American Second Team honor as well. Based on the college career that Bass had, it’s a tad surprising seeing him go undrafted this year.
On the field, he possesses quality traits that NFL teams look for in an offensive lineman. As a blocker, he does quite well on reach blocks and is good at sealing the backside when needed. His mental acumen shows up on tape as he is very good at recognizing where he needs to block on a certain play, especially at the second level. His thick and compact frame makes him very proficient in the run game, and he has enough athletic ability to block on the move.
The run game is certainly his strong suit. However, due to his lack of length and reach, his balance in the pass game can be shaky at times. This issue also shows while he is being rushed out on the edge by dynamic speed rushers. Bass, while in pass protection, needs to be very technical due to his length and reach deficiencies or he will be a liability out there.
Given his traits as a quality run blocker who possesses a good build, he is a much better player kicked inside where he will has his edges protected. There is a lot to like about his game, and putting him in at guard is where he should flourish. He could potentially develop into a player who could take the keys at left guard by the time Tyron Smith is gone and Tyler Smith is permanently a fixture at left tackle. At a minimum, Bass is a quality depth player on a small contract which is also something to make note of as the high level players on this team come due for a massive pay raise. You will need cheap and effective players like Bass to allow the team be flexible enough to pay their top tier players.
Check out some his highlights below: