The Dallas Cowboys got themselves a tight end. After weeks of discussing which new rookie the team would pick in the draft, the suspense came to an end when Dallas took Michigan’s Luke Schoonmaker in the second round with the 58th overall pick. Many were anticipating that they would go after one of the bigger-named tight ends with their first-round pick, but the Cowboys went another direction when they selected Schoonmaker’s teammate, Mazi Smith, with the 27th overall pick.
There aren’t a lot of complaints about Schoonmaker the player as he’s a talented tight end that any NFL team would welcome to their system. He can catch passes. He can block. He’s going to be an asset. The issue most people have is whether or not he was the best use of this draft resource. Schoonmaker isn’t one of those freak specimens of a player, his college production is almost non-existent from a receiving standpoint outside of his final year, and he’s going to be 25 years old when the season starts. This is the guy the Cowboys wanted at 58?
While you can paint a picture that this is a very vanilla pick and warrants very little reason to get excited, there are actually very good reasons for Schoonmaker being a very good pick. The first is that he is an NFL-ready player. He’s one of the best blocking tight ends entering the NFL. He has strong hands to hold his blocks and gets out in the second level to escort defenders out of the play. He lined up all over the place in Michigan’s offense and was an integral part of their running game.
One of the things that I really like about Luke Schoonmaker is that he has a lot of experience playing multiple spots on offense.— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) May 2, 2023
That is going to be pretty important in a Mike McCarthy offense. pic.twitter.com/2gKFiaQgtE
So, a blocker who can line up and play is great, but his contribution as a receiver isn’t anything that poses a real threat. His last year at Michigan only produced 35 catches for 418 yards and three touchdowns. Modest, but nothing remarkable.
If you were to run back Dalton Schultz’s time at Stanford, you would find three seasons with a total of 55 catches for 555 yards and five touchdowns. He never eclipsed 222 yards receiving in any year he was in college. But that’s okay, the Cowboys didn’t draft him for his pass-catching, but rather for his effectiveness as a blocker. That’s not to say he didn’t have any, it’s just he wasn’t used that much as a receiver at Stanford. One could even say that Schultz entered the league with some untapped potential as a receiver. And one would be right.
After being used as a depth tight end his first two years in the league where his primary responsibility was inline blocking, Schultz emerged as a legit receiving target for the Cowboys' offense. The once-invisible pass catcher has compiled 198 receptions, 2,000 receiving yards, and 18 touchdowns over the past three years. That’s tapping in on that potential.
Schultz and Schoonmaker are similar in a lot of ways and that’s why the rookie is the most Schultz-like tight end from this draft. They have almost the same build so when you see Schoonmaker running around on the field wearing 86, it’s going to be hard not to think we’re still seeing Schultz.
As similar as they are, there are some refreshing differences. From an athletic perspective, the rookie blows the veteran out of the water. He runs faster, he jumps farther, he’s quicker, and he has longer arms to offer a greater catch radius. If there was untapped potential as a receiver in Schultz, then we have to love the potential that Schoonmaker offers.
I’m starting to really like the Luke Schoonmaker pick. I think he’s as good if not a better blocker than Dalton Schultz was when he was coming out of Stanford and is light years ahead in the passing game. pic.twitter.com/Dts7f35Wyg— Ernie (@es3_09) May 3, 2023
The Cowboys would’ve loved to keep Schultz around as he’s a reliable blocker and safety net receiver for Dak Prescott, but they opted to let him leave in free agency and use their money elsewhere. Instead, they now get his doppelganger on a cheap, four-year deal that will come with an average annual cost of about $1.5 million per year. To replicate a veteran player who offers a meaningful role on this offense for pennies on the dollar is smart roster building.