It is safe to say that no one had a mock that was very close to what the Dallas Cowboys did in the 2023 NFL Draft. They broke a decades old trend by selecting defensive tackle Mazi Smith in the first round, then took another position they have not spent much capital on in the second with tight end Luke Schoonmaker. The third-rounder, linebacker DeMarvion Overshown, was at a position the team has gone high in recent years with Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, but it was one that many did not think was a high priority. Many outside analysts think the first three selections by Dallas were all overdrafted, or reaches.
But we have just found out how close to the vest the Cowboys were holding their cards before the draft. The overall focus on run defense is the most obvious example, but Overshown’s selection also was influenced by a decision that was certainly made before the draft, but not revealed until afterwards. The team has finally conceded what most could see on the field, that Micah Parsons is an EDGE rusher, not a linebacker. His usage last season made it clear that he was a pass rusher who occasionally would be playing off the line of scrimmage.
Where Micah Parsons has lined up all season: pic.twitter.com/39AxStWLK3— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) January 18, 2023
While making the position change seems like a true no-brainer, it did leave a hole on the roster for a rangy linebacker who could help stop the run and not be a liability on passing downs. Overshown seems to fill that bill. He was recruited to Texas as a safety. That adds to the idea that he may be looked at to fill a role more like Jayron Kearse than Parsons. Pass rushing may be the weakest part of his game. He will need to put on some muscle and work on moves to be able to contribute more than as a free rusher on blitzes. But his coverage skills are good, and he also showed ability to not get caught up in the wash and clutter when chasing down running backs.
The Parsons position switch, really more of a clarification, created a hole on the defense that we did not know about. This year’s draft was all about filling holes with the first three picks. Overshown will be competing with Damone Clark to line up next to Vander Esch on running downs. Schoonmaker is clearly the team’s plan to replace Dalton Schultz. And Smith gives them a starting big body in the middle of the defensive line. That was something the team tried to address with the trade to acquire Johnathan Hankins last season. Hankins was a successful addition, but limited by injuries. Now the team is two deep at the position and that problem has been alleviated.
The probable plan for Overshown is for him to take over the starting job as the WILL linebacker. It may not happen right away, but the intent would seem to be for it to happen fairly quickly. And Clark’s surprising performance last season provides needed depth. As mentioned, Overshown might also see work in the hybrid role Kearse fills. His safety background argues he has some of the requisite skill set.
However, a third-round pick is not normally a walk-in starter. It is possible that Clark has that spot the entire season while Overshown is worked in to get on-field experience. As mentioned, he is going to need some time in the weight room. A full offseason with the team may be needed before he is ready to take the starting job. If he doesn’t start this year, that does not make him a failed pick. The fact he may be used in different roles as both a WILL and SAM linebacker would make him more valuable his rookie season.
Fans and media were not the only ones that the Cowboys fooled by sitting on the news about Parsons until after the draft. They also masked their intentions from the rest of the league, something they have been very poor at in the past.
He was an unexpected domino to fall. He was also a necessary one, something the draft room knew that we didn’t. In hindsight, his selection makes a ton of sense.