It took them forever and a day, but the Dallas Cowboys landed themselves a brand new offensive linemen in the 2023 NFL Draft. After showing interest in some of the top talent players like Steve Avila and O’Cyrus Torrence, many hoped the team would address this need earlier. But, with each new pick, the Cowboys went in another direction. Finally, in round five, the Cowboys selected North Carolina’s Asim Richards with the 169th overall pick.
When you look closely at the Richards picks, it becomes very clear why the Cowboys waited. On the surface, the team gets a big school left tackle who has been a reliable fixture along the Tar Heels offensive line. He’s extremely durable, making 34 straight starts to finish out his college career, including over 1,000 snaps last year alone. He has long arms to keep defenders at bay and really good athleticism. His college tape didn’t dazzle, which is why he was still available in the fifth round, but all of his traits make him an intriguing development player on the offensive line.
Right now, the Cowboys are in good shape at tackle thanks to some brilliant scouting by the Cowboys player personnel department in recent years. Starting with the signing of undrafted free agent Terence Steele, the team found a raw, but athletic tackle who they have developed into one of the best run-blocking right tackles in the league. They also selected Tyler Smith with their top draft resource last year and he’s already proving that he could be one of the next top tackles in the league. Throw in a reconfigured cap-friendly contract of Tyron Smith, and the team has three quality blockers along the edge.
Where the team has questions is at the left guard position. They lost Connor McGovern in free agency and as we indicated earlier, they did not select a day-one starter in this year’s draft. Instead, they will hope that the answers lie somewhere between third-year reserve Matt Farniok, recent free agent signing Chuma Edoga, or the position change of Josh Ball. While any of those options might do in a pinch, none of them inspire much confidence in terms of providing a long-term solution. That’s where Richards comes in.
Richards is a young, ascending player who still needs development if he is to become a capable NFL starter, but what is interesting about him is that he has a lot of traits that may allow him to get on the field sooner by sliding inside. For starters, he is a fantastic run-blocker. He exhibits great strength starting with exceptional knee bend and strong lower body power. He’s a player that can get his hands on you, turn his hips, and create a nice running lane for his running back.
Richards is a very smart player. He shows good initial quickness and gets to his spot right away, attacking the inside shoulder of the defender and making it incredibly hard for his man to have a clean shot at the ball carrier. The intelligence to move fast and get himself into position allows him to be an effective sealer and he has some impressive run-blocking reps on display. The length and strength in his hands make it very hard for defenders to get away as Richards does a great job climbing blocks and finishing.
The Cowboys have a lot of good things to work with here as this 21-year-old is just getting started. He’s already coming into the NFL with a good chunk of experience, and while his current skills depict him as a “bland” Day 3 prospect, he has all the traits to be something more. Last year, the Cowboys passed up on several cornerbacks to address other needs and ended up taking a traitsy development player in DaRon Bland. He progressed quite well and finished the year with five interceptions which were one shy from the NFL lead last season. Bland has already become a player we feel really good about as a starter on this defense. If the Cowboys can capitalize on another traits guy and once again develop another strong athletic tackle, Richards could end up being one of the steals of the draft.