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5 questions about the Cowboys draft that could determine its long-term success

The Cowboys are hoping their draft picks from 2023 can hit the high bar of potential they see for them down the road.

NFL Combine Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Everything is a ‘right-now’ world when it comes to sports. That’s why we devour grades immediately after the draft; we want instant confirmation that our team either nailed it, or blew it. Reality shows us that it can be a few years before we know if a draft class is successful or not.

We’ve got five questions about the Cowboys draft class, and how the players answer them will help determine if the Cowboys got it right, or wasted some picks.

1. Can Deuce Vaughn be more than just a specialty guy?

The Cowboys drafting Vaughn has caused quite a bit of excitement. Just watching his highlight reel from Kansas State is enough to get any Cowboys fan pumped. But, and we know this ‘but’ because its the reason he fell to the sixth round, can he survive in the NFL at his size? There have been guys who have done it like Darren Sproles, but there is always the injury issue for a guy Vaughn’s size.

The Cowboys will want to get more out of Vaughn than the occasional change of pace. He’ll probably never be a workhorse, three-down guy. His blitz pickup might be a real issue, too. But can he do more than catch passes and occasionally run to the outside? Can he work the middle of the line if needed? If he can, the Cowboys hit a home run with this pick.

2. Will Maxi Smith develop some pass-rush moves?

We know Smith is a mountain of man, and his primary role will be to help stop the run, something the Cowboys have not been very good at recently. It feels like this is something he will accomplish right away. But the Cowboys invested a first-round pick in him, and they are surely hoping he will develop a pass rush at some point. That is what will set him apart from other defensive tackles who just stop the run then come off the field in any passing situation. The Cowboys are betting that his strength and athleticism will eventually give way to some pass rushing skills.

3. Will Junior Fehoko make a transition to a viable defensive tackle?

If you watch Fehoko on tape, he was a defensive end mainly in a 3-4 alignment. His body type and skillset probably translate more to the inside of the defensive line than outside in Dallas’ scheme. The Cowboys are currently loaded with pass-rushing defensive ends. If Fehoko really wants to make a name for himself and succeed, he will probably have to be able to man an inside spot on the line too, and be able to make a difference in the run defense. This is likely his ticket to success long term.

4. Is Luke Schoonmaker more in the pass game than what his Michigan stats say?

We know that Schoonmaker was an essential element in the Michigan run game. Everyone talks about how Michigan would run behind Schoonmaker and his run-blocking should be an element that adds value to the Cowboys right away. The question is how will he perform as a pass catcher. He certainly has the build and athleticism to master this part of the game at the NFL level, but if you go by his stats at Michigan, he’s not a second -round pick. This is why many analysts think the Cowboys over-drafted him. Schoonmaker has to make this part of his game work to be a success.

5. Can Asim Richards excel as a guard with the ability to transition back to tackle if needed?

The Cowboys seem like they are going to attempt this again, draft a tackle and slide him into the guard spot. Mike McCarthy likes athletic and rangy tackles who can carry that ability into the interior. At the moment the Cowboys have options at the tackle spot, but could use a breakout player at guard. If Richards can become a viable guard, while maintaining position flex to backup at tackle, or one day even transition back out there if space opens up, then the Cowboys nailed it once again.

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