It is no surprise that the Dallas Cowboys like what they accomplished in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Sure, they are biased toward their nine selections, led by their first-round pick, Fort Worth native and Tulsa tackle Tyler Smith.
The question is whether they got better, especially after a free agency period that saw multiple established playmakers heading out of town without the team landing any players of equivalent talent in return.
And team owner Jerry Jones spoke volumes when he said he thought the team improved with their draft picks in 2022 as much as they did in last year.
He said he is fully aware that the prize of the 2021 draft was 12th overall pick linebacker Micah Parsons, who won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year while transforming a Cowboys defense that was one of the franchise’s worst in 2020 into a playmaking unit that helped propel them to a 12-5 mark and an NFC East title.
“I’m not exaggerating. You say, ‘My God, you had Micah leading the way there,’ “Jones said. “I think we got that kind of improvement from when we started the draft to now sitting here. That’s my opinion. “
On paper, Jones’ opinion doesn’t hold up under the light.
Parsons was a home run from the start.
With Smith, who was picked 24th overall, the team is betting on development and a high upside.
The Cowboys wouldn’t even guarantee that the player ranked 16th on their draft board would become a walk-in starter at left guard, despite not having another player at the position on the roster.
A better assessment of the Cowboys draft would be efficient in filling needs, promising, big and complimentary.
And whether draft pundits or fans liked what the team did or not – their consensus grade has been a ‘C’ – the Cowboys had a plan. They knew what they wanted to accomplish and they achieved their goal.
And when you add what they did in the previous two drafts since Mike McCarthy took over as head coach in 2020, the Cowboys believe they are building a championship foundation.
In addition to Parsons, who was a Pro Bowl linebacker and All-Pro in 2021, the Cowboys drafted impact players and Pro Bowl talents in 2020 with receiver CeeDee Lamb and cornerback Trevon Diggs in the first and second rounds as well as two other starters in defensive tackle Neville Gallimore and center Tyler Biadasz.
“I think every prospect speaks for himself,” McCarthy said. “This business is about stacking success. This is three draft classes that we’ve stacked together that I think really holds the bright future for us. Draft and develop is the bloodline / lifeline of how you want to build your football team, inside and out. Obviously, we’re able to hit on positions of need. I really like the way everything came together as far as putting the board together, and frankly, we were very disciplined and patient and stuck to our board. “
Five of the nine picks were players the Cowboys scouted at the Senior Bowl, and the Cowboys stuck with their trend of building a bigger as well as a better football team under McCarthy, starting with the massive 21-year-old Smith, who stands 6 -foot-5, 324 pounds and is considered a bully in the running game.
Smith will open his career at left guard and hopefully replace the departed Connor Williams, who had issues with size and strength the past four seasons. While that won’t be the case for Smith, he does have some technique issues that led to him racking up penalties while at Tulsa.
Size is also a reason the Cowboys didn’t take Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum, who went one pick later at 25 to the Baltimore Ravens. Linderbaum was ranked as the best center in the draft, but he didn’t fit the Cowboys’ need.
“It’s hard for me, personally, to take a center that can get knocked back,” Jones said. Someone here earlier asked the question, ‘Why did you pass on that center?’ We’ve got that. We’ve got a big base guy here. Obviously, we had alternatives, and we got it done. “
The Cowboys then took immediate impact players at need positions in the second, third and fourth rounds with edge rusher Sam Williams (6-3, 261), receiver Jalen Tolbert (6-2, 195) and tight end Jake Ferguson (6-5). , 244).
And if Smith wasn’t big enough, the Cowboys added more size and beef to the trenches with 6-8, 312-pound offensive tackle Matt Waletzko and 6-5, 321-pound nose tackle John Ridgeway in the fifth round.
Like Smith, Waletzko is big, nasty and physical. He is expected to be the swing tackle behind Tyron Smith and Terrence Steele.
The selection of Ridgeway, one year after the team took 6-5, 326-pound Quenton Bohahana in the sixth round is reflection of the team’s change in philosophy of wanting bigger guys up front.
It is also a nod to the disappointment of last year’s wild card playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers when the Cowboys got run over on the ground.
“He is a unique pick for us, relative to how we pick most years with the Dallas Cowboys,” Jerry Jones said. “We usually have less size and more quickness. I’ve always held my breath on getting big-boyed in there. This is a real statement in my mind as to how we are going to address the run game when we get into the playoffs. Mike was sitting there all day going, ‘Playoffs, playoffs. Remember the playoffs. ‘ That really is not only a great pick, but it is also a philosophical thing that feels good now that we’ve got two of those big guys. “
What the Cowboys also accomplished in the draft was take players who can make Parsons an even better weapon on defense.
Size up front occupies blockers and allows linebackers to run to the ball, and no one runs to the ball better than Parsons.
But the selections of Williams and linebacker Damone Clark in the fifth round and linebacker Devin Harper in the sixth allows the Cowboys to continue to use Parsons as a chess piece all over the defense as a linebacker, blitzer and edge rusher.
“Obviously, one of the questions that I kept asking is, ‘Is there a pick here that would give us a big complement to what Micah is? Is there a pick here that would make him have more pass pressure or let us use him more flexibly behind the line of scrimmage – get more blitzing out of him? Where is the complementary aspect to it? ‘, ”Jones said. “We really addressed that good. I think we have really upped the options we have with Micah to get that done. That was at the forefront of our thinking. So, I really think we built off the good fortune that we had of getting Micah Parsons last year. “
So the Cowboys like what they did in the 2022 NFL Draft.
But are they better?