the Dallas Cowboys have made their bed and it’s a bed that consists of nine new draft picks to help build their roster as they continue their quest for that long-awaited sixth title. Each of these players was drafted for a different purpose as some will see the pitch early, others may not at all.
In this week’s episode of The Star Seminar, Rabblerousr, and I discussed the best/worst-case scenarios for the Cowboys’ draft picks. You can listen to the episode below or by subscribing to the blog boys podcast network so you don’t miss any of our shows. Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.
Now, it’s time to revisit that a bit and project what we might see this coming season. Here are some realistic expectations for the Cowboys’ nine new draft picks in their rookie year.
Round 1 (24th overall): Tyler Smith, OL, Tulsa
Picking late in the first round meant the team was very unlikely to get a top-notch player from that draft class. So, much like the Cowboys, they decided to roll the dice and went with a player who offers advantages, even if he has a lot to do in the immediate future. While the best-case scenario is that Smith’s traits open the door for him to possibly take over for future Hall of Fame tackle Tyron Smith, the best we can hope for from Smith in the coming season is simply… to be an upgrade over Connor Williams at left guard. place.
Prediction: It may not happen right away, but by Week 6, Smith will jump on Connor McGovern as the team’s new left guard. He will lead the unit on penalties, but will show a nice improvement in the streak.
Round 2 (56th overall): De Williams, Ole Miss
The Cowboys let Randy Gregory slip through their fingers after finally seeing some of his potential appear on the field. Dallas took a chance on Gregory late in the second round in 2015, so it should come as no surprise that they replaced him by taking another chance late in the second round of this draft. Williams is coming off a very productive senior season with 15 tackles for a loss, including 12.5 sacks. With Gregory now playing at a higher elevation, Williams should have opportunities to rush the passer. However, his inability to defend the race coupled with the surging presence of Micah Parsons could limit some of his shots.
Prediction: With Dorance Armstrong ahead of him on the depth chart, expect Williams to be named as the rotational passing passer. A season of 400 snaps and five sacks would be a good start for the rookie.
Round 3 (88th overall): Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama
Wide receivers went like hotcakes early in the draft to the point where Tolbert was considered by the Cowboys in the second round. The team’s patience paid off as they managed to get their guy a round later. Tolbert is coming off two productive years in southern Alabama and has the skills to be in on the action immediately. And with veteran Michael Gallup set to miss the first half of the season after knee surgery, his opportunities should be plentiful.
Prediction: He will share the job of WR2 with the acquisition of free agent James Washington early on, but will appear as the unclear. 2 receiver a few weeks before Gallup returns when he next takes on the role of WR3. An 800-yard rookie season isn’t out of the question.
Round 4 (129th overall): Jake Ferguson, TE, Wisconsin
It was a foregone conclusion the Cowboys would reload after releasing franchise-tagged Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz. Ferguson’s selection offers them a bit of both as he has Jarwin’s receiving ability and Schultz’s blocking ability. The team also has third-year Sean McKeon and veteran Jeremy Sprinkle, both of whom are strong blockers. Getting Ferguson in early on might be a little tricky.
Prediction: He will dress a lot, but his representatives will be few and his targets will be almost non-existent. Don’t be surprised if he only manages a dozen catches in his first year, but a few of them could lead to touchdowns.
Round 5 (155th overall): Matt Waletzko, OT, North Dakota
With La’el Collins released and Tyler Smith not ready to tackle, the Cowboys could definitely use some depth on the edge. Terence Steele will occupy the right side opposite Tyron Smith, but the swing tackle position is wide open. The hope is that last year’s fourth-round pick Josh Ball can play that role, but he’s yet to register a snap in the NFL. The depth of the Cowboys offensive line may be full of surprises as we’ve seen lesser-known names (Brandon Knight and the aforementioned Steele) step into bigger rookie roles in years past, so who know what’s in store for Waletzko in 2022?
Prediction: Choice of hiding place. The traits are intriguing, but Waletzko needs to work out some of his balance issues before he gets any meaningful reps. He will make the list, but he will only record offensive snaps in garbage time.
Round 5 (167th overall): DaRon Bland, CB, Fresno State
It’s easy to be intrigued by Bland’s physical traits. After all, he’s long, he’s fast, and he has good instincts to put those traits to good use. With only a year at Division I level, there is still a lot to learn about this young corner. The team went after their guy last year with another corner pick out of nowhere in Nahshon Wright, but he barely saw action. With the team having a rather resilient squad with Trevon Diggs, Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis and Kelvin Joseph, a real path to playing time will require dropping multiple starters.
Prediction: Anthony Brown delivered as a rookie despite being a sixth-rounder, so anything is possible, but the role of a special team with very minimal defensive reps is probably the script for Bland.
Round 5 (176th overall): Damone Clark, LB, USL
The Tigers’ star linebacker was dropped from the rankings after the combine revealed he had a herniated disc. While he will have to be sidelined for a while until he recovers, Clark was a tackling beast last season, racking up 135 total tackles, including 15 from behind the line of scrimmage. The Cowboys re-signed Leighton Vander Esch and they have last year’s LSU draft pick Jabril Cox returning from injury. Combine that with the part-time linebacking services of Micah Parsons, the team has a solid core to work from while Clark heals.
Prediction: Don’t play this season. There are optimists who believe there is an outside chance that Clark will make his debut this season, but that usually ends up being wishful thinking.
Round 5 (178th overall): John Ridgeway, DT, Arkansas
Ridgeway’s selection marks only the second time Jerry Jones has drafted a player from his alma mater (Felix Jones was the other in 2008). The Cowboys continue to show they don’t appreciate two-man players whose sole purpose is to soak up blocks, and that’s what Ridgeway is. He doesn’t offer much as a passing thrower, but his long arms come in the form of handy drop blocks. Veteran Carlos Watkins and sophomore Quinton Bohanna will command most of the playing time, but the opportunity for reps is there.
Prediction: Even with better players ahead of him, he’ll get maybe 200 reps and maybe even double-digit tackles. It won’t be fancy.
Round 6 (193rd overall): Devin Harper, LB, Oklahoma State
Doubling up at linebacker with Clark not expecting to play right away is smart, but the answer won’t lie with a player like Harper. In his five years at Oklahoma State, he’s gotten better every season and he’s got some speed, but he’s got a lot of processing work to do if he’s going to get on the football field at this level.
Prediction: If things go well, he has a legitimate chance to contribute to the special teams, but a final cup/training squad spot could be where this one ends.
What do you expect from these new recruits this coming season? Who will have the greatest impact? Who will collect the sound of the crickets?