The best way to enter the NFL draft is having as few true needs as possible. It’s a route the Dallas Cowboys have often tried to take. They fill holes in free agency with cheap veterans so that when it’s time to turn the card in they can just go down their board and get tremendous value at each slot. The 2022 version of the Cowboys didn’t do that.
In fact, they took the opposite route by intentionally creating more holes that needed to be plugged in the months leading up to the league’s biggest offseason event. It started with trading wide receiver Amari Cooper, continued with the Randy Gregory fiasco and ended with releasing right tackle La’el Collins.
The front office made a couple moves in order to mitigate the losses of Gregory and Cooper by signing Dante Fowler Jr. and James Washington, but the latter wasn’t enough to erase the need on the outside and the former isn’t nearly the same caliber of player that Gregory was on the edge. The team was left scrambling, something that continued into the first two rounds of the draft.
Round 1: Tyler Smith, OL, Tulsa
If the first 23 picks of the NFL draft had happened in any fans’ mock draft simulation, they would have restarted it like a kid rage quitting a game in Madden. It was an absolute nightmare scenario. There was just one quarterback being taken before Dallas was on the clock. All of the wide receivers were taken. The two guards, Zion Johnson and Kenyon Green most commonly sent the Cowboys’ way were on their way to different cities.
Jerry Jones and company would tell you (and show you by way of the board that he held up) that Tyler Smith was their 16th graded player, but that flew in the face of the consensus board put together by Arif Hasan at The Athletic, who had him ranked as the No. 47 prospect.
To be certain, teams often know more than the media members whose rankings are used in these types of situations, but the bottom line is this: The Cowboys took a player at a severe position of need due to their failures in team building (eg, Letting Connor Williams walk, missing on Connor McGovern and not signing an offensive lineman), an issue that was compounded by the way the draft fell to them.
Smith could end up being great, but as it stands he enters the league with a ton of work to do, which isn’t unique to rookies in the slightest, but with the burden of expectations that befalls a first rounder.
Round 2: Sam “De” Williams, EDGE, Ole Miss
Opinions on Williams were all over the place. The aforementioned consensus board had him ranked No. 83 and he was most often mocked to Dallas with their third round pick at No. 83. 88.
To be clear, the Cowboys (and most teams across the league) do not care about the opinions of others.
There was also little doubt he would be the pick as names came off the board ahead of them.
With Gregory out the door, the team desperately coveted a player who could fill that role as quickly as possible, and to be fair Williams does come with a high ceiling due to his athletic testing profile. Williams fits the exact mold of pass rusher that defensive Dan Quinn looks for: a long, rangy rusher with great burst.
He also comes with baggage, having been suspended in college due to allegations of sexual battery that were later dropped. Players that were rated higher that went shortly after include fellow EDGE rushers Drake Jackson from USC and OU’s Nik Bonitto, as well as linebacker Chad Muma to name a few.
It’s entirely possible these two players turn into home runs for the Dallas Cowboys, and where they were picked relative to what the hive mind thought when the draft began to disappear into the ether like wrong opinions often do. But it’s important to know that these two picks were ultimately the result of the front office chasing their tail after an offseason that went about as poorly as possible.