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The 4 most important 2nd-year players for the Cowboys in 2024

After a strong 2022 class that saw multiple draftees take starting roles, the Dallas Cowboys’ 2023 class left a lot to be desired. Injuries, questionable development strategies and a flurry of other miscellaneous setbacks have lined this crop of players as ones to forget, but thankfully, time is on their side.

Dallas is facing an offseason filled with tough decisions, and because defections are inevitable, success will require younger players to step up. The pressure is on the 2023 class. Here are the four most important second-year names to watch in the 2024 season.

Mazi Smith, iDL

(Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Mazi Smith was taken in the first round with visions of a mauling, athletic run stopper.

Or so it was believed. It’s not completely known whether the team asked him to, or he did it on his own, but Smith played 30-40 pounds below his collegiate weight and then played a role he was not comfortable with at all, lining up as a three-technique often instead of a nose tackle.

Smith had many things to work on to make the transition to the pros, such as his snap get off and hand usage to go along with what was his strength, raw power. It’s critical for Dallas to let Smith get back to his natural size and position.

DeMarvion Overshown, LB

(Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images)

Early in the preseason, the hype for DeMarvion Overshown was legit. Every coach, player, and scout raved about his talent and intelligence. In just the second preseason game, he tore his ACL which saw him get placed on IR ending his promising season before it started.

The Cowboys are in a bind as Leighton Vander Esch may not be able to continue his football career. Damone Clark was the only other legitimate linebacker to get runtime in 2023 and seemed to regress as the year went along.

Overshown’s recovery from the ACL is an unknown, as Dallas ended up releasing another young linebacker in Jabril Cox who never made a full return. But while they’ll almost definitely bring in help, a healthy Overshown might be the team’s best shot at top-level LB play.

Brandon Aubrey, K

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Did someone say rookie of the year? Nope, but only because his time in the USFL makes him ineligible. The first-year, First-Team All-Pro kicker was perfect on field goals until the final game of the season.

Brandon Aubrey went 10-for-10 on kicks longer than 50 yards, including multiple from 60-yards and deeper. He was a touchback machine, nailing just under 91% and seemingly failing only when that was the intention.

Aubrey had an outstanding season and was a true weapon for Dallas as they haven’t had a kicker this reliable since Dan Bailey. He’ll now need to prove it consistently so the Cowboys don’t have to begin another search.

Luke Schoonmaker, TE

(Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images)

Dallas is notorious for taking some risks in the second round of the draft. It is where they found the likes of Sean Lee, DeMarcus Lawrence and Trevon Diggs but also the likes of Kelvin Joseph, Trysten Hill and Jaylon Smith. In 2023 Dallas took Luke Schoonmaker, hoping he would help solve their tight end woes for the foreseeable future.

In his rookie season he was seen sparingly as the start to his career began with a foot injury that sidelined him until the regular season. He finished the season with eight receptions on 15 targets for 65 yards and two scores, never seeing more than three targets in a game. With the rise of Jake Ferguson as a legitimate playmaker, his field time became almost exclusively as a blocker and in the red zone in heavier packages.

Ferguson is practically guaranteed his starting spot, especially after his playoff performance, but Schoonmaker will undoubtedly have a role. In a crowded room, Schoonmaker was easily the second-most consistent performer as both Sean McKeon and Peyton Hendershot struggled while camp star John Stephens was injured. If Schoonmaker can build on his resume and be a reliable contributor in both the run and pass game that will help Dallas find consistency considerably.

 

Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire