Behind Enemy Lines: Comparing Cowboys’ draft haul against NFC East rivals

The Cowboys dominated the NFC East in 2021, sweeping the division on the way to a 12-5 record and a division win. This makes things more difficult going into 2022 as Dallas will face a first-place schedule. They also picked later in the draft than any other team in division as well.

That needs to be kept in mind when evaluating the draft classes within the NFC East. Both the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles were on the clock twice before the Cowboys would have a chance to make a pick. Washington had a pick as well. So how did all four front offices manage what they had at their disposal?

Philadelphia Eagles

Jordan Davis
Jordan Davis

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles were very active even before the draft started making a move with the Saints to get future draft capital. They went on to move up 2 spots in a second trade and then traded picks for star receiver AJ Brown and signed him to a four year, $100 million contract with $57 million guaranteed.

Brown is coming off a down year but is known as one of the best weapons in the NFL and should help open up coverages for former first-round picks Jalen Reagor and DeVonte Smith. With weapons like Dallas Goedert and Miles Sanders, plus one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, Jalen Hurts is set up to have a chance to show himself as a franchise QB.

The second trade the Eagles made was to get above the Baltimore Ravens to select the mammoth one technique Jordan Davis out of Georgia. In Round 2 they grabbed center Cam Jurgens from Nebraska. Philadelphia likes to build through the trenches, and they were reloading for now and the future with these picks. Jason Kelce and Fletcher Cox are likely in their last years with the Eagles and these pieces are to fill those holes for the next four years at least.

In the third the Eagles took a lottery ticket on Nakobe Dean. He started to slip in the draft due to a medical issue. If he gets his pectoral injury taken care of and comes back healthy then Philadelphia might have landed the steal of the draft in a smaller sized linebacker who can run free behind that giant defensive line and make plays all over the field.

The Eagles need to hit home runs on their first three picks because the team only had two others for the rest of the draft.

  • 1.13 DT Jordan Davis, Georgia

  • 2.51 Center Cam Jurgens, Nebraska

  • 3.83 LB Nakobe Dean, Georgia

  • 6.181 LB Kyron Johnson, Kansas

  • 6.198 TE Grant Calcaterra, SMU

Cumulative Draft Grade: 3.77 (3rd overall)

Washington Commanders

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Commanders reportedly really wanted wide receiver Drake London out of USC to fall to them at pick 11. Once he was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons the Commanders were ok trading back with the New Orleans Saints to 16 and taking the best WR available which they believed was Jahan Dotson.

A surprise second round pick, defensive tackle, Phidarian Mathis is added to a rotation of Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne. He will replace Matt Ioannidis who left to the Carolina Panthers in the offseason. Getting a third DT in the second round is a bit of a head scratcher unless he’s there to start if the team doesn’t pay Allen or Payne.

On Day 3 the Commanders took what they hope is their future quarterback in Sam Howell from North Carolina. Carson Wentz is a short-term bridge QB that wasn’t gonna be the future of the team. Howell isn’t a strong-arm guy, and he needs to improve in the pocket using his mobility, but he is very accurate and does have the athleticism to run if necessary.

Cole Turner was a TE option Cowboys fans liked to mock to the team in day three of the draft, but the Commanders scooped him up and now Dallas will have to cover him instead.

  • 1.16 WR Jahan Dotson, Penn State

  • 2.47 DT Phidarian Mathis, Alabama

  • 3.98 RB Brian Robinson, Alabama

  • 4.113 Safety Percy Butler, Louisiana

  • 5.144 QB Sam Howell, North Carolina

  • 5.149 TE Cole Turner, Nevada

  • 7.230 OG Chris Paul, Tulsa

  • 7.240 CB Christian Holmes, Oklahoma State

Cumulative Draft Grade: 2.38 (26th overall)

New York Giants

(Eric EvanscPhotography)

The Giants have been a really bad team since their last Super Bowl run many years ago. They have missed on many draft picks, fired multiple coaches, and recently decided to not pick up the fifth-year option on QB Daniel Jones. It’s now the Brian Daboll era and he got to start it with two top-ten draft picks.

The first pick might have landed them the best player in the draft. Kayvon Thibodeaux had a slight drop due to worries about his character and love of football, but on the field, he is a monster pass rusher. That pairing with Leonard Williams, and Azeez Ojulari could form a great young defensive line to cause havoc on the NFC East quarterbacks.

Two picks later the Giants again tried to hit on offensive line and took Alabama OT Evan Neal. He is a big, power right tackle, that has movement skills that should be impossible for a man that size. The pair of Evan Neal and Andrew Thomas should protect whomever the Giants quarterback is for the next decade.

The Wan’Dale Robinson pick is directly related to the falling out with Kadarius Toney. Very similar style of receiver Robinson can just slide in and be the rookie gadget guy for the Giants offense. Now the team has to find compensation for last years first round pick.

Daniel Bellinger is a Day 3 tight end prospect out of San Diego State that many scouts believe could end up being a steal. Dane Belton is a safety that could play the hybrid LB role that Jayron Kearse has in Dallas. Micah McFadden & Darrian Beavers will be early special team contributors from the linebacker position.

  • 1.5 DE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon

  • 1.7 OT Evan Neal, Alabama

  • 2.43 WR Wan’Dale Robinson, Kentucky

  • 3.67 OG Joshua Ezeudu, North Carolina

  • 3.81 CB Cordale Flott, LSU

  • 4.112 TE Daniel Bellinger, San Diego State

  • 4.114 Safety Dane Belton, Iowa

  • 5.146 LB Micah McFadden, Indiana

  • 5.147 DT DJ Davidson, Arizona State

  • 5.173 OG Marcus McKethan, North Carolina

  • 6.182 LB Darrian Beavers, Cincinnati

Cumulative Draft Grade: 3.47 (6th overall)

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys seemed to reach for their guys in the first two rounds according to most scouting efforts. Dane Brugler, for example, had offensive tackle Tyler Smith out of Tulsa as his 50th best player, but he was selected 24th overall by Dallas. At 56 the Cowboys took Ole Miss edge rusher Sam Williams who was his Brugler’s 17th best edge rusher and 91st overall player.

Jalen Tolbert was thought by many to be a second-round WR with the kind of size plus speed traits and big play production that would keep him from sliding, but Dallas got a lucky break when they found him still available at 88 overall.

On Day 3 the value of the picks continued with Jake Ferguson, the possible Dalton Schultz replacement from Wisconsin in the fourth round. Matt Waletzko is a giant of a man with incredible testing numbers that played OT from North Dakota. Damone Clark was a top 50 prospect, who was a tackling machine LB out of LSU. He fell to the fifth round due to needing a spinal fusion procedure. John Ridgeway was taken with the last pick of the fifth as a replacement for Brent Urban as a giant, unmovable one technique.

Dallas used the draft to fill holes, seemingly drafting for need instead of best player available and everyone will just have to see how that strategy plays out for them after a few years of development.

  • 1.24 OL Tyler Smith, Tulsa

  • 2.56 DE Sam Williams, Ole Miss

  • 3.88 WR Jalen Tolbert, South Alabama

  • 4.129 TE Jake Ferguson, Wisconsin

  • 5.155 OT Matt Waletzko, North Dakota

  • 5.167 CB DaRon Bland, Fresno State

  • 5.176 LB Damone Clark, LSU

  • 5.178 DT John Ridgeway, Arkansas

  • 6.193 LB Devin Harper, Oklahoma State

Cumulative Draft Grade: 2.49 (24th overall)

You can find Mike Crum on Twitter @cdpiglet or at Youtube on the Across the Cowboys Podcast.