Dallas Cowboys’ team needs entering the 2023 NFL draft
With an aggressive start to their offseason, the Dallas Cowboys have one of the more complete rosters in the NFL. The team’s starting lineup is close to being set as they enter the 2023 draft.
However, that doesn’t mean the Cowboys don’t have places where they could use an upgrade. There are some holes to fill on the roster and reading the tea leaves leading up to the draft should paint a picture of where Dallas needs to get better. There are the five positions where the Cowboys need to improve and it’s at these spots where the team will likely focus on with their seven selections.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Dalton Schultz, the starter from the last two seasons, wasn’t re-signed, which leaves the offense without one of their top options in the passing game. The Cowboys aren’t destitute at the position, they do have talented young players in second year TEs Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot.
However, Ferguson was a fourth-round selection and Hendershot an undrafted free agent who combined for 30 catches as rookies. The potential is there for either young TE to break out and take over where Schultz left off, but that’s not guaranteed. Ferguson was drafted to replace Schultz, but there could be better options available this year and pairing a rookie TE with last year’s fourth round selection could make for a dynamic duo.
Luckily for the Cowboys, this draft is very deep at TE, and if the team can find a difference maker, they should pull the trigger.
Dec 31, 2022; New Orleans, LA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Jahmyr Gibbs (1) runs the ball against the Kansas State Wildcats during the second half in the 2022 Sugar Bowl at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports
It’s in the Cowboys’ DNA to have a star at RB, and even though they have Tony Pollard back as the starter, the position could use a boost. Pollard’s broken fibula suffered in the playoff loss is a bit of a concern as he’s set to take over the lion’s share of the carries, but the speedy RB is also only signed for one more season. Pollard signed his franchise tag and is guaranteed to stay in Dallas in 2023, but beyond that isn’t a given.
The team does have second-year RB Malik Davis, who showed promise last season as a rookie, and veteran runner Ronald Jones behind Pollard, so the cupboards not bare. Fourth-year RB Rico Dowdle was also re-signed for depth.
But with the talent that’s available in this draft, it makes sense the Cowboys would want to backup Pollard with a better option in the short-term, while trying to prepare for the future. The popular names to come off the board early are Texas’ Bijan Robinson and Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs, who both have first-round ability. The Cowboys might not be in position to draft either, but with how RBs are valued now, if either is available at pick 26, it could be tough for the team to pass up.
Bijan Robinson to the Cowboys might be a bit of a stretch at No. 26 but Stephen Jones lays out the possibility of a running back in the first round. pic.twitter.com/ZFvxrHFakF
— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) April 24, 2023
It doesn’t have to be in the early rounds, but Dallas looks like they need to supplement Pollard with another RB somewhere in this draft.
Sep 24, 2022; Corvallis, Oregon, USA; USC Trojans wide receiver Jordan Addison (3) makes a catch for a touchdown against the Oregon State Beavers in the second half at Reser Stadium. The touchdown was the game winner as Trojans defeated Beavers 17-14. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
After how the receiver group performed last season, the last thing the Cowboys want is to be caught with their pants down again. The trade for veteran WR Brandin Cooks takes some of the heat off drafting a receiver early, but the team should be looking for a boost.
Cooks brings a speed element the offense was missing, and fellow veteran WR Michael Gallup expects to be healthier after coming back from his torn ACL late in the 2021 season, but more depth is needed to pair with star receiver CeeDee Lamb. Last year’s third round pick Jalen Tolbert didn’t pan out as hoped and even with his second-year jump, the Cowboys need to be aiming higher.
Lamb, Cooks and Gallup are a solid trio, but Cooks isn’t guaranteed to stay past this season and Gallup could find himself on the way out if he doesn’t return to form. Adding a young talent to pitch in as a rookie while preparing for a larger role in the future would be a wise move. The WR class of 2023 is not a star-studded group, but it does have depth, so Dallas could find a solid option anywhere in the first three or four rounds.
If the Cowboys were looking for a WR in the first round, USC’s Jordan Addison, TCU’s Quentin Johnston, Ohio St.’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Boston College’s Zay Flowers could be the selection. If the team waits, UNC’s Josh Downs, Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt or Cedric Tillman, Mississippi’s Jonathan Mingo, or Oklahoma’s Marvin Mims might be the answer. There are also other good options for the Cowboys, and they’ll likely leave this draft with a quality WR prospect.
Feb 4, 2023; Mobile, AL, USA; American offensive lineman O’Cyrus Torrence of Florida (56) looks to block National defensive lineman Karl Brooks of Bowling Green (13) during the second half of the Senior Bowl college football game at Hancock Whitney Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports
This could be more specific to the guard position, but with how in flux the Cowboys are along the offensive line, it’s difficult to know who is lining up where in April. This much we know, Zack Martin is the right guard and it’s likely that Tyler Biadasz is the starting center. Beyond that, there are a few combinations the team could go with.
Will veteran Tyron Smith remain at left tackle? It’s his best spot, but the team has mentioned they want to make last year’s first round pick Tyler Smith the permanent LT. That would make Tyron Smith the odds-on favorite to start at right tackle, where he played four games last season. If that’s the case, Terence Steele, last year’s starting RT will be relegated to the swing tackle once again. There’s been some chatter about Steele possibly playing guard, but that’s difficult to fathom.
Either way, if Tyler Smith is the LT in Dallas, the left guard spot needs to be addressed. The team doesn’t have quality options and have also begun trying out tackle Josh Ball, a fourth round pick two seasons ago, at guard.
Btw, the #Cowboys are seeing what they can get from Josh Ball as a guard these next several weeks.
Though I doubt that cancels a Tier-1 prospect if available to Dallas.
— Patrik [No C] Walker (@VoiceOfTheStar) April 24, 2023
This is a sign the Cowboys need to find a replacement for last year’s starter, Connor McGovern, who was allowed to leave in free agency. There’s nothing wrong with using both Smith’s and Steele in the starting lineup, but Tyron’s injury history and Steele returning from a torn ACL late in 2022 makes it highly questionable that either play a full season. Tyler Smith will inevitably be playing LT, which makes it understandable that Dallas doesn’t want to leave LG as competition between seventh round pick Matt Farniok, Ball, and veteran Chuma Edoga.
The best option is to draft someone who can step in and play LG right away. TCU’s Steve Avila, Tennessee’s Darnell Wright, Minnesota’s John Michael Schmitz, Florida’s O’Cyrus Torrence or N.C. State’s Chandler Zavala are the best options. This continues the rebuilding of the offensive line and would be best for the team’s future.
Nov 19, 2022; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs cornerback Emmanuel Forbes (13) returns an interception for a touchdown against the East Tennessee State Buccaneers during the second quarter at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
The defense is currently set at cornerback as Trevon Diggs and Stephon Gilmore are the starters, with Jourdan Lewis and/or DaRon Bland manning the slot corner. However, the there isn’t much quality behind that group since 2021 CB Kelvin Joseph hasn’t lived up to expectations and Nahshon Wright has struggled as well. Any injury to one of the top CBs and Dan Quinn’s secondary could be in trouble.
Of the top four current CBs on the roster, only Bland is signed past this year. Diggs is a free agent after this season, but it’s hard to see him not getting extended by the Cowboys. Even if he returns, the team will need another CB for the future. It doesn’t look like a glaring need for 2023, yet pairing another good, young CB with Diggs and Bland in 2024 would be a wise move.
The Cowboys should be considering one of the top CBs in the draft. Penn St.’s Joey Porter Jr., Mississippi St.’s Emmanuel Forbes, Georgia’s Kelee Ringo, Kansas St.’s Julius Brents, and Purdue’s Cory Trice are all options.
As the old saying goes, you can never have enough corners, and the Cowboys should heed that warning.