ESPN’s Mel Kiper says Cowboys’ draft class on the NFL’s worst, ‘too many unknowns’

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The list of positions of need in Dallas was a long one. With their 2022 NFL Draft class and the UDFA progress so far, it appears the Cowboys set up with talent to refill every position over the next few years. Left guard is settled with Tyler Smith, wide receiver got another piece in Jalen Tolbert and Randy Gregory’s departure is softened by the No. 56 selection of Sam Williams, potentially taking over as the right defensive end and many more. At least, that’s how the optimists look at things, a category which Dallas’ front office clearly falls under.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. sees things a bit differently. The tenured draft analyst graded every team’s haul and Dallas came in tied for dead last with a C+ alongside the New England Patriots.

Tyler Smith

Kiper Jr. started with an optimistic opinion on the first round selection of Smith.

Enter Tyler Smith, a raw but nasty left tackle with intriguing traits and a 6-foot-5, 324-pound frame. Smith needs a lot of work on his technique, but you can see on tape why he went in Round 1. Could he start at left guard in Year 1 and move to either tackle spots in future years? That might be the best bet to get him on the field. Plus, with the way the wide receiver board fell — six went before Dallas’ pick at No. 24 — the front office likely didn’t have any Round 1 wideout grades left.

Fitting for the Cowboys’ current needs on the offensive line, there’s uncertainty everywhere but Zack Martin’s spot. Left guard feels like the starting spot for Smith while tackles Tyron Smith and Terence Steele have concerns in different ways.

Sam Williams

Beyond the first round praise, Kiper Jr. was confused by the Day 2 and 3 moves from Dallas and noted a long list of uncertainties in his analysis. First, he thinks Ole Miss edge rusher was drafted at least two rounds too early.

After that, though, the Sam Williams (56) pick left me scratching my head. All he does is rush the passer. He isn’t good against the run. I would have taken him on Day 3.

Jalen Tolbert

South Alabama’s Jalen Tolbert seems like a duplicitous pick to Kiper.

Jalen Tolbert (89) fills a need at wide receiver, but the more I think about it, the more I see some redundancy in what Michael Gallup already brings this offense.

Day 3

Jake Ferguson (129) is just a backup tight end based on what I saw on tape. He went too high. Linebacker Damone Clark (176) might turn into a good player, but he recently had spinal fusion surgery, so it’s really tough to use a fifth-round pick on an unknown injury.

I think that’s it; this class just has too many unknowns. We don’t know if Smith can definitely be a good guard or that Williams can definitely be an every-down player. Tolbert has good hands but is still raw. This is a risky group.

Summary

There is legitimate concern about some of the picks. Ferguson is set up to wait behind starting tight end Dalton Schultz, Damone Clark will likely be a redshirt in 2022 while the criticism of Sam Williams is interesting.

The Cowboys took a huge step up in run defense in 2021 after getting steamrolled the year before. The addition of linebacker help like Clark and Devin Harper may set up as a developmental process, but fifth round picks aren’t expected to show up and start.

Dallas selected a fair share of their 30 visits and stuck to the plan with lengthy defenders for Dan Quinn while reinforcing big needs to make sure quarterback Dak Prescott isn’t limited in the offense. Time will tell especially if the four-player fifth round haul is a good one.

As for Kiper’s past evaluations of the Cowboys, he said Dallas’ 2019 class was a bottom third one. He loved the 2020 class, ranking them fourth overall and said that the 2021 class was a top-10 haul.

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