While admittedly, I hold some skepticism regarding the 2022 Dallas Cowboys Draft Class, I would love to be proven wrong. Still, my thoughts on the Cowboys’ recent signing of 20 undrafted free agents are a bit more optimistic.
Not only were four of our recent signees in my top 250 prospects, but several others display the upside to push for a roster spot in training camp. The Cowboys obviously had other areas they were looking to add competition to their roster as they agreed to terms with four wide receivers, six defensive backs, and two centers.
They also got their hands on a kicker after I thought the front office would possibly reach for one in the draft. However, Dallas has yet to agree to terms with a rookie passer, which probably means we will hear about them bringing one or two on a try-out basis for rookie minicamp.
Let’s take a look at which of the Dallas Cowboys UDFAs will compete for a job with America’s Team.
2022 Dallas Cowboys UDFA Class
Markquese Bell S Florida A&M
Bell has size and athleticism that made many believe the Cowboys would consider him with a late pick, and he’s my highest-graded player of Dallas’s undrafted crop as my 188th-ranked prospect. Still, outside of being 6’2” with long arms and excellent range, there is a lot to be desired with his game, and that is probably why he went undrafted.
Even at the FCS level, he was late diagnosing and springing into action, which put him behind. Bell’s eyes and decisions need to speed up so his athleticism can shine. Additionally, his play strength and tackling need to take a big step forward.
Bell is not powerful or aggressive at the point of attack, and his tackling strategy is often to break down, accept the blow, and try to latch onto the runner on the way down. Still, a lot of his deficiencies are correctable, and if he can prove capable on special teams, it will buy him time to pick up some of the instincts necessary to prove himself as a deep safety.
Markaviest “Big Kat” Bryant EDGE Central Florida
Bryant is an experienced edge rusher that appeared in 49 games between his time at Auburn and Central Florida. He’s got an explosive first step with violent hands, but his lack of length makes him an easy player for tackles to get their hands on.
That, paired with average speed and a less-than-desirable ability to change course, is a big reason he had just 16 career sacks. However, he brings a competitive edge to every snap. That could help him earn a role on the practice squad and possibly a few call-ups as a special-teamer that can help off the edge.
Malik Davis RB Florida
More quick than fast, Davis had Gator fans swooning over his potential after a freshman season (2017) that included five games rushing for 90 yards or more. Still, the next three seasons didn’t include a game where he drew double-digit carries.
Even this past year only saw him carry the ball 92 times in 12 games, though an optimist would point out that he’s got plenty of tread left on the tires. However, he’s a shifty back that makes explosive cuts. As he adds bulk to his frame and lower half, he could develop the contact balance and finishing power to become an NFL option. In year one, a spot on the practice squad is a realistic goal.
Dontario Drummond WR Ole Miss
Drummond is a slot receiver with more of a running back’s build. He broke out in 2021 with 76 catches for 1,028 yards and eight scores. While he’s got just average physical traits, Drummond displays solid play speed with the ability to make people miss with quality body control that allows him to alter course easily.
I would have liked to see him used in more gadget designs, considering he can make plays with the ball in his hands. That could be the key to him pushing for a roster spot. Drummond also returned punts in college and has the frame to help on special teams as well. He will be one to watch for one of the final roles as a receiver.
James Empey C BYU
Empey is an older player that will turn 26 midway through his rookie year. Still, he’s a smart player that started 41 games over the last four seasons, though he missed ten with ankle injuries.
He’s a bit undersized, though there is room to add weight to his lower half that could help with some of the issues he has against stronger players. Overall, the physical limitations may overshadow his mental aptitude in his quest to earn a roster spot. The practice squad may be his best bet.
Ty Fryfogle WR Indiana
Fryfogle had an impressive season in 2020, averaging nearly 20 yards a catch thanks to his ability to outmuscle and maneuver defensive backs for deep balls. Still, things didn’t go as smoothly in his final season.
Teams started matching him up against their top corners, and that’s when his average speed, size, and arm length became a detriment. Against Cincinnati’s Ahmad Gardner and Coby Bryant, Fryfogle had just one catch for 13 yards.
That is going to be the narrative of his career. He’s a good enough route-runner and finisher at the catch point to beat a second or third corner. Still, he needs to get acclimated to the special teams’ units quickly if he is going to earn a roster spot.
Jonathan Garibay K Texas Tech
It’s hard to forget Garibay’s incredible 62-yard game-winning field goal against Iowa State. After being a two-year starter at Riverside City College, Garibay seized the starting job for the Red Raiders late in 2020.
In 2021, he connected on 49 of 50 extra-point attempts while knocking down 15 of 16 field-goal tries. His only miss came on a game-tying attempt against Baylor from 53 yards as time expired.
I thought Dallas might get aggressive and go after a kicker with a draft pick. However, Garibay has a golden opportunity to make this team if he can outkick Chris Naggar.
Aaron Hansford LB Texas A&M
While Dallas drafted Devin Harper with their final draft pick, I had a higher grade on Hansford who ranked 217 on my big board. With late picks, teams typically covet special teams’ ability, and that makes sense with Harper, who has the makings of a stud on the coverage units.
Still, Hansford has the upside to be a contributor on the defensive side in time. He spent his first three seasons in College Station on the offensive side, with the third being wiped out because of a knee injury. When he returned, Hansford came back as a linebacker whose play strength and speed impressed.
However, he needs to continue to develop the instincts of a linebacker. When the light comes on, he closes on the ball in a hurry. Dallas’s job will be speeding his eyes up so the light comes on quicker because all the tools are there.
Peyton Hendershot TE Indiana
Hendershot is Indiana’s all-time leader in receptions and yardage for tight ends and did a fair amount of his damage in traffic over the middle of the field. One thing that is obvious on tape is that he has natural hands that he extends to the football.
He’s not going to stretch the field or offer much as a blocker without added strength and coaching, but he catches anything near him. It will be tough to push for a job as a one-dimensional option, but he does have experience on special teams. However, he will enter the NFL on a short leash after he pled guilty in 2020 to grabbing his ex-girlfriend by the neck and slamming her against the wall.
Dennis Houston WR Western Illinois
Houston comes from the same Leathernecks program as former Cowboy Lance Lenoir, as well as past stars like Don Beebe and Rodney Harrison. He’s one of four wide receivers Dallas signed following the draft, and while he’s the only one who played at the FCS level, Houston may be the most intriguing one of the bunch.
He has an extra gear with the ball in his hands while demonstrating good footwork and hip-sink at the top of his route. Houston can let the ball get to his body a little too often, and his size and length are just average. He also played only two games against FBS talent in his career, but the second was the 2021 season-opener against Ball State, where Houston hauled in 12 passes for 237 yards and two scores.
Storey Jackson LB Liberty
Jackson is an undersized yet violent linebacker that finished his career with the Flames after stops at Hutchinson Community College and Prairie View A&M. During his final season with the Panthers, he had 50 tackles, with 8.5 coming for loss in their three-game Spring schedule.
That was a breakout season for Jackson, who rode that momentum to another strong campaign with Liberty (102 tackles, seven sacks) this past fall. Overall, Jackson displays sudden movements and covers ground quickly while aiming to punish the ball carrier when he arrives.
However, he is very slender in his lower half, and I’m not sure there is much room to add to his 224-pound build. That, paired with average arm length, may be a detriment to his play-making ability at the next level.
Jackson could fit Dallas’ nickel linebacker position while also starring on special teams. Still, with several guys in the fold that were targeted with recent draft picks, the practice squad may be the best-case scenario.
Alex Lindstrom C Boston College
Lindstrom is a player that counters average athleticism and size with keen instincts and technique. After starting 36 games over the last three seasons, Lindstrom seemed like a prospect that would hear his name late on day three. Still, the physical limitations must have been too much to ignore.
Another thing that worked against him is that he solely plays center without the possibility of backing up other positions. However, there is a path for my 224th-ranked prospect to make the roster. Having reserve linemen who know the playbook inside out and offer a competitive chance to execute their assignments is never a bad thing. If he proves capable, Matt Farniok’s positional flexibility could work in Lindstrom’s favor.
Quandre Mosley CB Kentucky
While having just moderate size and strength, Mosley does have the arm length and recovery speed to fit in this defense. After two years at Eastern Arizona Community College, Mosley never cemented himself in the starting lineup, but he did see his snaps increase this past fall.
Still, one thing we’ve seen since Quinn arrived is a willingness to give corners with length and speed an opportunity, even if the experience or production isn’t there. Mosley is quite twitchy for being long-limbed but survives purely on his physical gifts.
If he’s going to make this roster or the practice squad, he will need to take some giant leaps in his development between now and September. Also, at some point, he will have to add some weight to his slender frame.
Jaquarii Roberson WR Wake Forest
Roberson may not play as fast as he tested, but there is some quickness too his game that helps him separate and make people miss in space. He’s got good arm length and strong hands, but just average size.
Still, he’s not afraid to make plays in traffic, thanks to his highly competitive nature. While he doesn’t display the play strength to offer much on the coverage units, I could see him having some bright moments in the slot during camp. It may not be enough to warrant a roster spot, but the practice squad isn’t out of the question.
Aaron Shampklin RB Harvard
Neither of Dallas’ undrafted running backs is overly big, but Shampklin is further from playing at a competitive weight than Davis. While he is shifty and displays good vision, there just isn’t much power to his game.
Even in the Ivey League Conference, Shampklin struggled to fall forward or muscle through tacklers, with most of his broken tackles coming because of his elusive nature. He does show quality ball skills as a pass-catcher, but until he gets stronger, it’s going to be challenging to fill a reserve role that requires snaps in pass protection or on special teams.
Amon Simon OT Texas A&M-Commerce
Simon’s got great height and length, but there is a lot of room for improvement with his build. I’m not sure how much Dallas can expect him to change his body between now and training camp, but he lacks functional strength, which is a product of a slender frame and an even leaner lower half.
His pad level is another reason he’s not overly powerful, but his 35-inch arms were a worthy obstacle for Division II and FCS opponents. It would be interesting to see what Simon could become with a full year that included NFL coaching and strength training, but that will only happen if he can show enough between now and September to earn a spot on the practice squad.
Mike Tafua EDGE Utah
While Tafua isn’t a carbon copy of former Ute and Dallas Cowboy Bradlee Anae, there are plenty of similarities between the two. While Tafua has average size and length, and less-than-desirable athleticism, it didn’t stop him from being productive for Utah.
He shows violent hands that hit their marks to give his opponents a tough time. Tafua’s motor is always running as well, making him a capable player on all three downs. Still, while he’s usually very good with his technique, things don’t go well for him when his opponents get locked onto his frame.
He’s got the hustle, work ethic, and character teams love, but the physical limitations and his age (26 before rookie year is over) make him a long shot to make the roster. The best-case scenario is probably a spot on the practice squad.
Isaac Taylor-Stuart CB USC
All three rookie cornerbacks coming into camp fit what Quinn covets on the perimeter. Heading into the 2021 season, Taylor-Stuart would have easily ranked the highest of the trio as a former four-star recruit that was one of the top cornerbacks in the 2018 class with a background in track and martial arts.
However, things never seemed to click for him, as Taylor-Stuart struggled to rise above the rotation USC implemented at the cornerback position. Still, the size, length, and explosive speed are there for the Cowboys to take a shot at rounding out his instincts and technique. He may never reach the potential that made him a top recruit, but if they can get him to start processing the game quicker, those exceptional tools will start to show up.
Juanyeh Thomas S Georgia Tech
While the Cowboys gave Florida A&M safety Markquese Bell the largest signing bonus of anyone in their undrafted class, I think Thomas has a clearer path to making this roster. He’s got a similar skillset as Donovan Wilson as a box safety with good instincts and a punishing mindset that made him my 237th prospect.
He’s got a thick frame with long arms that make him a very good finisher, and while he may struggle to match up with most pass-catchers in coverage, he takes good angles in pursuit as a zone safety. Thomas can be a day-one contributor on special teams (returns and covers kicks) while backing up Wilson or possibly even pushing him for the third safety job.
La’Kendrick Van Zandt S TCU
After coming to TCU as one of the top athlete recruits in Texas, Van Zandt settled into a versatile defensive role for the Horn Frogs that mimicked a hybrid linebacker/safety. As a four-year contributor in that role, Van Zandt flashed the aggression and closing speed to be a playmaker, but there were a lot of technical inconsistencies.
At times, I think he guesses instead of reading his keys, leaving him chasing to recover. He can also run himself out of tackles and needs to show better balance and discipline once he gets to the ball carrier. Still, he’s a good, long-armed athlete with an NFL frame for a safety. Like both Thomas and Bell, if Van Zandt can carve out a role on special teams, it will buy him time to develop as a defender.