The month of April couldn’t have come quicker for most Dallas Cowboys fans. After a disappointing loss in the first round of the playoffs and a less than satisfying start to free agency, Dallas fans can turn their attention to an area where America’s Team has typically excelled over the past decade, as the Dallas Cowboys draft classes have largely been successful.
The NFL Draft is quickly approaching, and the Cowboys are wrapping up evaluations and hosting potential targets with each of their nine selections in the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft. The pressure will be on Will McClay and the Joneses to put this team in a position to be the first repeat winner the NFC East has seen since the Eagles won four straight from 2001-04.
However, after an offseason that started with more departures than additions, a strong draft haul has never been more crucial. Let’s take a look at the Dallas Cowboys draft targets at each position, starting at defensive tackle in this article.
Dallas Cowboys Draft Targets: Defensive Tackle
After being one of the worst run defenses in football in 2020, the Cowboys overhauled their interior defensive linemen before last season. The move worked, as Dallas fielded a more respectable unit at stopping the run in 2021.
Still, there are questions about who is in the middle of this defense long-term. Neville Gallimore seemed to be on pace for a breakout season in year two before a dislocated elbow sidelined him for much of the season. He did some nice things upon his return in December and will hope to build on that heading into this fall.
In their rookie year, both Osa Odighizuwa and Quinton Bohanna saw time, with Odighizuwa flashing as a potential playmaker for this defense in the future. In addition, Carlos Watkins gave the unit a veteran presence and will be back in 2022 on a one-year deal.
Trysten Hill also returned late in the year but has yet to live up to the potential that saw the Cowboys reach on him in the second round in 2019. However, a fair amount of potential and a solid veteran on a one-year deal aren’t enough to keep Dallas from making further additions in the draft.
Where the Cowboys could look to add help
Are the Cowboys desperate for a defensive tackle? No, but that doesn’t mean they won’t grab one if the right guy falls in their lap. In Quinn’s two-gap scheme, the most important traits are length and power.
This allows his rangy linebackers to roam free when the big boys demand double teams. The defensive tackle position is often undervalued, as many teams are like Dallas with preferred skill sets. Those that don’t fit the bill are often left off the board or gone before the team considers them a value.
Dallas probably has less than a handful of players in their top 100 that fit the mold they seek. Unless one of those guys falls to them, this is likely to be a day-three priority.
First-Round Dallas Cowboys Draft Options
Jordan Davis, Georgia
The Cowboys would have to see a lot of their favorite players come off the board before 24 to consider Jordan Davis, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t done their homework. The big man came to Frisco on a Top-30 visit and does fit what Quinn wants at over 6’6” and 340 pounds with 34-inch arms.
His size and power forced opponents to double-team him throughout 2021, and the proof was on the tape as linebackers Nakobe Dean, Channing Tindall, and Quay Walker were able to consistently flow to the football.
Imagine Micah Parsons being able to run free from sideline to sideline, and it’s clear why Dallas will consider Davis if he gets to 24. He won’t offer much in obvious passing situations, and at his size, his endurance will fluctuate based on how often the base defense is on the field. Still, there is value here if the Cowboys are limited on options when they are on the clock.
Day 2 Dallas Cowboys Draft Options
Perrion Winfrey, Oklahoma
Winfrey is a long shot for Dallas, considering 24 would be too high, and he should be long gone by 56. Still, in a scenario where he got to the Cowboys’ second-round pick, they’d have to love someone a lot to pass on a player who fits what Quinn wants, like Winfrey.
With 35-inch arms, the guy has exceptional length, and his power and effort are exceptional qualities of his game. Winfrey needs some polish, and while the effort and intensity are to be admired, they occasionally take him out of the play because he’s off balance.
His performance at the Senior Bowl proved that comparisons to his game and Ndamukong Suh’s are not a stretch, given he develops better technique as a professional. As I said earlier, this is likely a moot point because he’ll be gone by 56, but if not, Dallas will have a hard time passing on him.
DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M
I rarely make too much of a pre-draft workout, but in some cases, they play a significant factor in a prospect’s final evaluation. There are some that use terms like “Underwear Olympics” and “Watch the Tape” that won’t like this, but in Leal’s case, his athletic profile is a requisite to his projection.
For most of the fall, I had Leal ranked in my top 10-15 picks based on his flexibility to play up and down the line as he did in college. While his tape shows better athleticism than the pre-draft performance he put up at his Pro Day, it does have me thinking he’s more of a tweener than a player with genuine position flexibility.
With that in mind, his natural position in the NFL is likely on the interior, and I think he would fit best as an interior-shaded end (5 or 4i tech). That is a role that Dallas employs in their base defense, and Demarcus Lawrence played there quite a bit in 2021. Still, with Lawrence’s ability to kick out, Leal could slide into that role while using his powerful hands and impressive torso flexibility to rush the passer from inside in nickel situations.
Day 3 Dallas Cowboys Draft Options
Otito Ogbonnia, UCLA
A year ago, the Cowboys tapped into UCLA’s talented defensive line, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see them make it back-to-back drafts. Like the others on this list, Ogbonnia fits the mold Quinn wants with a big, powerful frame and arms that measure over 34 inches.
He’s got the upper-body strength to move opposing linemen, and while I think he can play with better pad level and frame denial to hold his ground against double-teams, the lower-body power is there.
Ogbonnia has similar traits to Bohanna, who Dallas selected in the sixth round a year ago as a guy they felt they could groom into a rotational nose. I have a better grade on Ogbonnia, but they will need to take a similar approach. His name should be an option as early as 129, with the Cowboys’ interest peaking in the fifth round.
D.J. Davidson, Arizona State
Davidson is a guy that caught my eye in Arizona State’s shortened 2020 season as a big nose with overwhelming power when teams choose to attack him with just one blocker. He’s got good length and a thick lower half, making him tough to move.
There are examples of him pursuing down the field, which is inspiring from a 330-pound player, but they are few and far between because of the obvious endurances issues that come with being that size. Davidson needs quite a bit of improvement with his technique, but has the upside to be a rotational nose tackle.
The Cowboys’ latest pick is at 193, which may be a little rich for Davidson’s services. Still, if they somehow acquire a seventh-rounder, I’d consider him there, with the interest going up if he’s not drafted.