DALLAS — The Dallas Cowboys invested in the future of their offensive line with the selection of Matt Waletzko in Round 5 of the 2022 NFL Draft.
The Cowboys took their extra pick at No. 155 — acquired via the Amari Cooper trade with the Cleveland Browns — and selected the North Dakota tackle.
What Waletzko represents is an opportunity to add a forthcoming hedge of protection for quarterback Dak Prescott should the club have to make tough decisions regarding All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith in the future.
"What he is is a football player that plays the game the right way," vice president of player personnel Will McClay said. "He’s got prototypical tackle size. He can play either side. He plays the game nasty and physical. It’s kind of the tempo that coach wants to set and what we want from our linemen. So he has that skillset, and he has grown from that."
In the meantime, Waletzko will go against Isaac Alarcon and Aviante Collins for reps throughout offseason workouts and training camp. At the most optimistic, Waletzko could push last year's fourth-round pick, Josh Ball, for a spot on the roster. With the departure of La'el Collins, Terence Steele is firmly entrenched as the team's right tackle. However, the Cowboys don't have any swing tackle options ready, and training camp will ultimately reveal Dallas' depth therein.
The Cowboys are impressed with Waletzko's mentality. A knee injury limited his 2019 campaign to six games as a sophomore. Rather than slumping through the following offseason, which is when the COVID lockdowns began, Waletzko rehabbed his knee.
"He found a way to do that through the snow and everything else to get ready to play," McClay said.
Waletzko rebounded to start all seven games at left tackle for the Fighting Hawks in 2020, earning All-MVFC second-team honors. In 2021, Waletzko started 10 of the 11 games North Dakota played before being held out with an injury.
"The sky is the limit for him to instill his opportunity to grow from that and get stronger," said McClay.
McClay and the Cowboys' scouting staff was able to see what Waletzko could do against the best players coming out in the 2022 NFL draft at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., in February.
Said McClay: "You’re talking coming from that conference and then you just want to see him against better players, and then you see how the physical skill set matches against the big college players to show that he belongs. And then you continue to grow from that point in our eyes on how he did in the interview at the combine and everything else we talked about.”
The biggest challenge for any rookie adapting to the NFL is getting opportunities. Waletzko will need to stay on the field and work hard in the film room to gain consideration for Dallas' immediate plans as a swing tackle.
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