DALLAS — The roster acquisition portion of the offseason is slowing down, not only for the Dallas Cowboys, but around the league as a whole. Free agency has gone stagnant due to a lackluster group of players still available, as well as teams ramping up preparation for the upcoming NFL Draft, which is just over a month away.
The process of putting together the big board is well underway and with the Cowboys getting much of their offseason work done already, their needs may have shifted as well. By trading for cornerback Stephon Gilmore and wide receiver Brandin Cooks, Dallas filled two of the biggest needs on their roster.
The moves to acquire the veterans at positions where the Cowboys had gaping holes was good business, and the team still has a pick left in every round on the draft. Nevertheless, don’t count out another trade or two. You might even see the Cowboys trade out of their first-round pick to acquire more selections after shipping off two Day 3 picks for Cooks and Gilmore.
Barring any trades, here’s a gander at what a Cowboys draft class could look like:
First round (Pick 26): John Michael Schmitz (C/OG) - University of Minnesota
There are plenty of mock drafts out there that have the Cowboys selecting TCU offensive lineman Steve Avila, who would play guard in Dallas, but after the team drafted Travis Frederick in 2013, they saw firsthand how an elite center can change an offense.
First-team All-American Schmitz played center at Minnesota, but there are no concerns about him being able to play any interior position along the offensive line. Current center Tyler Biadasz is in the last year of his rookie deal and the team hasn’t extended him, so Schmitz could bide his time at guard for a year before taking over at center.
The 24-year-old center is the top interior lineman in this draft; he’s got the strength, athleticism, and football IQ to be a home run pick no matter where he plays. Schmitz would be an upgrade over Biadasz and gives the team versatility along the offensive line.
Second round (Pick 58): Mazi Smith (DT) - University of Michigan
The Cowboys have ignored the run stuffing defensive tackles for too long, so selecting Smith would represent a big, welcome change. Smith has the size to eat up space in the middle, allowing the linebackers to run freely to the ball, and the quickness to get into the backfield as a disrupter. He plays with power and uses his leverage well to win at the line of scrimmage.
Smith has the skills to be a first-round pick, but his lack of production and tape against some of the elite offensive line prospects could push him into the second round.
Third round (Pick 90): Nathan “Tank” Dell (WR) - University of Houston
This one will take a little faith from the Cowboys, who prefer bigger, taller receivers, while Dell stands at just 5’10”, and 165 pounds. The size is big risk, but Dell led all of college football in receiving yards with 1,399, as well as receiving touchdowns, with 17.
However, Dell’s size also allows him to be extremely difficult to slow down. Dell gets open easily, using his quickness and elite movement to create separation. When in the open field, Dell is a nightmare to bring down. The diminutive WR was unstoppable at the Senior Bowl and the Cowboys could use another Cole Beasley type who gets open quickly. Unlike Beasley though, Dell can be a play-maker with his speed and release.
We’ll see if the Cowboys have loosened up on their preferences at receiver because Dell is worth changing for.
Fourth round (Pick 129): Tyjae Spears (RB) - Tulane University
The Cowboys found a home run in the fourth round with Tony Pollard in 2019, and they could find another gem in the fourth with this selection. Spears has a similar running style as Pollard, with the same breakaway speed and game-breaking ability. The Tulane product ran for 1,581 yards and 19 scores last year, while rushing for 6.9 yards per carry.
For an RB who doesn’t have the large frame, Spears runs with good power to combine with his explosiveness. The Cowboys could use Spears as a complimentary piece to Pollard while preparing him to take over in 2024.
Fifth round (Pick 169): Luke Schoonmaker (TE) - University of Michigan
Schoonmaker is in the same mold as former tight end Dalton Schultz, who was also drafted on Day 3. Both are reliable targets to who can get open, have sure hands, and offer limited athletic ability after the catch. When schemed open, Schoonmaker did damage for Michigan in college and was a solid blocker.
However, there isn’t a ton of production from Schoonmaker. He doesn’t appear to be among today’s more athletic, modern tight ends, but Schoonmaker can win up the seam and is a dual threat on offense which could provide the kind of security blanket that quarterback Dak Prescott enjoys.
Sixth round (Pick 212): Mike Jones Jr. (LB) - LSU
The Cowboys routinely dip into the linebacker pool on Day 3 of the draft and in this case, it would make for a third consecutive year where Dallas grabs a LB from LSU, joining Jabril Cox in 2021 and Damone Clark last year. Jones has the speed and athleticism to run sideline to sideline, but does have some learning to do to understand the nuances of playing LB.
Durability and strength are issues for Jones, but he could develop into a starter, or provide value on special teams.
Seventh round (Pick 244): Tyreque Jones (CB) - Boise State University
The Cowboys have an affinity for taller cornerbacks with length, which is what Jones provides. As a bonus, he played for Boise State, where the team has routinely mined for talent. Jones has the size and physicality to play a hybrid cb/safety role, an ability that the Cowboys also love under coordinator Dan Quinn.
Playing the nickelback near the line of scrimmage, much like the role that they currently use Jayron Kearse for, wouldn’t be out of the question for Jones. He’ll need time to develop at the NFL level, but Jones is the type of player, and project, that the Cowboys often seek in the later rounds.
Would you be happy if the Cowboys came away with this draft class? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.