DALLAS — The Dallas Cowboys added a defensive back in former Fresno State Bulldog DaRon Bland with the No. 167 overall pick in Round 5 of the 2022 NFL draft on Saturday.
Bland collected 45 combined tackles, 1.0 tackle for loss, two interceptions, five pass breakups, and a forced fumble in his last 13 games with Fresno State, nine of which he started.
What Bland represents is the Cowboys' investment in a position that teams load up on. Defensive back is one of the most drafted positions throughout the last three rounds of the NFL draft, whether cornerbacks or safeties. Teams need the depth as defensive backs are also players who are used on special teams, whether as returners or gunners or coverage players.
For Bland, that may be his pathway to making the team as he is going against a deep group that includes Trevon Diggs, Jourdan Lewis, Nahshon Wright, C.J. Goodwin, Anthony Brown, Kyron Brown, and Kelvin Joseph.
Speaking of Joseph, the Bland pick also provides some insurance for the Cowboys pending what happens with Joseph and his off-field issues. Dallas has a younger player who they can develop in the secondary.
Bland isn't the latest classic Cowboys Boise State pick, but he does have some crossover with the program as Fresno State is in the same conference as Boise State. It probably helped his case that he recorded one of his two interceptions against Boise State last season.
Bland's post-collegiate attention included playing in the 2022 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and also getting an invite to the Tropical Bowl.
Where Dallas needs to be careful is in their evaluation of Bland and their roster construction. In 2018, the Cowboys signed Charvarius Ward as an undrafted free agent cornerback, but flipped him as trade bait to acquire Parker Ehinger from the Kansas City Chiefs. Ward went on to become a solid starter for the Chiefs while Ehinger spent just one season with the Cowboys.
Where both Dallas and Bland have an advantage in finding a future that the Cowboys and Ward did not was the expanded roster sizes thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Cowboys can find a way to stash Bland on their expanded practice squad whereas they didn't have that option with Ward.
Another bonus for Bland is defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and special teams coordinator John Fassel were seen on the war room camera acting excited about the pick, so the former first-team all-Big Sky performer already has some of the staff in his corner.
Do you think the 2022 draft class will make up for what has been perceived as a lackluster free agency period for the Cowboys? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.