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Draft analysis: Cowboys picking DT John Ridgeway could spell end for Trysten Hill

As far as roster needs go, the Dallas Cowboys have been playing the hits at the NFL Draft with 5th rounder John Ridgeway a younger option for the defensive line.
Credit: AP
Arkansas defensive lineman John Ridgeway runs a drill during the NFL football scouting combine, Saturday, March 5, 2022, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

DALLAS — Everyone knew Jerry Jones was going to grab one of his Arkansas Razorbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Whereas most anticipated Jones would take dynamic receiver Treylon Burks in Round 1, the Cowboys took defensive tackle John Ridgeway with the No. 178 overall pick in Round 5 on Saturday.

The Ridgeway pick isn't so much about Jones' favoritism towards his alma mater, but it does perhaps reveal what the organization is thinking in regards to Trysten Hill.

Hill, a former 2020 second-round pick, is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and it is fair to say that his career has been underwhelming to this point. After learning the ropes of the NFL game, Hill had a promising beginning to his second season. In five starts, Hill produced a tackle for loss, three quarterback hits, and 11 combined tackles.

However, an ACL injury summarily ended his sophomore campaign, and his third year was hardly better as rehab struggles limited him to just six games — none of which he started — 11 combined tackles, a half-sack, and three quarterback hits.

Dallas also drafted Neville Gallimore in Round 3 of 2020, and then added Osa Odighizuwa in Round 3 and Quinton Bohanna in Round 6 of 2021. The defensive tackle spot is quickly crowding, even with Dallas having two spots on the line in their 4-3 scheme.

Throw in Ridgeway, and it is looking like curtains for Hill.

It doesn't mean that Hill can't have a stellar contract year and force the Cowboys to make a hard decision if the former Central Florida product plays his way into a second contract, whether in Dallas or another NFL city. But the selection of Ridgeway does mean that they aren't banking on it as part of their long-term plans going forward. In 2023, the Cowboys will have virtually the same defensive line, save for Hill if he is not retained. If Ridgeway progresses nicely, they could also have a solution for when Gallimore's contract is up, which it will be after 2023.

Fans may not see much of Ridgeway during his rookie season, which is fine as the former SEC West product learns the NFL game and joins a pro strength and conditioning program. But Ridgeway clearly is a contingency plan down the road for the Cowboys if Hill doesn't turn around the slow start to his career.

Do you think the Cowboys found a good balance between defensive picks and selections for the offense? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.

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