DALLAS — One of the great stories to come out of the 2020 season was the development of former Texas Tech tackle Terence Steele.
Steele went as a priority free agent and signed with the Cowboys following the 2020 draft. Steele wasn't drafted and had to become a quick study during the pandemic with a month-long training camp and no preseason as the Cowboys worked through offensive line issues. Starters Tyron Smith and La'el Collins were both battling injuries, and Steele started 14 of his 16 games active. The 6-10 injury-riddled campaign for Dallas afforded Steele the experience to develop into a starter.
What if the Cowboys sought the next Steele? It would be risky enough to let him drop out of the draft and sign as a free agent. If other teams could see the promise Dallas saw, why not use a draft pick to secure his rights?
Waletzko has a long way to go from North Dakota to being an NFL starter. However, there is a pathway to follow in Dallas if he wants to get it done, and Steele has blazed some of that trail.
What Waletzko provides the Cowboys is another solution to the tackle situation. Last year, the Cowboys knew Smith would be coming back to left tackle, and there would be a position battle between Steele and La'el Collins. Dallas also signed veteran Ty Nsekhe just to provide a stable presence as a swing tackle.
Collins is gone, and so is Nsekhe. The Cowboys are hopeful that former 2021 fourth-round pick Josh Ball can step into a backup role and give Dallas some relief at tackle should Smith or Steele have to miss any time. One of the best parts of the Great Wall of Dallas over the last decade has been their ability to rely on swing tackles, whether they were Jeremy Parnell (2014), Emmett Cleary (2016), or Steele.
If Ball takes a tackle spot, then they need someone to take the developmental role, and that is where Waletzko comes in. At 6’7”, 305 pounds, Waletzko is in a no-rush situation to adapt to the NFL game. Smith and Steele are going to take the starting jobs. Ball will be developing to become the swing tackle. Isaac Alarcon and Avainte Collins are Waletzko's competitors when it comes to reps, playing time in preseason, and ultimately a spot on the roster.
Because of how stocked the Cowboys' tackle situation is, it affords them a chance to develop Waletzko into a starter, which would be a decent return on a fifth-round tackle from North Dakota.
With four 5th round picks, do you think the Dallas Cowboys will come away with a Day 3 starter from this year’s draft class? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.