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Dallas Cowboys Seek to Land Impact Players in 2024 NFL Draft 1

Posted on April 25, 2024 by Chris Kent
The Cowboys seek top talent from the draft.

Like a soap opera, the Dallas Cowboys are the most drama filled team in the National Football League. So much that even the smallest issue can dominate the news like wildfire. Whether it is incidents with players in their personal lives, relationships among players, coaches, and staff, rumors generated on players’ podcasts, or the ongoing saga of contract negotiations, Dallas is always generating drama in a way that commands public attention with an abundance of questions. The Cowboys’ 2024 offseason has been dominated by questions so far and have involved many of the team’s star players as well as coaches

Is quarterback Dak Prescott going to get a contract extension to remain in Dallas beyond the 2024 season? Will head coach Mike McCarthy be around after this next season? What is edge rusher Micah Parsons saying lately on his podcasts and is he using this platform in the right or wrong way? Are the contract negotiations of wide receiver CeDee Lamb and Parsons moving forward? Will cornerback Trevon Diggs regain his all-pro form following last season’s torn ACL that lead him to miss all but two games? How does Mike Zimmer look in his return to the Cowboys as the new defensive coodinator? Why has Dallas signed just two free agents this offseason while losing seven key starters from last season and other important players?

While all 32 NFL teams are facing similar questions like these, they always mean more in Big D based on the history of this iconic franchise and its’ quest to return to the Super Bowl for the first time in 29 years.

If the Cowboys are to reach the Super Bowl in the immediate or near future, they will have to make a big splash in this week’s NFL Draft. Dallas and 31 other NFL teams will be looking for their future stars, starters, and complimentary players while hoping to secure some depth for their rosters this week. The draft will take place from April 25-27 at Campus Martius Park, Hart Plaza in Detroit, MI starting this Thursday. It will be televised on ESPN Thursday and Saturday with Friday’s coverage airing on ESPN2. The NFL Network, ABC, ESPN Deportes, and ESPN Radio will also provide coverage.

Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy will be coaching on an expiring contract in 2024.

Three straight 12-5 regular seasons and a pair of NFC East division titles have proven that the Cowboys are an above average team in recent years. However they are 1-3 in the playoffs during this time which does not sit well with team owner, president, and general manager Jerry Jones or the fan base of this proud franchise. Dallas has many needs, none bigger than the front seven on defense to shut down opposing rushers. The Cowboys allowed 112.4 rushing yards per game and gave up 4.2 yards per carry in 2023, both of which ranked 16th in the league leaving Dallas as a middle of the pack team against the run. Green Bay had its’ way running the ball in its’ 48-32 playoff upset vctory over the Cowboys back in January. Aaron Jones – who has owned Dallas – ran 21 times for 118 yards and three touchdowns in the one-sided win. The Packers rushed for 143 yards on the day and made their drives count.

The losses of Jonathan Hankins and Dorrance Armstrong – two starters on the defensive line – as well as fellow lineman Dante Fowler and Neville Gallimore leave the Cowboys thin there. Add in the loss of linebacker Leighton Vander Esch who was forced to retire due to recurring neck injuries and Dallas needs a significant upgrade on defense. Veteran cornerback and former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore is a free agent likely to sign soon with one of a handful of other teams. Gilmore spent 2023 with the Cowboys after signing a one-year free agent deal and had 68 total tackles, 13 passes defensed, and 2 interceptions last season. A small nucleus is all that remains on defense in veteran Demarcus Lawrence at defensive end, Parsons at edge rusher/linebacker, and Diggs at cornerback. Young players like defensive ends Sam Williams and Chauncey Gholston will have to rise and contribute more along with other players Dallas lands.

The Cowboys need a linebacker or two as well to go along with the newly acquired Eric Kendricks who they signed to a one-year deal in free agency. The 10-year veteran out of UCLA brings experience with the ability to make defensive calls on the field and had Zimmer as his head coach for part of his time in Minnesota. DeMarvion Overshown could be a wild card at linebacker. Dallas used a third-round draft pick on him a year ago but he never saw the field after suffering a torn ACL during a preseason game.

While the defense lost more in quantity, the offense might of lost more in quality. The offensive line took big hits with the free agent losses of future hall of fame left tackle Tyron Smith and 2022 pro bowl center Tyler Biadiaz who had started 49 of 51 regular season games games over the last two years. While 2022 top draft pick Tyler Smith is projected to replace the departed Smith at left tackle, he also has flexibility to play guard. Whether it is a tackle, a guard, or a center or someone who can play multiple positions along the offensive line, the Cowboys need to upgrade this unit. The group is anchored by right guard Zack Martin, a nine-time pro bowler and seven-time first-team all pro. Dallas also re-signed guard Chuma Edoga to help bolster their line.

Improving the offensive line is also needed to support a better running game which right now is in question with no proven feature back. Tony Pollard, last year’s starter, signed with Tennessee in free agency leaving the Cowboys in search of an every down back. Rico Dowdle will battle with six-year veteran free agent signee Royce Freeman for position on the depth chart. Malik Davis, Deuce Vaughn, and Hunter Luepke are the other backs on the roster.
The special teams unit is one of the better ones in the league with kicker Brandon Aubrey, punt returner Kavontae Turpin, and punter Bryan Anger all receiving pro bowl selections. Trent Sieg is the team’s long snapper.

Dak Prescott had a career year in 2023 and is looking for more in 2024.

Prescott is playing for his future in 2024 whether it is in Dallas or elsewhere. Backing him up are Cooper Rush and Trey Lance who the Cowboys aquired prior to the start of last season. The receivers are one of the team’s strengths with all-pro Lamb and Brandin Cooks the established wide receivers along with Jake Ferguson who blossomed last year at tight end in his second year. However the team released Michael Gallup who never returned to his form after suffering a torn ACL near the end of the 2021 regular season.

With many positions of need, Dallas Vice-President of Player Personnel Will McClay and the team’s scouts have been busy evaluating players in preparation for the draft. Entering the draft, the Cowboys have a total of seven draft picks starting with the 24th pick in the first round. They have one pick each in the second (No. 56th overall), third (87th), fifth (174th), and sixth rounds (216th). Their final two picks are in the seventh round with the 233rd and 244th overall selections. The team has no pick in the fourth round.

If Dallas is to reach its’ first NFC Championship game in 29 years this next season, they need to be a more efficeint team on offense and a more physical team on defense to prevent teams from gashing them with chunk running plays. Both areas are important in order for the Cowboys to rise over the likes of San Francisco, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Green Bay and maintain control of their division in the NFC East where their traditional rivals like Washington and the New York Giants loom and are always pesky. Gaining impact players in the trenches also bodes well for competing with teams in a much deeper AFC where Dallas will play the likes of Baltimore, Cinncinnati, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland this coming season. The Cowboys will also play one additional team from the AFC which will be known when the schedule is released next month.

Georgia’s Amarius Mims could help the Cowboys offset the loss of Tyron Smith at offensive tackle.

This is a deep draft for offensive tackles. While some will go in the top 15 to 20 picks, a bunch of them figure to still be on the board when Dallas picks 24th in the first round. They include Tyler Guyton from Oklahoma, Jordan Morgan from Arizona, Georgia’s Amarius Mims, Washington’s Troy Fautanu, and JT Latham from Alabama. Guyton is 6-8 and 322 pounds. He earned all-Big 12 Honoarble Mention recognition last year when he played in 10 games with nine starts at right tackle for the Sooners. Mims is 6-8 and tips the scales at 340 pounds. He emerged in 2022 for the Bulldogs when he played in 14 of 15 games while making starts in both the college football playoff semifinals and championship game helping Georgia repeat as national champions. Mims made six starts at right tackle in 2023 when he was part of a Bulldog line that ranked first in the the Southeastern Conference and seventh nationally in sacks allowed per-game (0.93). Morgan started all 12 games for Arizona a year ago during which he allowed only two sacks in 787 snaps over 12 games. Morgan was named first team all Pac-12 and played in the Reeseā€™s Senior Bowl, the premier college football all-star game. He was also named a second team all-American by both CBS Sports and 247 Sports. Latham has a huge frame at 6-6 and 360 pounds and garnered numerous accolades a season ago including second team all-American honors by the Associated Press, Football Writers Association of America, The Sporting News, and the Walter Camp Foundation. Latham was also an all-SEC first team selection by the AP and conference coaches in 2023 when he started all 13 games at right tackle and had 41 knockdown blocks across 813 snaps as a junior. Latham also garnered second team all-American honors by the AP, FWAA, TSN, and the Walter Camp Foundation.

Guard Jackson Powers-Johnson won the Rimington Award at Oregon last season.

Should the Cowboys strengthen the interior of its’ offensive line, look no further than Jackson Powers-Johnson of Oregon, perhaps the top interior offensive lineman available in the draft. Powers-Johnson became the first Duck and the first Pac-12 player ever to win the Rimington Award as the nation’s best center. He was the fifth unanimous all-American in program history receiving first team honors from the American Football Coaches Association, AP, FWAA, TSN, and the Walter Camp Foundation. He started all 13 games a season ago during which he allowed just one pressure and no sacks in 471 pass blocking opportunities. Powers-Johnson was part of an offensive line in 2023 that led the nation with just five sacks allowed for the second year in a row. Powers-Johnson lead all FBS centers in overall (84.3) and run blocking (85.2) grade by Pro Football Focus while ranking second in pass blocking grade (90.6).

Other top interior lineman that could be available between the late first round and into the third round include Duke’s Graham Barton, West Virginia’s Zach Frazier, Kansas State’s Cooper Beebe, and Wisconsin’s Tanner Bortolini. Barton lettered four years at Duke and stands 6-5 while checking in at 314 pounds. A two-time first team all-ACC selection, Barton played in 40 career games, 39 of them starts. Intelligence is a strength of Barton as he was a second team College Sports Communicators Academic all-America selection and is a three-time Academic all-ACC team member. Barton has also received the team’s Offensive Lineman of the Year Award twice and was named a second team all-American by the AFCA in 2023.

Cooper Beebe was an all-American guard at Kansas State in 2023 and is powerful.

Beebe is built like a fire hydrant at 6-4 and 335 pounds. That kind of size and power can help Dallas run better between the tackles lending to better balance on offense. Beebe garnered first team all-American honors from numerous outlets last season including the AFCA, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, The Athletic, ESPN, CBS Sports, Fox Sports, and the Walter Camp Foundation. He was also named first team all-Big 12 by both the AP and the coaches in each of his last three years at Kansas State. Crafty and intelligent, Beebe was named to the Big 12 all-Academic first team each of his four seasons in college. He was also the recipient of Academic all-District Team honors from CSC as both a junior and senior and was named an Academic all-American by CSC in 2023.

Frazier is another prospect that could help the Cowboys at center. He has good size at 6-3 and 310 pounds. Frazier allowed only one sack over the last two years and four over his college career. Frazier is a two-time all-American and a three-time all-Big 12 selection receiving first team honors in 2022 and ’23. Frazier is recognized for his intelligence as he is a National Football Foundation Scholar Athlete, a three-time Academic all-Big 12 first team honoree, and a first team Academic all-American selection by CSC.

Bortolini comes from a great program for offensive lineman at Wisconsin where Dallas found the since departed Biadasz. Bortolini has the smarts to make all the line reads at center where he made 12 starts a year ago as a redshirt junior. He is a three-time Academic all-Big Ten team honoree and has the versatility to play guard. In 2023, Bortolini allowed only one sack over 477 pressure opportunities and he was part of a Badger offensive line that led the Big Ten in third down conversion rate at 44.2 percent.

Texas defensive tackle T’Vondre Sweat is 366 pounds and won the Outland Trophy in 2023.

Should the Cowboys go defense with their top pick they will likely be seeking a defensive tackle or linebacker to help strengthen the middle of their front seven. Perhaps Kris Kenkins from Michigan or Braden Fiske from Florida State, both defensive tackles. If they want to go even bigger they could look to 366-pound defensive tackle T’Vondre Sweat from Texas who really moves people. However due to a recent legal matter their is controversy surrounding the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. Sweat was arrested on April 7 on suspicion of driving while intoxicated according to the Travis County Sheriff’s office in Texas. So Dallas needs to decide if this action is just a one-time mistake or a sign of a bigger problem with Sweat’s off the field behavior. Sweat won the Outland Trophy as the nations top interior lineman a year ago and was a unanimous all-American. He recorded 45 tackles, 8 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks, 4 pass break-ups, and 1 blocked kick.

Keep an eye on Michael Hall Jr. from Ohio State, DeWayne Carter from Duke, or Mekhi Wingo from LSU on the defensive line. A sleeper pick on the line is Jalyx Hunt from Houston Christian University who also played at Ivy League school Cornell. Byron Murphy II is also a possibility from Texas at the defensive tackle spot.

If the Cowboys want another edge rusher to team with Parsons as well as help at linebacker they could look to Darius Robinson of Missouri, Dallas Turner of Alabama, Laiatu Latu of UCLA, Xavier Thomas of Clemson, Marshawn Kneeland from Western Michigan, or Bralen Trice from Washington. Turner, Latu, and Robinson are forecasted to go in the first round before Dallas picks at No. 24. Thus, the Cowboys might have to move up via a trade to get one of those players. Junior Colson of Michigan is another top prospect as a traditional linebacker that could help solidify the middle of the Dallas defense.

As for the offense, it is hard to say what the Cowboys have at running back because it is unproven with one new face in Freeman. Dallas will enter the 2024 season with none of its backs having been in the league more than six years and not one of them having reached 1,800 yards rushing in their career. The Cowboys were 14th in the league in rushing yards last year with 1,920. Meanwhile, Prescott completed 410 passes with 36 touchdown passes in 2023, both of which lead the NFL. That could reveal why Dallas is not an elite team in the league. More efficient play is needed on offense and they have to balance it out with better play from their running backs and tight ends. While Prescott has proven he can throw the ball to Lamb, Cooks, and Ferguson, more production is needed from the backs and tight ends. Part of this is a reliable running game and part of it is using the backs in the receiving game with short outlet passes. First and second down offense has to be more productive so you can avoid third down altogether or have only one or two yards to pick up on third down. A strong and shifty back with speed is needed to lend balance to the offense and keep the defense guessing. At times in recent years, the Cowboys have been one dimensional with only its’ passing game to rely on. This has left them mostly predictable.

Florida State’s Trey Benson breaks free from defenders.

A running back like Jonathon Brooks from Texas or Trey Benson from Florida State would fit nicely in Dallas and give them some young legs and juice. Blake Corum from Michigan or Braelon Allen from Wisconsin could lend help as physical runners from the ground and pound nature of the Big 10. Other backs include Marshawn Lloyd of USC and Isaiah Davis of South Dakota State. It is not a prime draft for running backs and it is likely that a running back might not be chosen until the middle of the second round. So teams could find a value pick or sleeper at this position in the later rounds.

Value or gems in the later rounds could also be found at wide receiver. While Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr. is the top rated non-quarterback prospect and will be long gone in the first four to seven picks, there are others to be had in the later rounds. Florida State’s Keon Coleman, North Carolina’s Devontez Walker, and Oregon’s Troy Franklin are options in the later rounds along with Xavier Worthy from Texas, Xavier Legette from South Carolina, Ricky Pearsall from Florida, Roman Wilson from Michigan, and Jermaine Burton from Alabama.

Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy dazzled NFL coaches and scouts with a time of 4.21 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in February setting a record time at the event.

Worthy set an NFL Combine record in February when he ran a 4.21 in the 40-yard dash, surpassing the old record set at the 2017 Combine by John Ross by one tenth of a second. Worthy stands 5-11 and weighs 165 and is projected to go between the late first round and second round. Although he dealt with inconsistent quarterback play at Texas, Worthy burst onto the scene in 2021 with 62 catches for 981 yards and 12 touchdowns. He followed that up with 60 receptions for 760 yards and nine scores in 2022. In 2023, Worthy made 75 catches for 1,014 yards and five touchdowns. While not very big, he is fast, explosive, and very dangerous with the ball in his hands.

Of course you never know what the Cowboys are going to do on draft day. Dallas once built championship teams with a blockbuster trade way back in 1989 by sending Herschel Walker to Minnesota in exchange for players and draft capital over a three-year stretch. They have traded down to acquire more picks for immense value and they have stood still and added impact players that have become the core of their teams over the last decade plus. What the Cowboys do in the coming days will be vital to the success they have in 2024 and beyond. The Super Bowl is about 10 months away but Dallas seeks perhaps its’ missing players this week to return to championship glory.

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