This marks my sixth year of Drafting Dallas and while the format and frequency has changed over the years, the objective remains the same — I assume front office duties to mock draft the full seven rounds for the Cowboys using my DRAFTPLEX Board and the current official draft order.
For this year’s edition, I made my selections as realistically as I could based on my evaluations, my impressions of the team’s pre-draft activities, and how the board could potentially fall in one scenario. Unlike previous years, where I drafted from a short list of players that I personally expected to be available at the given selection, I put my approach to the test by basing Drafting Dallas on my selections for the Cowboys in my annual seven-round NFL Draft Super Mock.
With that in mind, let’s go on the clock with Drafting Dallas 2022.
Round 1 | Pick 24
Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
It’s no secret that the Cowboys are strongly considering an offensive lineman early in this draft, with Mississippi State tackle Charles Cross, Texas A&M guard Kenyon Green, and Boston College guard Zion Johnson being the most high-profile targets. Of the three, I rank Cross the highest and personally consider the player to be a Top-10 prospect in this draft. However, as with countless prospects in this year’s draft pool, evaluations and expectations are all over the map. In any event, there is a scenario that can play out where Cross is on the board when the Cowboys come up on the clock in the first round. If he were to be available, I personally think it is a no-brainer to make the pick. A plug-and-play guard, yes, would be ideal for the now, but the need for a left tackle of the future to succeed future Hall of Famer Tyron Smith creeps closer every year. Cross has the potential to be that long-term replacement while serving as a swing tackle and possibly the starting right tackle if the Cowboys wish to have him compete with Terence Steele.
Round 2 | Pick 56
Jelani Woods, TE, Virginia
With Dalton Schultz receiving the franchise tag for 2022 and with no signs of them inking the late-bloomer to a long-term deal, it would seem readily apparent that Dallas is taking aim at the tight end position yet again and looking to draft a new starter for 2023. There are a few names that span the middle rounds in whom Dallas reportedly has interest, but the most intriguing talent of the group is Virginia tight end Jelani Woods, who has had a slam-dunk draft season stretching from the Shrine Bowl to the NFL Scouting Combine to the Cavaliers’ Pro Day. I understand the optics here might point to Woods being a reach, but with his incredible size, raw talent and potential, and off-the-charts athletic profile grabbing attention, I view this selection as the Cowboys taking their guy when they have the opportunity to do so and not operating with the expectation he would still be on the board when they come back around on the clock deep in the third round. Because I don’t think he will be.
Round 3 | Pick 88
Sam Williams, EDGE, Ole Miss
Parting ways with edge Randy Gregory in very newsworthy fashion, the Cowboys are down an impact pass rusher that helped their defense emerge as a veritable force in 2022. While they still have star end DeMarcus Lawrence, return Dorance Armstrong, Tarell Basham, and Chauncey Golston, and are adding former first-round pick Dante Fowler Jr. to the mix, the spot opposite Lawrence does seem prime for new blood. Sam Williams from Ole Miss is a prospect Dallas has shown interest in and who would appear to have the tools and traits to compete for that starter role. However, in addition to his early-round tape and testing evaluation, he also comes with off-field red flags that the team will need to sort through, which is why he could end up being available in this range. That said, it wouldn’t be the first time the organization has gambled on a talented pass rusher with a history of headlines — look no further than the player Williams would effectively be replacing.
Round 4 | Pick 129
Khalil Shakir, WR, Boise State
With former WR1 Amari Cooper traded to Cleveland and productive role player Cedric Wilson departing in free agency, a starting-caliber wide receiver is certainly a strong consideration for the Cowboys in the first three rounds. On one hand, it makes sense to think that Dallas desperately needs to draft a direct replacement for Cooper — but, on the other, it seems like they already had that idea in mind in 2020 when they drafted CeeDee Lamb. This is how I view their de-prioritization, if you can call it that, of the wide receiver position in the draft in this scenario — Lamb is elevated from 1B to simply WR1, with the re-signed Michael Gallup eventually returning from injury to his established WR2 role, and veteran James Washington being signed as a bridge and floating between the WR3/WR4 role. Thus, I don’t have the Cowboys looking at a receiver high, but instead plucking a complementary pass catcher from their long-standing Boise State pipeline in Khalil Shakir, a route technician and separator who could operate in the slot and replace the snaps and a level of the production lost with the exits of Cooper and Wilson.
Round 5 | Pick 155 (from Cleveland Browns)
Joshua Ezeudu, OL, North Carolina
I would expect the Cowboys to consider investing at least two draft picks into the offensive line and if they were to have a chance to draft Charles Cross or another tackle early, such as in this scenario, then that would mean hunting for a potential starter at left guard in the middle rounds. North Carolina offensive lineman Joshua Ezeudu could be a candidate. He has flown relatively under the radar this draft season, but an appearance on the Cowboys’ 30-visit list now has him fully under the microscope. Ezeudu might not be a runaway favorite for the opening at left guard, but he would certainly compete for the starting role and at the very least provide valuable depth with his inside-outside position flex, having started at both guard and tackle in college.
Round 5 | Pick 167
Cade York, K, LSU
Placekicker has been a rollercoaster of a role for the Cowboys since the waning days of Dan Bailey in Dallas. Between Brett Maher, Kai Forbath, and Greg Zuerlein, the Cowboys have tried the street free agent route, the journeyman signing, and the big-name acquisition to lock down a leg the past few years, but with consistently inconsistent results. With Zuerlein being released after two up-and-down seasons and no immediate replacement on the roster, it would seem that they might finally look to the draft for a kicker. Cade York has a claim to being the top kicking prospect in this draft class and could very well have his named called by the Cowboys on day three.
Round 5 | Pick 176 (compensatory)
Delarrin Turner-Yell, S, Oklahoma
Round 5 | Pick 178 (compensatory)
Ty Chandler, RB, North Carolina
Round 5 | Pick 176 (from Cleveland Browns)
Aaron Hansford, LB, Texas A&M
Getting deep into the draft, I looked at the Cowboys filling specific roles with contributors who could emerge as potential starters in a year or two. With Jayron Kearse, Malik Hooker, and Donovan Wilson all returning, the top-end of the safety rotation appears to be set, but I could see Dallas adding a prospect to that mix. I personally like Delarrin Turner-Yell from Oklahoma for that role. Running back Ty Chandler I also like more than most and would not be surprised to see him go off the board earlier than the fifth round. I would also not be surprised to see him as a lead back for a team in 2023 or 2024 — and that could include Dallas depending on what the future holds for Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard as soon as next offseason. Finally, with Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons’ current support at linebacker limited to Leighton Vander Esch and special-teamer Luke Gifford returning on one-year deals and the promising Jabril Cox returning from a torn ACL, I expect the Cowboys to look at drafting at least one linebacker and bringing more in as priority free agents. Of the prospects expected available in this range, linebacker Aaron Hansford from Texas A&M looks to have tools and traits that would play well in Dan Quinn’s defense and could get a call from the Cowboys to head up the road from College Station.