Fort Worth Star-Telegram / Contributor

What happens in Las Vegas stays there, unless it's the selections from the 2022 NFL Draft, in which case it's all very public and you'll be judged accordingly for years to come. As such, the Dallas Cowboys have gone from finalizing months of pre-draft work to readying for a rookie minicamp that will host nine draft picks and a current tally of 19 undrafted free agents -- including one they successfully poached from the Washington Commanders -- in the hopes of overcoming an embarrassing postseason exit and then controversial offseason/free agency. 

Did they come away from Vegas as winners, desperately needing to after wildly disappointing in 2022 free agency? At first blush, it would appear so, but not without rolling the dice on multiple prospects as they played heavily on the risk-reward model on a pendulum that could swing wildly in either direction. As they now get to work truly digging into their offseason program with their new additions filing into the team's headquarters in Frisco, Texas, let's take a look at what they did and did not do well in this year's draft.

FYI: Tap here for a full scouting report on every single Cowboys 2022 selection.


Once the emotions settled for many who wanted a headline name who was still available when the Cowboys decided to select offensive lineman Tyler Smith, it wasn't difficult to see why they made the pick. They'll move him to left guard to begin his NFL career and he'll have a shot at returning to tackle later as a potential successor to Tyron Smith, but don't be surprised if he's held off on the latter because of Matt Waletzko -- an athletic building of a human -- who was acquired with fantastic value in the fifth-round and who'll immediately get to work at tackle for the Cowboys. In all, adding in coveted undrafted talent such as Alec Lindstrom and James Empey might see Dallas having successfully rebuilt the most important part of their roster in a single draft: the offensive line in front of Dak Prescott.

The next order of business on this side of the ball was to add explosiveness to a wide receiver room now absent four-time Pro Bowler wideout Amari Cooper and standout receiver Cedrick Wilson, and you can place a safe bet third-round pick Jalen Tolbert will immediately take the role vacated by the latter and electrify it. Grabbing two additional notable receivers in free agency helps fill out that room/need/depth, and the dire need at tight end wasn't ignored either, with the uber-dependable Jake Ferguson getting the nod as the fourth-round pick and Peyton Hendershot getting a shot in UDFA to compete with Sean McKeon and the likely expendable Jeremy Sprinkle.

Heck, the Cowboys surprisingly didn't play ignorant to the running back position either, valuing that need the right way in waiting until undrafted free agency to add two players who can push JaQuan Hardy and potentially provide insurance against possibly losing Tony Pollard in 2023 free agency. 

The only true knock to the Cowboys offensive haul from Vegas is that Smith is a high-ceiling talent, yes, but he's also raw and needs development to reach his potential quickly. And, to be honest, that's about it, as the Cowboys effectively nailed their offensive picks and post-draft grabs.


Keeping with their tone of feeling spicy at the blackjack table, the Cowboys turned to the defensive side of the equation and rolled the dice on Sam Williams who, while more developed than Smith, also needs some development to compete with/move past Dorance Armstrong as the likely successor to Randy Gregory opposite All-Pro pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence. Williams was an absolute bully for Ole Miss, but also entered the draft with a red flag stemming from a sexual battery charge (later dropped) that led to a suspension in 2020. He'd return to become one of the best pass rushers in the entire country, and the Cowboys are comfortable in their belief Williams will have no issues off of the field as a pro. If that's the case, his draft slide will make him a steal.

But, at his request, call him "De Williams", short for his middle name, Degarrick. 

Fitting, considering his position in Dallas: DE.

After letting offensive coordinator Kellen Moore get his fill in the third, fourth and top of the fifth round, they passed the reins back to defensive coordinator Dan Quinn for the remainder of the draft -- leading to great value for a player like cornerback DaRon Bland but fantastic value on linebacker Damone Clark. Currently recovering from spinal fusion surgery, the singular reason he fell in the draft, the Cowboys are banking on the same world-class team of athletic trainers and doctors who led the recovery of Jaylon Smith, and have already declared their belief Clark could return to the field in 2022. Clark plays like a starved tiger in a cage, and if he returns to form he'll be the steal of the draft, much like his former LSU compatriot Jabril Cox has the chance to be.

John Ridgeway brings a high ceiling to the nose tackle position as a late-fifth round pick, and while linebacker Devin Harper isn't projected to be an impact player [just yet?] on defense, he could very well be a special teams ace for John "Bones" Fassel in competition with a re-signed Luke Gifford. Things really got spicy for Quinn in undrafted free agency, though, a haul headlined by safety Markquese Bell, linebacker Aaron Hansford and speedy cornerback Isaac Taylor-Stuart, who ran a 4.42s 40-yard dash at the combine. The reality is the odds of every single pick making the roster is slim, but if it's because of the Cowboys great haul of UDFAs beating out one or two of them, you can still count that as a win for Dallas. 

The sole demerit I'd assign them on defense is they are now placing a lot of hope on Bland (who might be tried at safety) and Taylor-Stuart to be insurance against any consequences that might befall Kelvin Joseph stemming from the ongoing murder investigation he remains a part of, and that's a lot to ask of a late-round pick and an UDFA (making Anthony Brown more valuable than he actually would be otherwise).

Special Teams

This is the one area the Cowboys did not regress in massively ahead of the draft, successfully re-signing both long snapper Jake McQuaide and All-Pro punter Bryan Anger, while finally being wise enough to move on from kicker Greg Zuerlein (whom they were saved from re-signing by an offer made to him from the New York Jets). That means two of their three most important special teams positions were secure, but even with the signing of local-area talent Chris Naggar, they still needed to sort out the kicker position -- be it during the draft or in free agency. 

The board fell favorably for them in that there were several big-name kickers still available in undrafted free agency, and the Cowboys landed one. 

With former Longhorns boot Cameron Dicker signing on with the Los Angeles Rams, the Cowboys successfully pivoted to former Texas Tech leg Jonathan Garibay, who was very accurate for the Red Raiders in 2021. Garibay made 49 of his 50 point-after attempts last season (98%) and 15 of his 16 field goal attempts (93.8%) en route to Dallas, where he'll give Naggar a run for his money and, in all likelihood, take ownership of the position in 2022.

From a special teams standpoint, inclusive of possible gunners gained late in the draft and in UDFA, there's nothing you can truly say the Cowboys could've done better this offseason as the calendar turns to May. It's the one facet they have, for once, excelled at addressing/maintaining/bettering for the coming season and beyond. 

Initial overall grade: B+