When the 2022 NFL regular season gets underway, you'll see Amari Cooper, La'el Collins and Randy Gregory all suiting up for teams not named the Dallas Cowboys -- three headline departures that create additional voids on a roster that could ill-afford more. The headlines pouring in from off of the field also create issues on the roster sheet, namely the open murder investigation involving former second-round pick Kelvin Joseph, one the NFL front office is monitoring as well, and it's safe the say the Cowboys have a whole lot of work ahead of them in making sure their 2022 NFL Draft haul is one of their best -- possibly ever.
The good news is they have no shortage of opportunities to do just that, seeing as they'll walking into Las Vegas next week with a total of nine picks, assuming owner Jerry Jones doesn't strike a trade deal at some point before or during the event. All things considered, with needs at so many more positions than they originally anticipated exiting 2021, what would a perfect draft look like for the Cowboys this April?
Glad you asked.
Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia (24th-overall)
Dread it. Run from it. Jordan Davis arrives in the opposing backfield all the same.
Davis has a chance to be one of the best interior defensive linemen in all of football at the NFL level, and that is not being hyperbolic whatsoever. A human his size simply shouldn't be capable of the athleticism he possesses, and those who believe he's simply an elite run-stopper are basically telling you they haven't watched him play. Along with Nakobe Dean, Davis was the leader of a Bulldog defense that was unequivocally the best in the nation in 2021, en route to landing the school's first national championship in more than 40 years. The loss of Gregory only deepens the need to strengthen the defensive line as a whole (combined with the Cowboys ongoing need to locate a game-changing 1-tech), and nothing looks better than Davis lined up between Lawrence and Neville Gallimore. A talent and physical specimen such as Davis doesn't come around often, so if the football gods keep him available for you at No. 24, snap your fingers and make opposing QBs and RBs flake away.
George Pickens, WR, Georgia (56th-overall)
It's always a great meal when you can have more than one order of Lamb.
With the aforementioned move to ship Cooper out of town, and despite the re-signing of Gallup, there's now a glaring need at the WR position. That's because not only is there a chance Gallup misses a game or two to begin next season -- currently recovering from a torn ACL -- but the Cowboys also rolled the dice and lost Cedrick Wilson to the Dolphins in free agency. That leaves them with a very real need at wideout, and Pickens is ... different ... in the best possible way. Comparisons to Lamb are well-founded, given the skill set that exists within both receivers, and securing Pickens to reignite a triumvirate in Dallas would have Dak Prescott wearing a grin from ear to ear. Pickens was able to mature (his only knock to begin his career at UGA) and return from injury and, as seen in his late-season/playoff heroics, he's a special type of player who can both smoke routes and/or take the top off of the opposing defense; and his catch radius is reminiscent of both Lamb and Gallup -- combined.
Cade Otton, TE, Washington (88th-overall)
With two bulldogs on the way, let's look at grabbing a husky.
Having secured Dalton Schultz with a franchise tag won't preclude the Cowboys from considering a tight end with an early pick, nor should it, and especially given the release of Blake Jarwin following hip surgery that might keep him off of a football field for the entirety of next season. Re-signing Jeremy Sprinkle doesn't move the needle one millimeter and there are still question marks on what Sean McKeon might or might not be, but Otton could enter the depth chart in Dallas and make an immediate impact -- as both a pass catcher and, importantly, a successful blocker. The latter is something that was once done consistently well by Schultz but, as he's morphed into a playmaking TE1, has suffered a mighty regression. A tandem of Otton (who also blocks better than Sprinkle) and Schultz feels like the perfect Rx for an offense that might also boast Lamb, Gallup and Pickens (if this mock materialized in real life), and that's a receiving corps that would keep even the best defensive coordinator awake at night in cold sweats. And if a longterm deal with Schultz can't be reached, Otton becomes the replacement in 2023.
Lecitus Smith, G, Virginia Tech (129th-overall)
It took a little bit to get here, but it's offensive line time.
Admittedly, I would've liked to address the position earlier, but I'm also not going to force the issue and put myself in position to lose out on talent like the ones I drafted above. It is paramount the Cowboys rebuild their ailing offensive line, however, having waved goodbye to starting left guard Connor Williams, trading away La'el Collins to the Cincinnati Bengals and again being faced with the reality of not knowing how many games Tyron Smith will miss at left tackle in 2022 (enter Josh Ball?). The good news is things still fell their way in the fourth round of this mock draft, with Smith (someone that's been projected as high as a third-round pick) still sitting at his table. Not anymore though, because the Hokie lands squarely in the seat vacated by Williams and has the long-term potential to be a massive upgrade. His best work also happens to come in the zone run scheme -- a favorite of offensive coordinator Kellen Moore -- and he's a tone-setter who enjoys violence at the point of attack, has explosive contact and can delete bull rushes. In other words, say less.
Cam Jurgens, C, Nebraska (155th-overall)
Want more horsepower and torque from your engine? Add a Cam.
Jurgens could combine with Lecitus Smith to quickly repair the interior of the Cowboys offensive line, entering to give Dallas an option outside of the inconsistencies of Tyler Biadasz at center (to also compete with Matt Farniok). Jurgens is beefy (hence the moniker "Beef Jurgy") but with an excellent quick twitch for his build, and when I mentioned torque, I was being serious. The force he can generate from the ground to the combustion within his hands is bone-rattling, but if you think that makes him nothing more than a big body in the middle, think again. He moves with fantastic fluidity in the open field to help aid in zone blocking or whenever he identifies a threat to his RB or QB in space. Add in his bloodthirsty, throwback demeanor that harkens to the days when shoulder pads were the size of mobile homes and jerseys were often autographed with the blood of the opposing team and, yes, Jurgens as a fifth-rounder could be an absolute steal.
Dominique Robinson, EDGE, Miami (OH) (167th-overall)
Don't let the small program fool you, as many scouts and analysts often do.
Robinson has the potential to be very good at the NFL level, to say the very least. The addition of Davis in the first-round bought a little bit of time before circling back to address the edge, as did the re-signing of Dorance Armstrong and the signing of the Dan Quinn-requested Dante Fowler. Robinson, often projected as a fourth-round pick by most, is very difficult to pass up on with the 167th-overall pick. The value on such a high-motor, high-effort prospect such as this is simply too delicious, and especially for what he might be used for initially. I don't expect Robinson to be a world-beater in 2022 (though that would certainly be nice), but instead an edge rusher who still needs a year or so or polish as a speed rusher on third down -- i.e., mostly rotational -- who'll have a chance to develop under Quinn into what might be direct competition for a starting role in as early as 2023. At worst, the edge depth is upgraded but, at best, the Cowboys discover they got much more than they bargained for with Robinson in the near future.
Micah McFadden, LB, Indiana (176th-overall)
While McFadden doesn't enter the draft with nearly as much pomp and circumstance as Parsons did one year ago, be not deceived, because there is plenty of dynamite in his crates as well. McFadden is animalistic in how he approaches the game (sound familiar?), routinely playing like a man on fire. This can, at times, result in overpursuit but, more often, it results in him cutting the opposing ball carrier in two. A great candidate to spell Parsons at MIKE (middle linebacker) in certain sets when Quinn wants to use Parsons' versatility, there would be plenty of chances to get Micah Squared on the field at the same time. The re-signing of Leighton Vander Esch was a good move for insurance reasons, but the fact he's on a one-year deal along with Jabril Cox working to return from a torn ACL means the Cowboys not only have a need at LB, but a truly dire one. McFadden, and with a compensatory pick, no less, is just smart draft business - if he's still available -- a top-notch MIKE who can upgrade the woeful run defense.
Yusuf Corker, S, Kentucky (178th-overall)
If things play out favorably for Kelvin Joseph in a Cowboys uniform, he'd love a reunion with Corker.
That's because Joseph, the currently embattled Cowboys former second-round pick (2021) is very familiar with Corker, seeing as they spent time together making plays for the University of Kentucky. You have to love the move to keep both Malik Hooker and Jayron Kearse, but Kearse will continue to play a hybrid role and Donovan Wilson is entering a contract season that follows one marred with injury. That means it's time to begin planning for more talent there, and it's yet unseen what former sixth-round pick Israel Mukuamu (2021) will become. Mukuamu spent a lot of time on the team's inactive list as a rookie and, as such, has an uphill climb to win over Quinn, which could very well happen, but reuniting Corker with Joseph -- operating under the assumption Joseph will begin taking over the CB2 role from Anthony Brown opposite Trevon Diggs -- eliminates a learning curve between [that] CB and the safety position. This could yield a more immediate impact from Corker, a faster level up for Joseph, and the former gives great insurance against Wilson (be it via injury or 2023 free agency) as a box safety who loves nothing more than to brutalize halfbacks.
Jeffrey Gunter, EDGE (193rd-overall)
I was honestly floored that Gunter was available here.
I then got up off of the floor and ran his card in faster than Tyreek Hill did out of Kansas City, because when you see a skill set like the one Gunter has, and you have the chance to steal it with a sixth-round pick to add an exclamation point to your draft -- you do it. It addresses the EDGE need nicely when you consider Robinson is also in this mock and, yes, there's a bit more polish that needs to happen for Gunter before he can break open games, but his toolbox runneth over. Comparisons to Chubb and Davenport are not made lightly (he also forced nine fumbles in his last three seasons), but he's at his best in stopping the run (are you sensing a theme here yet?). If the Cowboys can construct a defensive front that both bullies opposing quarterbacks and effectively strangles the run attack, they'll be even better than they were in a record-setting 2021 season. Because, as evidenced time and again in Dallas, an inability to stop the run usually leads to a playoff exit, or not making it there in the first place.