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Grading the Dallas Cowboys draft 2022

Matt Johnson
Dallas Cowboys
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys draft history highlights the organization’s philosophy, taking chances even if it means things could blow up in their face. True to form, the 2022 Cowboys draft class lives up to that reputation.

Jerry Jones made the right call in 2021, selecting linebacker Micah Parsons after trading down to the 12th pick. It gave Dallas an All-Pro defender who could soon become one of the best players in the NFL. After being rewarded for that pick this past season, Dallas had no reason to alter its approach to the 2022 NFL Draft.

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Keeping that approach in mind, let’s dive into the Dallas Cowboys draft class with an analysis of picks that stand out and a Cowboys draft grade.

Tyler Smith an underappreciated pick for Dallas Cowboys

NFL: Scouting Combine
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Plenty of Dallas Cowboys fans weren’t pleased when Tyler Smith was selected with the 24th overall pick. Many wanted to see interior lineman Kenyon Green or guard Zion Johnson head to Dallas. When both came off the board and Smith was the best offensive lineman available, fans knew what was coming.

In some ways, it’s understandable. Smith is viewed as a developmental tackle, needing multiple years with NFL coaches before he’ll be ready to serve as a pillar for a playoff contender. The Cowboys need immediate help on the offensive line, Smith doesn’t seem like he checks that box.

Smith will start at left guard as a rookie and the fan base should feel optimistic. He led the nation in big-time blocks last season, per Pro Football Focus, a testament to his dominance as a run blocker. While his technique in pass protection needs work, there’s an even bigger reason why Dallas picked him.

Smith’s Relative Athletic Score at guard (9.6/10) is phenomenal. Meanwhile, MockDraftables athletic comparisons for the 6-foot-5 lineman include Kyle Long (82.2%), Ikem Ekwonu (81.6%) and Penei Sewell (78.4%). There is reason to believe that Smith could be a quality left guard in 2022. Beyond that, given the history of the Cowboys’ offensive line development, he can be the perfect successor for Tyron Smith.

Dallas Cowboys stay true to form with risky Sam Williams pick

NCAA Football: Louisville at Mississippi
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A first-round talent with off-field issues that pushed many teams away from him. Sounds familiar. It’s why cornerback Kelvin Joseph, currently not facing charges for being in a car involved in a murder, slipped to Round 2 in the 2021 NFL Draft. Character concerns are also why Williams was available with the 56th overall pick.

Smith was suspended in 2020 after being charged with sexual battery. It’s just part of the reason why multiple NFL teams red-flagged him during the pre-draft process for off-field concerns and risk of him doing something that could jeopardize his career. Where other teams see risk, Dallas sees a market ripe for exploitation.

Among edge rushers in the 2022 draft class, Williams finished in the 98th percentile for his 40-yard dash (4.46 seconds) and 99th percentile for his 10-yard split (1.55 seconds). In terms of advanced stats, he ranked in the 83rd percentile for pass-rush win rate last season.

The Cowboys needed edge rushers with speed to burn and he possesses a collection of developing pass-rush moves that can make him an even bigger problem for offensive tackles. On a defense with Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence, Williams can be deployed on passing downs as a third rusher to create havoc on the edge.

He’s almost certainly going to make a positive impact this fall, helping replace some of the production created by Randy Gregory’s departure. It just all comes with the risk that he finds himself in the headlines for the wrong reasons with the Cowboys questioned about why they ignored the red flags.

Damone Clark a high-upside gamble without a 2022 pay off

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Louisiana State
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Damone Clarke is a different type of risk for the Dallas Cowboys. The 6-foot-3 linebacker underwent spinal fusion surgery for a herniated disc in March and the procedure will likely sideline him for the entire 2022 season. It’s why a second-round talent fell to the 176th overall pick.

The question is what Clark will look like following the surgery. We won’t get a great answer until 2023, when the Cowboys’ medical staff will likely feel most comfortable clearing him to return to the field. There’s a chance he isn’t the same player, but the upside is what attracted Dallas to him.

According to Kent Lee Platte, Clarke’s 9.87 Relative Athletic Score ranks 33rd out of over 2,400 linebackers since 1987. He also boasts a 90th percentile wingspan with a 92nd percentile vertical jump, per MockDraftable.

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Those physical traits translated to success at LSU. He averaged 11.3 tackles per game and posted an elite 6.1% missed tackle rate. The sideline-to-sideline range and NFL-caliber instincts against the run can make him a great two-down backer. Dallas just needs to hope that he returns from surgery without issue. If he does, a Smith-Parsons tandem will be one of the most athletic linebacker duos in recent memory.

Dallas Cowboys draft picks 2022

  • Round 1, 24th overall: Tyler Smith, OT, Tulsa
  • Round 2, 56th overall: Sam Williams, EDGE, Ole Miss
  • Round 3, 88th overall: Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama
  • Round 4, 129th overall: Jake Ferguson, TE, Wisconsin
  • Round 5, 155th overall: Matt Waletzko, OT, North Dakota State
  • Round 5, 167th overall: DaRon Bland, CB, Fresno State
  • Round 5, 176th overall: Damone Clark, LB, LSU
  • Round 5, 178th overall: John Ridgeway, DT, Arkansas
  • Round 6, 193rd overall: Devin Harper, LB, Oklahoma State

Dallas Cowboys draft grade: B

The grade can’t be any higher than this because of the risk associated with the Cowboys draft class. Three years from now, this could be an A-grade with Smith an outstanding left tackle while Williams and Clark are both impact starts on defense. However, there’s also the downside of these gambles backfiring and fans are left looking back on some of the highly-rated players the Cowboys passed on.