The Dallas Cowboys have already made significant additions this offseason, significantly improving both their offense and defense. If owner Jerry Jones wants to end a Super Bowl drought that is approaching three decades, though, he must be aggressive in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Everything the Cowboys have done this offseason suggests the front office is taking a win-now approach with pressure on everyone within the organization to win. Dallas made short-term bets on Stephon Gilmore and Brandin Cooks, high-end players who filled positions of need and turned wide receiver and cornerback into a strength.
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Meanwhile, Mike McCarthy parting ways with offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and taking on play-calling himself also speaks volumes. If Dallas doesn’t live up to Jones’ expectations in 2023, more drastic changes will come in 2024.
Keeping all of that in mind, here are three Dallas Cowboys draft targets who could help make this team a Super Bowl contender next season and beyond.
1. Bijan Robinson, running back, Texas Longhorns
Analytics will suggest it’s a bad investment to spend a first-round pick on a running back. In most cases, taking that approach is the right thing to do. However, context is always important. Teams in win-now mode should prioritize a running back, regardless of positional value, if it’s a missing piece for their offense. Furthermore, Bijan Robinson isn’t your ordinary running back prospect.
While we won’t advocate for Dallas trading up for the Texas star, it should pick him if he’s available at the 26th pick. Robinson is easily the best running back to enter the NFL Draft since Saquon Barkley, a generational talent who can be a difference-maker on all three downs.
As covered by Jori Epstein of Yahoo Sports, McCarthy is determined to run the football more and do it effectively in 2023. Realistically, that means a rash of rushing plays approaching at least 50 percent. With that heavy involvement not even including passing game work for running backs, Dallas needs to find someone to split the workload with Tony Pollard.
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An arsenal with Dak Prescott, Brandin Cooks, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Robinson and Pollard would be one of the best offenses in the NFL. Not only could Dallas be among the leaders in points scored, but it could sustain drives and dictate the tempo of games. Robinson isn’t a luxury pick for the Cowboys, he’s the perfect fit for everything they want to do.
2. Darnell Washington, tight end, Georgia Bulldogs
After letting Dalton Schultz depart in free agency, Dallas created a bigger need at tight end. Fortunately, the 2023 NFL Draft class is deep at the position and the Cowboys’ front office could choose between several options in the second round.
Darnell Washington seems to fit exactly what McCarthy wants. The former Georgia Bulldogs star was the only tight end in the Power Five to earn 80-plus PFF grades as both a blocker and receiver. He is phenomenal as a run blocker, eerily similar to Marcedes Lewis. On that trait alone, he fits the Cowboys’ style.
Washington is also a good athlete who can be a pass-catching weapon. He recorded a 9.88 Relative Athletic Score at the NFL Combine and made some spectacular catches. While Washington might not be a YAC threat, the size and athleticism could make him unguardable inside the red zone and he is a nice counter weapon to Lamb and Cooks.
3. Andre Carter II, edge rusher, Army Black Knights
While edge rusher isn’t among the most pressing needs in Dallas, it would be difficult to pass on Andre Carter II in the third round. He was viewed as a potential first-round talent entering last season, but the restrictions of playing at a military academy hurt him.
Because Carter played for Army, he wasn’t allowed to bulk up to the size you typically see from pass rushers and he couldn’t focus as much time refining his skills as a pass rusher. However, this is still a 6-foot-6 athlete who displays unique gifts in college and now he just needs time to grow.
Dallas is the perfect landing spot for him. Carter will work behind DeMarcus Lawrence, Micah Parsons and Dante Fowler, only taking the field as a situational pass rusher. He’ll show some flashes as a rookie, but the real breakout may come in 2024. While this is more of a long-term move, it would offer a high upside for Dallas.