Saturday, June 25, 2022

Cowboys NFL draft targets for Day 2: Nakobe Dean, David Ojabo, George Pickens among top names still available

The 2022 NFL Draft is now well underway, and there was no shortage of excitement and drama on Day 1 — including a blockbuster trade by the Philadelphia Eagles to acquire Pro Bowl wideout A.J. Brown. Combined with the selection of defensive specimen Jordan Davis, it was a dominant first round for Philly, but also for the New York Giants, who grabbed both defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux and offensive tackle Evan Neal — two of the best at their respective positions. The Dallas Cowboys decided to sit tight at No. 24 and deliver a bit of drama of their own.

For with a list of more notable prospects on the board, they instead selected offensive lineman Tyler Smith, a Dallas-area native who made a name for himself at Tulsa but, until last night, was not a household name. Smith is raw, but his ceiling is undeniable, and while he and the Cowboys get to work attempting to turn his scouting report into NFL production as a starter and longterm protector of two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Dak Prescott, there’s still work to be done in the draft.

Spoiler: The event doesn’t end at the conclusion of Day 1.

To that point, there are still several (read: a list) of high-profile prospects just waiting to fly off of the board when Day 2 gets underway in Las Vegas, and the question now emerges regarding the Cowboys’ willingness — or lack thereof — to potentially move up from No. 56 to acquire a jackpot player in the second round. Having eight picks remaining in their arsenal and four of them in the fifth round, the Cowboys have plenty of weight to make a trade north materialize. 

With Smith needing polish before he can be seen as a lights-out selection, it would behoove the Cowboys to make sure their usually risky second-round (and third-round) grab is more of a plug-and-play impact guy in September. You’ll find a list below featuring some arguably can’t-miss prospects, defensive and offensive, who would wonderfully fit what the Cowboys need to accomplish in 2022.

 All they have to do is pull the right trigger(s) on Friday.

**denotes pre-draft official top-30 visit with Cowboys

DEFENSE

Nakobe Dean

LB

Georgia

Chad Muma

LB

Wyoming 

Andrew Booth Jr.

CB 

Clemson

Roger McCreary

CB

 Auburn

Kyler Gordon

CB 

Washington  

Jaquan Brisker

Penn State

David Ojabo

EDGE 

Michigan

Cameron Thomas

EDGE

San Diego State

Arnold Ebiketie

EDGE 

Penn State

Sam Williams**  

EDGE 

Mississippi

Logan Hall

DL

 Houston

Phidarian Mathis

DL

 Alabama

My my, what a robust group we have here.

The fact Dean remains on the board is a bit of a coup for whomever ends up with him, and you can expect him to be deleted from the pool of prospects very quickly. Acquiring him would require moving up from No. 56, but so would some others on this list. That said, the Cowboys could sit tight in the second round and still land a strong talent, but they face another wipeout scenario similar to what they witnessed on Day 1. With Randy Gregory gone, Leighton Vander Esch no longer the future at any LB position in Dallas (add in Jabril Cox fighting to return from a torn ACL), and the first-round pick going to offense, it would be smart to award the second (and third) pick(s) to recently extended Dan Quinn.

Dean or Muma would fit well alongside Parsons [and Cox], and thanks to the recent news involving former second-round pick Kelvin Joseph, you can add cornerback to the list of needs opposite All-Pro defensive back Trevon Diggs. McCreary is one to watch intently, as are Booth and Gordon. Don’t forget about the defensive line, though, because with the aforementioned Gregory now gone — sure, they re-signed Dorance Armstrong and added Dante Fowler — there’s still a need for a potent punch opposite All-Pro pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence

Ebiketie, Ojabo, Thomas or Williams intrigue me greatly (!!), as does Hall and Mathis for flexible interior work to add alongside Neville Gallimore

And with Mathis coming from one of the biggest collegiate programs in the country (the Cowboys do love their big program guys, and especially their Nick Sabanites), I could see an all-out big board brawl happening between Mathis, Williams and Ojabo; although Ojabo may not see the field in 2022 due to a torn/ruptured Achilles suffered at Michigan’s Pro Day. Usually, and admittedly, that would normally make him the prototypical second-round risk for the Cowboys. But, they took their risk in the first round this year, so they’d really have to be in full riverboat mode to take on that much more on Day 2.

Lastly, you can bet Parsons will nudge the front office a bit regarding Ebiketie, his fellow Nittany Lion (and/or the other: former Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker), and he does have Quinn’s ear — to say the least.

OFFENSE

George Pickens

WR 

Georgia

Jalen Tolbert

WR 

South Alabama

Skyy Moore

WR

Western Michigan

Christian Watson

WR 

North Dakota State

Cade Otton**

TE 

Washington

Jeremy Ruckert**

TE

Ohio State

Trey McBride

TE

Colorado State

Jalen Wydermyer**

TE

Texas A&M

With one of the offensive line needs presumably filled on Day 1, Kellen Moore and Co. turn their eyes to the skill positions, knowing there are new voids created by the decision to trade four-time Pro Bowl wideout Amari Cooper and the loss/release of tight end Blake Jarwin following hip surgery. Adding to the question mark at tight end is the fact Dalton Schultz — while wanting to sign a long-term deal in Dallas — has yet to do so (he has until July 15 or he must play under the franchise tag). This is to say there is no multi-year solution on the Cowboys roster right now to succeed Schultz if he departs and, even if he does not, there’s no definitive TE2 to complement him. 

Otton was an official top 30 visitor along with Wydermyer and Ruckert, and I would absolutely not rule out the Cowboys possibly grabbing a tight end as early as the second round (though, for my part, it’s now more of a third-round conversation). Give the frontrunner nod to Otton and Wydermyer there, but without ruling out a talent like McBride or Ruckert — both of whom have been known to do damage for their respective collegiate offenses. 

Circling back to the loss of Cooper, it’s a foregone conclusion the Cowboys need to address the WR position as early as the second round, particularly when factoring in how they loss the dice roll on Cedrick Wilson in free agency. Michael Gallup is secured on a five-year deal and CeeDee Lamb isn’t up for contract talks just yet, but the former may not be ready to start the regular season as he climbs back from a torn ACL and that leaves the latter holding down the fort with no Cooper, no Gallup and no Wilson. That is obviously far from ideal, so draw a red circle around George Pickens (who directly comps to Lamb) and is hot off of a national title run with Georgia, as Tolbert, Moore and Watson offer up worthy competition to Pickens, albeit from smaller programs.

Should the Cowboys double down on offense in the second round, anything other than a top-flight receiver or tight end could justifiably be viewed as a failure of  sorts– unless the player they instead opt for is a defensive nightmare for opposing teams (see first table for a list of some who’d qualify for that nod).

Hold onto your hats, folks. 

Day 2 has arrived, and the Cowboys will be on the clock again — soon.

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