Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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2024 NFL Draft: Top five offensive line candidates for Cowboys’ first-round pick

FRISCO, Texas — It’s 2024 NFL Draft eve, which means all 32 of the league’s teams are certainly wrapping up the process of finalizing their draft boards if they haven’t already. 

In the case of the Dallas Cowboys, one thing is clear: they are targeting an offensive lineman after losing eight-time Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith (New York Jets) and Pro Bowl center Tyler Biadasz (Washington Commanders) in free agency. 

“I think in general, if you look at attrition, if you talk about where it hits us the hardest, it’s the guys we lost in the offensive line,” Cowboys COO and executive VP Stephen Jones said Tuesday.  

The opening round of the 2024 draft could potentially see nine or 10 offensive linemen come off the board Thursday night, so there should be one or two players up for grabs that Dallas could select with the 24th overall pick. Incumbent left guard Tyler Smith, who played left tackle in college at Tulsa but has started at left guard since being a 2022 first-round pick because of Tyron Smith, just earned his first Pro Bowl nod in 2023. How the Cowboys ultimately see him at left tackle versus the quality of the offensive tackles left will heavily factor into their choice. 

Smith feels comfortable playing left guard coming off the Pro Bowl nod but he is open to moving to left tackle. That versatility will allow the Cowboys to go the “best player available” route since they are indeed comfortable moving him out to left tackle if they need to do so.

The Cowboys have only traded down in the first round twice since 2010, and the last time they did so in 2021, they picked up an additional third-round pick from the Philadelphia Eagles to move back two spots from the 10th overall pick to the 12th overall pick. The Eagles chose wide receiver DeVonta Smith, the recipient of a three-year, $75 million extension this offseason. Dallas chose three-time All-Pro edge rusher Micah Parsons with the 12th selection, something Jerry may have forgotten about when asked about moving back or out of the first round on Thursday. 

“Well, I’ll say this. It’s very likely to have an opportunity to do that,” Jerry said when asked about trading down. “Given the right people left on the board, or the wrong people gone off the board, and the right trade, and what time of day it is and if I’m in the room, I’m just kidding now. Really, there’s a lot of variables here as to whether you’d go up or down. I’m not trying to be cute there. Obviously we’d like to have some mid-round picks. But by the same token, Micah Parsons might be sitting there with that pick. Now, do you want to go for some more picks or do you want a name?”  

With all that in mind, here are five players who could be on Dallas’ radar to make its offensive line room better on Thursday night. These rankings are based on the players Dallas may target who could actually be available to the Cowboys at pick 24.

5. Oregon OL Jackson Powers-Johnson 

  • Tyler Smith position if drafted: left tackle 
  • Height: 6-3 | Weight: 328 pounds
  • Accolades/notable statistics:  Allowed zero sacks and four quarterback pressures on 714 career pass-blocking snaps, 2023 First Team All-Pac-12

Jackson Powers-Johnson could be a Day 1 NFL starter at either center or guard, but his ideal position is center. His play at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, was one of the highlights of that week as he threw other high-quality draft classmates to the ground withe ease. Once he drops anchor, he is hard to push around as a pass-blocker. 

In the run game, he is a freight train, unyielding to anyone in his way, even into the second level of a defense. However, Powers-Johnson can sometimes be overaggressive as a run blocker and get off-balance. In the passing game, his bend into his pass set can be inconsistent. Overall, he his technique can be fixed with regular reps in the NFL, and Powers-Johnson could develop into a solid interior offensive line starter. 

4. Oklahoma OT Tyler Guyton 

  • Tyler Smith position if drafted: left guard
  • Height: 6-8 | Weight: 322 pounds
  • Accolades/notable statistics: Zero sacks allowed on 335 pass-block snaps in 2023

Tyler Guyton has the tools to develop into a solid offensive tackle, left or right — 13 of his 15 starts in college came at right tackle — but he may take a little time to develop given his inexperience. Guyton has fantastic size and strength, and his balance is consistent when bending and reacting to defensive linemen. 

His best strength is his hand-fighting where he punches like boxer to strike and counter incoming pass rushers. However, his accuracy with his hand-punching stands to improve, and he could play with better leverage by not standing too straight. His run game work would improve with a better center of gravity as well. Guyton could be worth the first-round investment, but patience will be required. 

3. Georgia OT Amarius Mims

  • Tyler Smith position if drafted: left guard
  • Height: 6-8 | Weight: 340 pounds
  • Accolades/notable statistics: Two-time CFP National Champion (starter in 2022 vs TCU), zero sacks allowed in 377 pass block snaps

Amarius Mims is a giant among giants, but his 340 pounds is well-distributed, which allows him to remain on balance. His arm length (36 1/8″) and wingspan (86 3/4″) is phenomenal. His footwork and handwork are in synch. Mims is also mobile enough to climb into the second level when run blocking, and he can move with enough agility to work in an outside zone running scheme. 

His issue is experience (eight starts in 30 career college games), but he does have experience in the biggest games thanks to being a part of Georgia’s back-to-back national championship teams. Mims’ run-game technique could use work, but pass-blocking comes naturally to him. He could be a high-level left tackle for the Cowboys in the near future. 

2. Duke OL Graham Barton 

  • Tyler Smith position if drafted: left tackle   
  • Height: 6-5 | Weight: 313 pounds
  • Accolades/notable statistics: 2023 Second Team All-American, two-time First Team All-ACC (2022-23)

Graham Barton served as Duke’s left tackle in college, but he will be an interior lineman in the NFL at either guard or center. The reasons for that are because of a shorter arm length (32 7/8″), and he can struggle with quicker, more speedy edge rushers. However, Barton possesses strong technique, allowing him to achieve leverage in the run game in tandem with fluid hips. He is light on his feet in the passing game, which lets him quickly adjust to pass rushers coming from various angles. 

Barton is the top interior offensive line option the Cowboys could have. 

1. Alabama OT JC Latham 

  • Tyler Smith position if drafted: left guard
  • Height: 6-6 | Weight: 342 pounds
  • Accolades/notable statistics: Three sacks allowed in 970 career pass-block snaps

Some of the offensive linemen on this list have inexperience as knock. That isn’t the case for JC Latham, who started every game at right tackle for the Crimson Tide across the last two seasons. He was also incredibly productive in 2023, earning Second Team All-American and First Team All-SEC honors. 

Latham is built like a sumo wrestler, and he is adept at redirecting pass rushers with his inside hand while moving them out of the way with his outside hand. He isn’t someone who can be easily overpowered via a bullrush. Latham is already a high-level run-blocker, but some of his work in the passing game could be better. He sometimes overreacts, which causes him to get out of position when dropping back into his pass set. 

Latham could play tackle or guard, and the Cowboys would have to spend some time coaching up him to move him to left tackle, but between his experience and build, he has the potential to be a starter as a rookie. 

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