Dallas Cowboys NFL Draft Picks & Grades 2022: Tyler Smith, Jalen Tolbert Headline High-Upside Talent at Positions of Need

The Cowboys are always one of the most enticing teams to watch around draft time as Jerry Jones and his staff consistently find high-value talents on all three days. This year was no different, as Dallas drafted a handful of players who can make an impact this year and for years to come. This article will break down each of the Cowboys’ draft picks and provide an overall draft recap with grades for each selection.

Dallas Cowboys Draft Picks 2022

Round 1 No. 24 OT Tyler Smith
Round 2 No. 56 DE Sam Williams
Round 3 No. 88 WR Jalen Tolbert
Round 4 No. 129 TE Jake Ferguson
Round 5 No. 155 OT Matt Waletzko
Round 5 No. 167 CB Daron Bland
Round 5 No. 176 LB Damone Clark
Round 5 No. 178 DT John Ridgeway
Round 6 No. 193 LB Devin Harper

Overall Draft Grade: B+

Analysis: The Cowboys lost some key contributors over this past offseason, so this draft was significant for them to replenish the talent on the roster. Amari Cooper was traded to the Browns, so wide receiver became a need. It’s worth including in this draft recap that Cooper was only traded for a fifth-round pick, which is significantly less than some of the other star receivers were moved for this offseason, so I’m giving the Cowboys a slight knock for that.

The departures of La’el Collins and Randy Gregory also prompted Dallas to select an offensive tackle and an edge rusher. That need-based approach can sometimes lead to bad value, but the Cowboys didn’t reach on many players in this draft. Instead, they stayed measured and didn’t make aggressive trades up as they let the board fall to them.

Tyler Smith is a likely starter this season, while Sam Williams and Jalen Tolbert can fill essential roles right away. The Cowboys also landed some solid depth on Day 3 with four selections in the fifth round. This draft class features a solid mix of pro-ready talent and high-upside prospects who will fill essential roles on the Cowboys’ roster.

Dallas Cowboys Draft Grades 2022

Round: 1 Pick: 24 / Tyler Smith, OT, Tulsa

There seemed to be some backlash from fans and analysts regarding the Cowboys’ selection of Smith here, which didn’t make much sense to me. Smith just turned 21 years old a few weeks ago, and he led the FBS in big-time blocks last year per PFF. His powerful run-blocking will translate right away as the Cowboys’ presumed starter at left guard, filling in for the departed Connor Williams. Dallas executive vice president Stephen Jones revealed on a podcast that the long-term plan is to have Smith take over for Tyron Smith at left tackle long term, and while Smith was still one of the best left tackles in the league last year, he’s now 31 years old. As an elite athlete who’s still very early in his developmental trajectory, Tyler Smith is a perfect “now and later” pick for the Cowboys as a starting guard with a future high-level tackle upside.

Grade: A

https://twitter.com/MySportsUpdate/status/1520132799612657664

Round: 2 Pick: 56 / Sam Williams, DE, Mississippi

Sam Williams is an excellent athlete whose 4.46-second 40-yard dash ranks in the 98th percentile at his position. Still, the strength element of his game is significantly lacking, and he will struggle to set the edge in the run game consistently. Williams had a whopping 61 pressures on 451 pass-rush snaps last year per PFF, and it’s easy to see that pass-rush production translating. However, I would have preferred Drake Jackson here for the Cowboys. Jackson’s strength game will improve with his added 20 pounds of weight, and he’s only 21 years old compared to Williams being 23 years old. I saw Williams as more of a third-round talent, so this is somewhat of a reach, but he will boost the floor of the Cowboys’ pass-rush this season.

Grade: B-

Round: 3 Pick: 88 / Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama

Despite being a former two-star recruit, Jalen Tolbert had a very impressive collegiate career. He was a deep-ball machine for South Alabama – his 16 deep catches for 646 deep yards both tied for seventh in the country last year per PFF. In the third round, this represented excellent value – Tyquan Thornton came off the board 38 picks earlier, and I had Tolbert ranked significantly higher in my wide receiver rankings. However, Tolbert’s lack of elite arm length or weight is concerning, and he didn’t test like quite the elite athlete you’d expect with his deep-ball production. Still, he’ll have an immediate role in the Dallas offense, especially as Michael Gallup recovers from his torn ACL.

Grade: B+

https://twitter.com/TheCowboysNet/status/1521644053879660547

Round: 4 Pick: 129 / Jake Ferguson, TE, Wisconsin

With Dalton Schultz set to play this season on the franchise tag for the time being, I expected the Cowboys to find a tight end on Day 3 to round out their depth chart, especially after the release of Blake Jarwin following an injury designation. Ferguson isn’t a particularly outstanding athlete, but he was a consistently productive receiver in the Big Ten and has the potential to develop into a solid blocker as well. Ferguson has surefire hands – he only had one drop on 61 targets at Wisconsin – and his impressive Senior Bowl showing helped boost his stock. Isaiah Likely and Chigozeim Okonkwo were likely the more dynamic receiving threats available at the position, but neither is as consistent as Ferguson nor has the blocking potential Ferguson possesses.

Grade: B

Round: 5 Pick: 155 / Matt Waletzko, OT, North Dakota

There may not have been a better Day 3 developmental offensive tackle available than Waletzko, and I expected him to be off the board in the fourth round. Waletzko has a massive frame at 6’7” and a 7’1” wingspan, and unlike most tackles that size, he’s also an elite athlete with a 9.96 Relative Athletic Score (RAS). Waletzko was a solid producer as a two-year starter at left tackle for North Dakota, and he could fill in as a swing tackle as soon as this season. Over time, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him turn into a solid starter with those enticing traits.

Grade: A

https://twitter.com/PFF_College/status/1522019999275048961

Round: 5 Pick: 167 / DaRon Bland, CB, Fresno State

DaRon Bland hasn’t had much starting experience, but PFF tracked him with just a 42% completion rate allowed across 353 coverage snaps last year, which was among the best in the country. Dane Brugler of The Athletic noted that his length, quickness, and toughness make him a good fit for Dan Quinn’s defense. Still, his change-of-direction ability is lacking, and he often gets over-aggressive in coverage and takes himself out of plays. Still, with a 6’0”, 197-pound frame, 32” arms, and a 4.46-second 40-yard dash, there are developmental traits to like with Bland.

Grade: B

Round: 5 Pick: 176 / Damone Clark, LB, LSU

Once pegged as a surefire Day 2 pick and even potential first-round selection, Damone Clark’s medical situation caused his fall down boards. Clark was found to have a herniated disc at the combine and received spinal fusion surgery on March 24. Spine issues are no joke, and it puts a cloud of doubt over the future of his career. However, he’s reportedly ahead of schedule and plans to play in 2022. Clark is an elite athlete who tested with a RAS of 9.86. He’s also an elite tackler with just a career 7.1% missed tackle rate per PFF. If Clark can stay healthy, he would be the perfect candidate to play at the MIKE linebacker spot and allow Micah Parsons more free reign as a rangy playmaker.

Grade: A-

Round: 5 Pick: 178 / John Ridgeway, DT, Arkansas

The Cowboys have lacked a physically imposing presence in the middle of their defensive line for a couple of years ago, and 2020 third-round pick Neville Gallimore has not panned out. John Ridgeway, nicknamed the “Vanilla Gorilla,” was a space-eating nose tackle for the Arkansas defense and has the size measurables to fill the same role for the Cowboys. Ridgeway is far from an elite athlete, and he doesn’t offer much as a pass-rusher. Still, he offers a different brand of physicality to the interior of the Dallas defensive line.

Grade: B-

Round: 6 Pick: 193 / Devin Harper, LB, Oklahoma State

Even after drafting Damone Clark in the fifth round, the Cowboys continued to invest in the linebacker position with their final draft selection. Harper’s profile is tough to evaluate as he could use improvement across the board. His coverage is inconsistent, his poor pursuit angles kill his tackling ability, and he lacks the power to stack and shed blocks. To be fair, Harper is an elite athlete with a RAS of 9.49 that suggests a high upside in the future, but as an undersized linebacker without a calling card in terms of skill set, he was a reach for me here.

Grade: C+

I've been writing about sports for Lineups since the beginning of 2020 and on my own website since 2018. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. With my educational background in the sports business and a strong knowledge of the inner workings of professional and collegiate sports, I hope to tell enthralling stories about the world of sports as it unfolds around me.

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