5 crazy possibilities for Dallas Cowboys’ pick at 24 in NFL Draft

2022 NFL draft

Oklahoma receiver CeeDee Lamb wasn’t supposed to fall outside of the top 10 of the 2020 draft.

Dallas, in fact, was certain of it. The Cowboys didn’t even interview him. They had other needs, including pass rusher. Most analysts pegged LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson as the most likely pick for Dallas.

And then the unthinkable happened: Lamb fell right into Dallas’ lap after the Atlanta Falcons selected Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell with the 16th overall pick.

Fast-forward to this year: There’s absolutely no way LSU CB Derek Stingley Jr. falls to Dallas, right?

As pointed out in early March, draft simulators say otherwise.

Here’s a look at Stingley and four other crazy possibilities for Dallas’ first-round pick.

 

CB Derek Stingley, LSU

Why he could fall

The 6-foot, 190-pound junior’s three seasons at LSU is well-documented. Great freshman year for a national champion, followed by two so-so, injury-marred seasons. Now? Stingley has gone from a likely top-5 pick to a possibility to fall outside of the top 10.

From Oliver Hodgkinson of Pro Football Network: “There’s no denying that on his day, the LSU CB possesses a potent mix of elite athletic ability, insane ball skills, and an elevated technical understanding of how to play the position. … However, it remains to be seen whether Stingley can return from injury to the elite level of athleticism that we saw in his freshman season.”

Cowboys fit

Dallas has drafted three cornerbacks in the second or third rounds the past two drafts, including 2020 second-rounder Trevon Diggs, who developed into an All-Pro by his second season. Those three players combined with veteran starters Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis give Dallas a solid mix of young and experienced CBs.

With that said, 2021 second-round pick Kelvin Joseph could push Brown for playing time this year, but Lewis doesn’t have a true backup other than Brown. In the unlikely event that Dallas is able to land Stingley, the Cowboys would likely move Brown to the slot and might even give Joseph a look there, too.

Edge Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon

Why he could fall

It seems like the closer we get to the draft, the further the 6-foot-4, 254-pound junior’s draft stock falls.

He’s been dinged a bit in the lead-up to the draft for his durability/injury history and his alleged “lack of fire.” But, perhaps most damning, Thibodeaux has also allegedly interviewed poorly.

From ESPN’s Jordan Reid: “More than half a dozen scouts have told me that Thibodeaux did not impress in interviews with their teams. The word consistently used to describe his interviews is ‘poor.’ That’s a red flag, especially for teams looking to use a premium pick.”

Cowboys fit

Defensive end was a need for Dallas even before it lost Randy Gregory in free agency. The team re-signed DeMarcus Lawrence, but there’s no one behind him that scares NFL offenses. Newly re-signed Dorance Armstrong and free agent signing Dante Fowler will vie for the starting spot opposite of Lawrence, who will soon turn 30. The team also has 2021 third-rounder Chauncey Golston, who played well in limited snaps last season, and Tarell Basham.

But Fowler and Basham will be free agents at the end of the 2022 season, so expect Dallas to draft a pass rusher, likely no later than the third round.

S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame

Why he could fall

It’s possible that the phrase “We’re just a safety away from winning the Super Bowl” has never been uttered. And, frankly, there’s a reason for that: The safety position isn’t considered as impactful on the outcome of games as, say, a quarterback, offensive tackle or pass rusher.

Take the 2017 draft as an example. Three safeties were taken in the first round: Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick (No. 11 to Miami), Florida State’s Derwin James (No. 17 to Los Angeles Chargers) and Virginia Tech’s Terrell Edmunds (No. 28 to Pittsburgh).  At one point in the lead-up to the draft, all three players were mocked to go much higher than where they were ultimately drafted. Since then, Fitzpatrick and James have combined for three First-team and one Second-team All Pro honors and four Pro Bowls.

With that said, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior is considered the best safety prospect to come out in several years. However, he also dealt with a knee injury that forced him to miss about half the season. Combine that with the 4.7-second 40 he ran at Notre Dame’s pro day, and now there are whispers that he could fall out of the top 15 of the draft.

From ESPN draft analyst Matt Miller: “He’s a great leader and playmaker, but he was already fighting a battle at a non-premium position in the eyes of NFL evaluators. It’s possible he falls all the way into the second half of Round 1. Now, it takes only one team to change that, but the consensus around the league is that a drop is expected.”

For what it’s worth, The Athletic’s Bob Sturm, who also co-hosts The Hardline on KTCK 1310 The Ticket, lists Hamilton as the second-best safety in this draft behind Michigan’s Daxton Hill.

Cowboys fit

Dallas obviously needs a safety, even after re-signing Jayron Kearse and Malik Hooker. The team often plays three safeties, with the third acting as a third linebacker (Kearse). Right now, the only other safeties on Dallas’ roster are 2019 sixth-round pick Donovan Wilson Jr. and 2021 sixth-round pick Israel Mukuamu, a converted cornerback.

Edge Travon Walker, Georgia

Why he could fall

Every year, at least one player rockets up draft boards – especially if they wowed evaluators at the Combine and respective pro days. Then the draft comes around, and that player unexpectedly falls – except the fall likely wasn’t unexpected by NFL team scouts.

The 6-foot-5, 272-pound Walker very well could be that player this year. He ran a shockingly fast 4.51-second 40 at the Combine, which ranks him in the 98th percentile, according to Mockdraftable. His wingspan (84 1/4-inches), arm length (35 1/2-inches) and hand size (10 3/4-inches) all ranked among the 95th percentile, while his 3-cone drill time (6.89 seconds) puts him in the 93rd percentile.

So why isn’t Walker widely considered the best prospect in the draft?

Production, or, in Walker’s case, a lack of it. While Walker played on a Georgia defense stacked with NFL talent – and a lot of them will be high draft picks – evaluators are still curious why Walker only finished with 6 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss, both career-highs. By comparison, presumed No. 1 pick Aidan Hutchinson of Michigan finished with 14 sacks and 16.5 TFLs, just ahead of teammate David Ojabo’s 11 sacks and 12 TFLs. And while Michigan’s defense doesn’t have as many future NFL prospects as Georgia’s defense, it wasn’t barren of talent, either.

Cowboys fit

See Thibodeaux above – Dallas needs a pass rusher, and the sooner it drafts one, the sooner it can expect good production out of the player.

Keep in mind, even the best pass rushers rarely cross the 8-sack threshold as a rookie, with last year’s star rookie Micah Parsons a notable exception. Prior to last season, when Parsons set an NFL rookie record with 13 sacks, the previous high-sack total for a Cowboys record was 8, set by Hall of Famer DeMarcus Ware in 2005. Two other rookies last season had at least 8 sacks: Miami’s Jaelan Phillips (8.5) and the New York Giants’ Azeez Ojulari (8), while Seattle’s Darrell Taylor (6.5) and Baltimore’s Jayson Oweh (5) rounded out the top-5.

TE Jaleni Woods, Virginia

Why he could rise

Perhaps no player has seen his stock rise more in recent weeks than the 6-foot-7, 259-pound redshirt senior. Woods has the Combine to thank for that, as his height (97th percentile), wingspan (82 inches, 89th percentile) and arm length (34 1/2-inches, 93rd percentile) were impressive. Then Woods ran a 4.61-second 40, good for the 88th-percentile.

But what about his statistics? Those were outstanding, too: 44 receptions, 598 yards and 8 TDs, all career highs. And he was one of the top performers during the Shrine Bowl week.

“Shrine Bowl,” though, is the operative word. Woods wasn’t invited to the more prestigious Senior Bowl. But that shouldn’t come as a big surprise, as many of the Virginia players went under the radar this past season. That includes quarterback Brennan Armstrong, who finished fourth in the NCAA last season in passing yards but failed to finish among the top 10 in the Heisman Trophy voting. Armstrong had more passing yards (4,449) than all but one of this year’s QB hopefuls, Bailey Zappe of Western Kentucky.

So is it a Virginia bias or something else?

The likely culprit is consistency. Frankly, scouts and draft evaluators alike point to Woods’ relatively unproductive years at Oklahoma State, where he played his first three seasons before his breakout senior year. Prior to the 2021 season, Woods never had more than 16 receptions or 129 yards receiving.

Cowboys fit

Dallas owner Jerry Jones recently said offensive line, tight end and wide receiver were the team’s biggest draft needs, so it wouldn’t come as a surprise if the Cowboys drafted a TE on Day 2.

But Day 1? That would come as one of the biggest surprises of the draft, as no tight end is seen by evaluators as worthy of going in the first round.

With that said, Dallas badly needs to add to its depth at the position. Dalton Schultz was given the franchise tag, which keeps him on the team for one more season. After that is Jeremy Sprinkle, Sean McKeon and Ian Bunting. Sprinkle was a fifth-round pick by Washington in 2017, while McKeon and Bunting were undrafted.

For the most part, Dallas hasn’t had many draft surprises under Will McClay, the vice president of player personnel. But there have been a few that raised eyebrows. Last year, the Cowboys drafted Oregon State CB Nahshon Wright in the third round after he was largely seen as a late Day 3 pick, at best. And Dallas drafted Wisconsin center Travis Frederick in the first round in 2013 after most analysts pegged him as a third-round prospect (or later).

So it’s not out of the question that Dallas might take Woods or even Colorado State’s Trey McBride on Day 1. Woods is one of four TEs scheduled to make a pre-draft visit.

Will one of these prospects wear a star on their helmet next season? Find out in Fanspeak’s latest Cowboys mock draft.

 

Want more NFL Draft content? Subscribe here to the Fanspeak Network for weekly NFL Draft shows! 


Related Articles

Final Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon Round 1 mock draft: 7 pass rushers, 6 WRs, 5 CBs and 4 QBs, plus some surprise misses

This was a difficult mock draft to put together. It’s possible that no quarterback is drafted in the…

Read More about Final Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon Round 1 mock draft: 7 pass rushers, 6 WRs, 5 CBs and 4 QBs, plus some surprise misses

Give Cincinnati credit: At least the Bengals keep trying to find quality OL in the draft

Say what you will about Cincinnati’s drafting prowess -- the Bengals aren’t deterred by past failures when it…

Read More about Give Cincinnati credit: At least the Bengals keep trying to find quality OL in the draft