Entering the offseason, the Cowboys had several immediate needs for their roster. The biggest question of the fantasy community was which running back they would keep. We now have that answer as they let long-time starter Ezekiel Elliot walk and franchise tagged perennially efficient Tony Pollard. Dalton Schultz and Noah Brown became free agents after accounting for 30% of the team’s target share last year. Starting left guard Connor McGregor also departed, signing with Buffalo.
They wasted no time filling in gaps, making two rather big splashes with trades for cornerback Stephon Gilmore and wide receiver Brandin Cooks. Gilmore was acquired from the Colts for a fifth-round pick. He’s coming off a quiet albeit successful year in Indianapolis and should fit in nicely across the field from Micah Parsons. Meanwhile, Brandin Cooks will move just four hours north of Houston, being traded for a 2023 fifth and 2024 sixth-round pick. Shortly after, it was announced that the Cowboys managed to re-sign a few key team members, such as left tackle Tyron Smith and linebacker Leighton Vander Esch but they did lose several special teams players to the free market.
Currently, the Cowboys biggest needs are guard, defensive line, linebacker, tight end, and running back. They are also in the market for a kicker after Brett Maher made just one of six extra-point attempts during the playoffs. That said, kicker is more often addressed in free agency. Overall their starting lineups are solid, but they need more depth. They will likely be able to pivot to the best player available multiple times in this draft.
Credit for the mock draft simulation goes to NFL Mock Draft DB. Team needs are also generated from this site.
1.26 – Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
Alright, I know what you’re thinking. “Chalk. Easy. This is fantasy football fanservice.” But let me stop you there for just one second. I could prattle on about how Bijan is the best prospect since Saquon Barkley and list all the reasons why, which I will get to. No, this pick is about something else.
Jerseys. That’s right, player jersey sales. 2022 marked the first time in nearly a decade that a Cowboys player didn’t make the top 10 jersey sales. Since 2014 they’ve had at least one player make that top ten list, and for the majority of the years, it was Ezekiel Elliott, who is notably no longer a Cowboy. Getting a new high-profile running back would nearly guarantee a spot on that list for the next five years.
But enough business talk, back to Bjian. He’s been touted as the best running back prospect since Saquon Barkley, and it shows. At 5’11 and 215 pounds, he checks all the boxes for physical aspects. Last year he finished with 1580 rushing yards and 314 receiving yards across 12 games. He had 60 receptions across his three years, showing he’s more than capable as a receiver. On tape, he shows up big-time, looking dangerous on every play with no major concerns. While the Cowboys have Pollard on a franchise tag this year, his future in Dallas remains unclear. Bijan could be immediately impactful and be a long-term replacement for Ezekiel Elliott. He’s an automatic RB1 almost anywhere he goes, and Dallas is no exception.
2.58 – Cody Mauch, OL, North Dakota State
Cody Mauch hails from the small-conference player factory that is North Dakota State. Entering college, he had experience at tight end, quarterback, and defensive line but was quickly put to use at tackle. He began at right tackle but was quickly moved to left tackle. He finished the rest of the year and the following two there. His athleticism is very high, scoring an 8.77 RAS, but unfortunately, his arm length came in at 32.375”, which is too short for most teams to give him a chance at tackle. More than likely, whether it’s with the Cowboys or another organization, he will be moved to guard. When measured as a guard, his RAS jumps up to an astounding 9.87, making him one of the most athletic prospects at the position.
While the Cowboys retain most of their offensive line, they are shuffling them around a bit. Veteran left tackle Tyron Smith is reportedly being moved to right tackle. Tyler Smith, who proved himself last year, will keep the left tackle spot. They signed Chuma Edoga, who has experience at left guard and tackle. That said, he’s more likely a depth piece which won’t prevent them from targeting the position in the draft.
3.90 – DeMarvion Overshown, LB, Texas
Another Texas alumni, DeMarvion Overshown, is a safety-turned-linebacker, and the Cowboys seem to have a strong interest. He entered Texas as a safety but, in 2020, transitioned to linebacker. While he has a bit of an uncommon build for the position at 6’3” and 229 pounds, he has shown great promise. He’s still growing in the position, and his numbers reflect that.
Managing 10 tackles for a loss and 96 total tackles his senior year put him above all other teammates. He’s also met with the Cowboys multiple times, and reports say they are very interested. It’s unclear what his immediate role would be, but linebacker is another spot where the Cowboys lack depth. It’s also worth mentioning that they have several veterans with contracts running up over the next two years. In deeper IDP leagues, he may be someone to watch.
4.129 – Kobie “The Conductor” Turner, DT, Wake Forest
Kobie Turner might just be the most successful defensive lineman you haven’t heard about. He played at the University of Richmond for four years before transferring to Wake Forest, where he continues to make a strong impact.
He’s shorter and lighter than most tackles, but his agility is elite, and he benched an impressive 31 reps. On tape, you can frequently see him beating multiple defenders to stop the runner near the line of scrimmage. In fact, he received the fifth-highest run defense grade ever from Pro Football Focus in 2022.
He’s incredibly bright and dedicated both on and off the field, where he double majored in math and music (hence his nickname). You can see his anticipation on tape, and he has been impressing in interviews.
While the Cowboys don’t have a dire need at defensive tackle, their run defense was in the bottom half of the league last year. Adding a talent like Turner in the fourth round could improve that immediately. He’s another deeper IDP option but with a very high floor should he earn a starting role.
5.169 – Cameron Latu, TE, Alabama
After losing Dalton Schultz to free agency, the Cowboys need to shore up some depth at tight end. Last year Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot both stepped up and earned a decent amount of playing time (for rookie tight ends). It takes time to develop at tight end, so we will have to wait to see whether either breaks into fantasy relevance this year. Regardless they will need some reliable depth, and Cameron Latu should be able to provide that.
Latu entered college on the defensive side of the line before switching to tight end. He’s an interesting player who can get open more than his athletic measurables suggest. He’s a very sharp player, and if he can fix his hands, he could turn into a decent short pass option. Tight ends hit at a low rate for fantasy, so he’s not worth a rookie draft pick. His fantasy ceiling is low, as he will most likely be used in a blocking role.
6.212 – Puka Nacua, WR, BYU
Over the last several years, the Cowboys have signed many undrafted wide receivers but haven’t found a ton of talent. Given the departure of Noah Brown, it might be the year to invest in receiving depth, and Puka fits their type.
Puka spent two years in Washington before transferring to BYU. In his first year at BYU, he tallied 805 receiving yards, 108 rushing yards, and 6 touchdowns across 12 games. Then during his senior year, he managed 625 receiver yards, 209 rushing yards, and an impressive 10 touchdowns across just nine games. His size and speed are fine, but his agility measured sub-par. He’s strong at the point of the catch and frequently wins in contested catch situations. He could turn into a reliable WR3 for the Cowboys and is a solid option as a late-round flyer in fantasy.
7.244 – Durrell Johnson, EDGE, Liberty
Durrell Johnson is an interesting prospect. He has elite burst and speed but is undersized and lacks agility. In college, he produced fairly well but struggled against tackles with longer arms, something he will face every week in the NFL. He’s likely too small to earn a large role as an interior rusher, so chances are he ends up as a situational rotational piece or special teamer. He made the Cowboys top 30 list, so they’re curious about him, and it will be interesting to see how they use him should they take him late in the draft. Like most seventh-round picks, he won’t be rostered in even the deepest IDP leagues.
Fantasy Impact and Analysis
The largest impact here is expectedly the top one at running back. Not only would Bijan Robinson immediately solidify his position as the most valuable running back in the league, but it would dash any remaining hopes for Tony Pollard truthers out there, hoping he finally gets a shot at being the guy. Most of the other selections will end up with a long run-up to fantasy relevance if they ever reach it. If this is how the real draft pans out, I would also expect Dak to potentially see a comeback year. He hasn’t looked himself since the ankle injury but beefing up the offensive line, acquiring Brandin Cooks, and adding receiving depth may be what he needs to push back into consistent top-12 fantasy production.
All in all, the Cowboys have a very good starting roster going into the year. Their biggest question will be whether they can maintain the health of those players or, at a minimum, add enough depth so that if an unfortunate injury does occur, they at least can hold the ship together. If it weren’t for the Eagles casting a long shadow over the division, I would feel confident in the Cowboys making it into the playoffs once again this year and likely past the wild card round. Regardless, it will be interesting to see just how the Cowboys draft given their freedom of having more wants than needs.