The 2023 NFL Draft is complete, and now the analysis can begin. After months of several questions, mock drafts, and predictions, the Dallas Cowboys have assembled their next core of young talent.
Now we can sit here and analyze and discuss which pick they got right, but only time will tell if these selections were right. Most experts agree that a draft class is given a three-year evaluation window before being declared a successful class.
This draft featured the organization addressing key areas of need and depth. While many experts and fans have opinions, the team won’t care about them. They will only care about their evaluations. Still, opinions are fun to give. So, let’s grade this draft class.
Round One Pick 26: Mazi Smith DT Michigan
It never hurts to strengthen strength. The Cowboys have players like Osa Odighizuwa and Jonathan Hankins in the middle of that defense. The addition of Smith makes the unit deeper and more talented. Defensive tackle may not sound like the flashiest position, but for a run defense that struggled last season, finishing 22nd overall. This selection will only improve that area.
Smith brings a lot of key traits to the table. His size and athleticism immediately stand out. He can play in both a 3-4 and 4-3. Bruce Feldman of The Athletic also named him the number-one freak in college football.
Smith will have to improve his pass-rush skills and may be viewed as a two-down player, as most run-stoppers would be. With players like Myles Murphy and Nolan Smith on the board, some may question whether the Cowboys reached for the Michigan product. Nevertheless, he will strengthen the run defense and can be a force up front. Overall, the Cowboys were able to draft a player who was in the top five among interior defensive linemen.
Round Two Pick 58: Luke Schoonmaker TE Michigan
In free agency, the Cowboys allowed veteran tight end Dalton Schultz to walk. Then, in the last draft, they selected Jake Ferguson and found a newcomer in UDFA Peyton Hendershot. While the two young tight ends hope to contribute more and step up in 2023, the need for another playmaker at the position wasn’t even a debate.
The Cowboys watched as the Buffalo Bills jumped ahead to select Utah tight end Dalton Kincade. We aren’t sure if the Cowboys would have taken Kincade if he were available or if they were just that high on Mazi Smith. The team selected another Michigan product tight end in round two, Luke Schoonmaker. The former Wolverine is a good run blocker and is quick off the ball to get into his routes. The concerns come with his lack of production as a receiving tight end, and he must add additional play strength.
This pick also comes as a surprise and a bit of a reach, considering he never managed over 500 yards receiving in a season at Michigan. However, this seems more of an effort to improve the run blocking and add more depth to the unit. I wonder if the team considered moving up for Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer, who fell into the second round or going with Georgia’s Darnell Washington. A few other notable available players were Florida guard O’Cyrus Torrence, Tennessee receiver Jalin Hyatt, and Houston receiver Nathaniel Dell.
Round Three Pick 90: DeMarvion Overshown LB Texas
Another depth selection for the Cowboys. Overshown has plenty of nice traits. He is very athletic and has the versatility that defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has always enjoyed having on his defenses.
He can thrive in coverage thanks to his speed and agility. Pro Football Focus data shows that he played 332 coverage snaps and allowed zero touchdowns. He is a patient player and can diagnose the play. He can blitz when his number is called to do so. Overshown will need to add strength and improve taking on blockers and minimize the broken tackles.
A former safety turned linebacker, this could feel like a Keanu Neal or Jayvon Kearse-like player for Quinn’s defense. As a third-rounder, Overshown could contribute early on defense but expect him to see time on special teams.
Round Four Pick 129: Viliami Fehoko Jr. DE San Jose State
The Cowboys continue to draft up front on defense with three of their first four picks. Fehoko Jr is another run-stopper but with some pass-rush traits as well. The Mountain West defensive player of the year finished his last season with nine sacks and 19 tackles for loss.
While this selection adds more depth up front, this pick is questionable when considering the Cowboys could have addressed the offensive side here and potentially looked to add more depth on the offensive line or another weapon for quarterback Dak Prescott. However, opinions aside, Fehoko can help the Cowboys run defense.
Round Five Pick 169: Asim Richards OT North Carolina
The team finally addresses the offensive line. While this was later than I expected, the Cowboys drafted a tackle in Asim Richards, who can also slide into the guard spot.
Richards will compete with veterans like Matt Farniok, Josh Ball, and Chuma Edoga for the highest possible spot. Still, it’s worth noting his abilities. Richards has a large wingspan of 82 inches and has power in his hands.
The unit will have some sorting out to do. In contrast, the center and right guard spots are locked up. The question is will Tyron Smith return to LT, and if so will that shift Tyler Smith inside to guard? We will find out in August. Still, this pick adds more depth up front.
Round Six Pick 178: Eric Scott Jr. CB Southern Miss
Dallas moved up to select Scott Jr out of Southern Miss, trading a 2024 5th-round selection. This must show how badly the Cowboys wanted him. Scott Jr did take a top-30 visit with the Cowboys before the draft and must have wowed them.
Scott Jr is a fighter who started his career at the JUCO level and worked up to division one. As a player, he has length and gets his hands on the ball with his 80-inch wingspan.
The selection makes sense. Teams can never carry enough corners. However, with six other guys ahead of him, making this team will be a battle. Trevon Diggs, Stephon Gilmore, Jourdan Lewis, and Daron Bland are all locks, but Scott Jr could challenge struggling third-year corners, Kelvin Joseph and Nashon Wright.
Round Six Pick 212: Deuce Vaughn RB Kansas State
No surprise the Cowboys needed to add another running back in the backfield after releasing long-time starter Ezekiel Elliott. The pick was Kansas State running back Deuce Vaughn.
This is a late-round steal and a great addition with a pro bowl back in Tony Pollard. Vaughn led all of college football in total yards last year. While undersized at 5”5’, 175 pounds, that didn’t matter. Vaughn rushed for 1,558 yards and nine touchdowns and added three more scores through the air. Between 2020-2022 Vaughn had 4884 scrimmage yards more than Texas running back Bijan Robinson.
Vaughn was a great selection for Dallas and should get his touches behind Pollard. However, the highlight of the draft may have been watching his dad and current Cowboys assistant director of college scouting, Chris Vaughn, inform his son that he will be going to work with him.
Round Seven Pick 244: Jalen Brooks WR South Carolina
The last pick for the Cowboys was used to address wide receiver. This was another position I would have expected to be addressed earlier. The selection of Jalen Brooks adds to an already crowded room.
The former Gamecock recorded just 58 receptions, 785 yards receiving, and two touchdowns in three seasons. This feels more like a special teams selection. Brooks will join a position comprising all-pro Ceedee Lamb, a healthy Michael Gallup, veteran Brandin Cooks, third-year Brandon Smith and second-year players such as Jalen Tolbert and Dennis Houston.