America’s Team builds its roster through the NFL draft more exclusively than most. Over 81% of the Dallas Cowboys‘ 53-man roster heading into Week 1 last season were homegrown talents through the draft or undrafted free agency. They’ve remained relevant as a franchise because of their ability to draft well.
What players are Cowboys mock drafters selecting most often for in Round 1? How does each of the top players fit a need or the Cowboys’ scheme?
Dallas Cowboys Mock Drafts
The Cowboys quenched their thirst for a wide receiver and cornerback after trading for both Brandin Cooks and Stephon Gilmore. This allows Dallas to take more of a “best player available” approach.
MORE: FREE NFL Mock Draft Simulator With Trades
Another receiver wouldn’t hurt, and there are questions about who will play guard, who will be starting at tackle, and who the team’s second linebacker will be. Dallas has seemingly always needed a beefy nose tackle, but suggesting they’d spend any significant draft capital on one would be ignoring the team’s long history of ignoring that position in the draft.
Currently, mockers draft these positions most often for the Cowboys in Round 1:
WR – 25.7%
RB – 15.6%
G – 13.8%
DT – 9.2%
LB – 7.6%
OT – 7.5%
The most-mocked players to Dallas in Round 1 are as followed:
WR Jalin Hyatt – 14.9%
G O’Cyrus Torrence – 13.7%
RB Bijan Robinson – 11.2%
LB Trenton Simpson – 6.4%
WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba – 6.2%
Tennessee WR Jalin Hyatt
Mock drafters continuing to take Jalin Hyatt well after the trade for Cooks is interesting. It makes sense because there’s a good chance that he’s the top receiver available on the board by the time Dallas picks. However, adding more speed to Dallas’ offense — particularly after last season — wouldn’t be the worst idea.
This would allow Cooks to play a more significant role as an underneath and intermediate route runner to ensure he’s not always on downfield decoy duty. He’s a talented route runner, and adding Hyatt would let him be that guy.
Hyatt is not without questions, though. He was used almost exclusively (87.2%) from the slot in passing situations this season and was given free releases almost without fail all year. With this in mind, Dallas may have better options at 26.
LSU Guard O’Cyrus Torrence
LSU guard O’Cyrus Torrence is the top-ranked guard on PFN’s Big Board and sits 23 spots higher than the next-best guard on the consensus board. Torrence is a big, powerful, and instinctual blocker who could be a bowling ball for Dallas in the run game. He also possesses great strike timing and power in pass protection.
But if Dallas is going to draft a guard, he won’t be without positional flex, most likely. That brings us to the better fit for Dallas, TCU’s Steve Avila. Avila’s not going in many first-round mock drafts, but he played all five spots while at TCU, and the Cowboys covet positional flexibility more than any team in the league. Avila’s time included over 1,000 snaps playing center, which could mean Dallas has a new starting left guard and backup center rolled into one.
Texas RB Bijan Robinson
The Round 1 running “debate” has turned into a one-sided screaming match between the old and the young. The running backs don’t matter crowd is loud and has outstanding numbers. But at what point does the value match?
Is it when a player such as Bijan Robinson — one of the 10 best in the class — is available late in the first? After all, we don’t like to pay runners, but drafting one at the end of Round 1 grants four incredibly cheap seasons and another decently inexpensive year through the fifth-year option.
MORE: Bijan Robinson Lands With the Cowboys in Latest 2023 NFL Mock Draft
It’s all about where the talent meets the value of the player at the position lacking value. We must also remember that the Cowboys want to run the ball a lot, and Tony Pollard is playing on the franchise tag. It’s also important to note Dallas loves drafting guys they feel are the best player at their position in the draft.
“Tony Pollard is coming off that fractured leg,” Joel Klatt said on his podcast. “He was franchise-tagged, Zeke Elliott is gone, that was running its course. I love this selection. I love the fact that if Jerry Jones falls in love with a guy, which he might fall in love with Bijan Robinson, he might move up and get them. I love the fit of Bijan in Dallas because of all the things he can provide not only to Dak but to the organization and the offense as a whole.”
Clemson LB Trenton Simpson
No LB prospect has had a higher peak ranking in the consensus big board. Currently, Trenton Simpson ranks 42nd as the second linebacker behind Drew Sanders. On PFN’s Big Board, Simpson is the top linebacker with a ranking of 32.
He’s on the smaller side, which is very modern. Many of the league’s best linebackers are former college safeties, and Simpson played everywhere for Clemson. He’s rushed the passer from the edge, played in the slot, and even has a few reps from a safety alignment in 2021.
The 6-foot-2, 235-pound linebacker ran a 4.43 and jumped 40.5 inches. Simpson also possesses arms over 32 inches, so length at the position is not a huge issue for Dallas, who likes their length and versatility.
Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba
It’s hard to imagine Jaxon Smith-Njigba making it to 26. The best receivers in this class are all Mighty Mouse impersonators, and the other top receiver (Quentin Johnston) is about as raw as sashimi.
Smith-Njigba could be knocked for missing almost all of the 2022 college season and not being the top target on Ohio State’s roster even when he was healthy. However, both of Ohio State’s other receivers are likely even better prospects than he is right now and could be the top two receivers drafted next offseason.
During the NFL Draft Combine, Smith-Njigba said, “I think I’m a top-five player in this draft, not just a top-five WR.”
Adding Smith-Njigba would likely take CeeDee Lamb out of the slot and out wide more often. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, considering Smith-Njigba is already a professional route runner. But we come to expect that from receivers taught by Brian Hartline.