This past weekend saw the NFL draft take place in Kansas City from Thursday night into Saturday afternoon. Due to the multibillion-dollar year-round media behemoth that is the National Football League, the amount of printing press ink, broadcast airwaves, and water cooler talk devoted to the league’s annual player selection event is staggering. Because the monetary value of pro football-associated material is an eternal flame attracting mosquitoes as effectively as it does its targeted moths, there’s an ever-growing legion of inexplicably overconfident media “scouts” flooding the zone with content. They amass endless prospect profiles, combine them with self-described “insider info,” rumor, innuendo, or flat-out fabrication, and compile the resulting mishmash into tidy little mock drafts, attempting to attract those ever-coveted views, listens, and clicks. I, admittedly, am one such mosquito, and I do appreciate dearly your view and/or click.
However, after the months-long buildup and information overdosing, draft weekend finally comes, and the teams make fools of us all. Many players go several rounds ahead of — or well behind — where they’re “supposed” to. I assume the term “mock” is derived from the fact that these exercises amount to little more than a mockery of the eventual reality they are attempting to predict. At least for me, unlike the Mel Kipers and Lance Zierleins of the world, I have no legitimate reputation at stake. I’m simply a Cowboy fan. Anyone bored enough to regularly read these columns knows outright that I have no idea what the hell I’m talking about. For me, it’s just S&Gs. An offseason extension of fantasy football, if you will. I depend on the other dipshits — excuse me, “experts” — for the misguided info I use.
Now that the picking is done, it’s time for something even more fun: kneejerk reactions to your favorite team’s haul, all informed by the same lack of reliable knowledge used in the pre-draft rituals, so let’s stretch those hammys and get ready for a sturdy yank.
It was a weekend full of surprising selections, from reaches to steals and everything in between. The following is the complete list of 2023 Cowboys draft picks.
Round 1 (Pick 26), Mazi Smith, defensive tackle, Michigan
If circumstances around Dallas’ selection in the first round had been a little different, I think Cowboys fans would be a little more enthusiastic about this pick. As it came to pass, favorite mock target to the ’Boys, Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer, was still on the board, along with a few other top-tier talents at positions of need surprisingly still sitting there — namely Georgia defensive end Nolan Smith (who went four picks later to the Iggles) and Penn State corner Joey Porter Jr. If we could imagine a world where all three of the aforementioned were gone, run-stuffing nose tackle Smith might have been better received.
The Michigan D tackle fills the biggest need on the defensive side of the ball. Despite the generally great play by Dan Quinn’s crew, the Cowboys were absolutely gashed on the ground at times. Smith should shore up some of that vulnerability, and his athleticism, freakish for a man his size, could even offer pass-rush upside. It’s a smidge early for the value, but I actually love this pick, regardless of the general coolness felt by many of the Cowboys faithful.
Round 2 (Pick 58), Luke Schoonmaker, tight end, Michigan
I’ll start by saying I like the player. Though not possessing as high a floor as Mayer, he has a potentially higher ceiling. He’s as committed a blocker as Mayer but stretches the seam more. He’s more versatile and dynamic. Only problem is this feels like a panic move at 58. Tight end was definitely a target for Dallas, and as they watched their preferred players at the position, like Mayer and Iowa’s Sam LaPorta, go off the board, I think they felt they needed to land Schoonmaker earlier than they would have liked for fear of missing out on the last of the best. I routinely mocked him to the ’Boys in the fourth.
Round 3 (Pick 90), DeMarvian Overshown, linebacker, Texas
During the selection of Overshown, the Cowboys’ war room cam showed an absolutely elated Bones Fassel. He appeared thrilled to have landed his guy. Great, except that’s typically something you like to see from a special teams coach on Day 3. Top 100 picks should net you Day 1 contributors. It’s unfair to expect starters per se in all instances, but any pick in the first three rounds should be expected to play a big role on the team, so it’s a bit perplexing why we’re drafting a potential special teams ace here. Overshown is a mean tackler, but his coverage skills are lacking. With Damone Clark and Leighton Vander Esch still in the fold, I just don’t see how he makes it onto the field on defense all that much.
Round 4 (Pick 129), Viliami Fehoko, defensive end, San Jose State
Though sharing a fairly uncommon last name with a current Cowboy wide receiver, the SJSU edge is not actually related to Simi Fehoko. He is, however, related to superstar Tampa Bay D tackle Vita Vea. A late fourth for his skillset is OK value, but with Tank Lawrence, Sam Williams, Dorance Armstrong, Dante Fowler, and Chauncey Golston all already in the fold, not to mention the fact that Micah Parsons plays end on most snaps, the edge rusher room is getting a little packed. Would rather have seen this pick used on interior O-line like UCLA guard Antonio Mafi or Cincinnati wideout Tyler Scott.
Round 5 (Pick 169), Asim Richards, offensive tackle, North Carolina
Finally, the Cowboys look at O-line. However, it’s at the one position along the line where they have plenty of depth. With both Tyron and Tyler Smith, Terrence Steele, Josh Ball, and Matt Woletzko, all exclusive tackles, who is going to start/backup left guard?
Round 6 (Pick 178), Eric Scott Jr., cornerback, Southern Mississippi
I got nothing. This dude wasn’t even on draft guru Dane Brugler’s Top 300 list. Feels a lot like a potential UDFA signing to me. So why here in the sixth? Especially to trade a fifth-round pick next year to jump up and take him as the first pick in the round? This is 100% a Dan Quinn selection, and he deserves our trust, I suppose. We’ll just ignore the very similar feels this has to Quinn’s inexplicable love for the very uninspiring Nahshon Wright from a few years ago.
Round 6 (Pick 212), Deuce Vaughn, running back, Kansas State
Finally, a pick to get excited about! At 5-foot-5 and a Wildcat standout, the comparisons to Darren Sproles are obvious. This dude has serious juice. He’s lightning fast, elusive, and hard to see behind beefy linesmen. He’s going to be exciting to watch. The fact that he is the son of longtime Cowboy scout Chris Vaughn, who got to make the call to his son for the pick, is just the feel-good human interest icing on a late-round steal of an electric player.
Round 7 (Pick 244), Jalen Brooks, wide receiver, South Carolina
A dart-throw wideout with some decent size to him. Likely headed for the practice squad.
It appears the Cowboys’ selections would all have been fantastic if the front office had started picking in the second instead of the first. Each player looks at least a round early. Overall grade: C+ (but again, what the hell do I know?)