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The Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl is only a few days away. While it won’t end with them walking away with a Lombardi Trophy, not many front offices draft players better than the Cowboys.

Yes, last year’s class didn’t hit the ground running, but seeing the massive jump players like Tyler Smith, Jake Ferguson, and DaRon Bland made in their second seasons should invoke some hope. Outside of last year, the front office has found numerous diamonds in the draft during Mike McCarthy’s tenure as head coach.

After last season’s gut-wrenching playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers, the roster’s depletion in free agency, and the lack of moves to recoup some veteran players, there seems to be an immense amount of pressure on the team to hit a home run in their upcoming draft.

There are holes to be filled up and down the roster, starting with the offensive line, running back, linebacker, defensive tackle, and even depth at wide receiver. With just seven picks to accomplish a daunting task, The Athletic’s draft expert, Dane Brugler, put out his seven-round mock draft for the entire NFL, including America’s Team.

Iowa State v Oklahoma

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Round 1 (Pick No. 24) – Tyler Guyton, OT, Oklahoma

A popular move among Cowboys fans would be for the team to trade down in the first round, accumulate some more draft capital, and still pick an offensive lineman. However, Brugler stays at No. 24 and selects offensive tackle, Tyler Guyton.

Ideally, the Cowboys would love to keep Tyler Smith at left guard, but it might depend on how this draft plays out. In this scenario, they add the raw but toolsy tackle, who they hope will be the next Tyron Smith.

As Brugler points out, the team hopes to land their next left tackle and replace the crater-sized hole left by Tyron Smith’s absence. Guyton is not without his warts. Throughout the draft process, analysts have talked about his rawness as a prospect, and his playing right tackle his entire career would be a projection on the left side.

However, it’s hard to argue with the size and traits that Guyton would bring to the Cowboys locker room. The Oklahoma tackle’s Relative Athletic Score (RAS) is at 9.73. That score ranks 40th out of 1,330 offensive tackle prospects since 1987. Similar comps for Guyton from the website include Jonathan Ogden, a Hall of Fame player, and Mekhi Becton. That should give fans an idea of what he could become if he develops into a great player or flames out like Becton.

Taking a chance on Guyton in the first round isn’t without its risk, but the Cowboys were criticized for taking Tyler Smith at the exact pick a few years ago, and look how that’s turned out.

Clemson v NC State

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Round 2 (Pick No. 56) – Payton Wilson, LB, N.C. State

In the second round, the Cowboys add much-needed help to their linebacking corps with a player who could be the best linebacker in the entire draft class. Like the Guyton pick in the first round, Wilson comes with his suitcase full of risk.

Here is an excerpt from Brugler’s draft guide, “The Beast,” about Wilson’s medical history, which dates back to high school.

Medical history is a bright red flag after double-digit surgeries since his senior year of high school — missed the second half of his senior year of high school after tearing the ACL in his right knee (October 2017), requiring surgery; reinjured his right knee during summer of 2018 and required another surgery, sitting out his first season at NC State; underwent surgery on both shoulders after the 2020 season and sat out 2021 spring practices; missed most of the 2021 season after suffering his third shoulder dislocation (September 2021), which required surgery (Bristow procedure performed by Dr. James Andrews) to repair shoulder blade issues (battled complications from the surgery, including infection)

There’s certainly a lot there, which could be why he falls past the second round. However, the production and tape he was able to put on the field in 2023 is undeniable and could justify the risk for the front office.

Pro Football Focus graded Wilson 89.9 overall, ranking third among all FBS linebackers who played at least 20 percent of the snaps last season. Playing every game in two seasons, Wilson amassed 220 tackles, 30 tackles for loss, and won the Butkus Award going to the top linebacker in the FBS.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 18 Georgia at Tennessee

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Round 3 (Pick No. 87) – Jaylen Wright, RB, Tennessee

There’s no question that the Cowboys running back depth is one of the weakest on the roster. Rico Dowdle returned on a one-year deal and has the most experience in Mike McCarthy’s offense, with newly signed Royce Freeman having the most career rushing yards (1,792). The bottom line—signing Dowdle and Freeman shouldn’t prevent Dallas from drafting their guy.

Texas running back Jonathan Brooks has been a frequent mock to the Cowboys, but in this scenario, Brugler has Dallas going with Jaylen Wright, the explosive back out of Tennessee. Wright is fourth in Brugler’s draft guide, and he says,

“Overall, Wright needs to develop a better feel for using tempo to maximize what is there, but his run strength, balance and ability to cut/weave at top speed make him dangerous with the ball in his hands. He projects as a scheme-versatile back (stylistically similar to Jerome Ford) who can handle work on all three downs.”

The Cowboys lost a dual-threat back in Tony Pollard, who was dynamic as a runner and pass catcher. Wright could fit right into that role and could be even better. Looking at his RAS score compared to that of former Volunteer Alvin Kamara, Wright grades out slightly better.

He could improve some areas of his game, but Wright would be a home run hitter and develop into a three-down back the Cowboys need in 2024.

Round 5 (Pick No. 174) – Matt Lee, C, Miami

Consensus might suggest the Cowboys draft center Jackson Powers-Johnson from Oregon with pick No. 24. However, in this scenario, the front office opts not to go the Travis Frederick route and instead more in line with the success they found in Tyler Biadasz.

Lee is Brugler’s ninth-best center in the draft but might be among the smartest at his position.

With a 3.9 GPA and 1350 SAT score, Lee started to receive attention from Ivy League programs, including offers from Columbia, Cornell, Harvard and Yale

Eventually, Lee decided to go to the University of Miami, but playing the center position at the NFL level requires high football intelligence. When Dallas drafted Frederick, he was regarded as an intelligent player and graduated from Wisconsin with a computer engineering and computer science degree.

If fans want an upgrade from Biadasz’s play in 2023, Lee might not be it. However, Biadasz became a Pro Bowl player and NFL starter, which works for a would-be fifth-round pick.

Round 6 (Pick No. 216) – Xavier Weaver, WR, Colorado

From The Beast:

SUMMARY: A one-year starter at Colorado, Weaver was an outside receiver (almost exclusively on the right side) in former Buffaloes offensive coordinator Sean Lewis’ scheme. After four years at South Florida, he took advantage of an extra year and was the leading receiver for Colorado’s Shedeur Sanders-led offense, including career-best performances against Nebraska and Stanford. Using various techniques and tempos, Weaver shows nuance in his releases and patterns and has the body quickness to make subtle adjustments (doesn’t need the pass to be perfect). Though coaches love his assertive attitude (on and off the field), he can struggle to finish contested catches or win body positioning at the top of routes. Overall, Weaver needs to prove he can produce when working against physicality in the NFL, but he is a quality athlete and route runner with ball-tracking skills. He projects as a backup Z with punt-return potential.

Round 7 (Pick No. 233) – Chau Smith-Wade, CB, Washington St.

From The Beast:

SUMMARY: A two-year starter at Washington State, Smith-Wade was the right cornerback in defensive coordinator Jeff Schmedding’s multiple scheme. He put himself on the NFL map with his breakout 2022 season, and although his 2023 campaign was cut short by injury, he received positive reviews from NFL area scouts. Smith-Wade is a quick-footed, fluid athlete with the movement skills desired for the slot or outside. He doesn’t play structurally sound in his process, which causes him to lose phase mid-route, and needs to be more consistent reading coverage clues to become more of a ballhawk. Overall, Smith-Wade must adapt a more disciplined approach in both coverage and run support to mask his lack of elite size, speed and strength, but he is a loose-moving and tough-minded athlete who has yet to play his best football. He projects as a developmental cornerback and could increase his NFL chances with a move inside.

Round 7 (Pick No. 244) – Javontae Jean-Baptiste, DE, Notre Dame

From The Beast:

SUMMARY: A one-year starter at Notre Dame, Jean-Baptiste was an edge rusher in coach Marcus Freeman’s four-man front. A solid role player at Ohio State, he was blocked on the depth chart in Columbus and transferred to South Bend, where he put together a strong final season, leading the Irish in both tackles for loss (10.5) and sacks (five). As a pass rusher, Jean-Baptiste has upfield quickness and stays balanced mid-rush, although his rigidity and lack of mass show when his first move is stymied. He plays with terrific effort in the run game, but he can be out-leveraged at the point of attack. Overall, Jean-Baptiste lacks dynamic traits in his play, but he battles and has enough tools that warrant further development. He is worth bringing to camp and possibly adding to the practice squad.

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