How Will Cowboys’ 2023 Draft Class Stack Up Against 2022 Group?

How Will Cowboys’ 2023 Draft Class Stack Up Against 2022 Group?
Fact Checked by Michael Peters

Since the Dallas Cowboys haven’t won the Super Bowl since after the 1995 season, they’ve lived with the notion of always being one player short of making it back to the top of the mountain.

Now that the 2023 NFL Draft is done, and it looks like the Cowboys have failed to land a marquee player for the second year in a row, we can assess where all of the teams stand entering the opening kickoff of the 2023 regular season.

Dallas was once again on the edge of greatness in 2022, going 12-5 but finishing two games back in the NFC East behind the eventual NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles. While the Eagles made a big splash on draft day by picking up three members of the vaunted Georgia Bulldogs defense, the Cowboys went with selections that didn’t exactly bring a lot of enthusiasm to the fan base.

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Cowboys 2023 NFL Draft Class

  • 1st round (26th pick): Mazi Smith (DT) 
  • 2nd round (58th pick): Luke Schoonmaker (TE) 
  • 3rd round (90th pick): DeMarvion Overshown (LB) 
  • 4th round (129th pick): Villami Fehoko (DL) 
  • 5th round (169th pick): Asim Richards (OL) 
  • 6th round (178th pick): Eric Scott (DB) 
  • 6th round (212th pick): Deuce Vaughn (RB) 
  • 7th round (244th pick): Jalen Brooks (WR)

After the draft, BetMGM.com lists the Cowboys with the seventh-best odds to win the Super Bowl at +1600. When betting does become legal in the state, BetTexas.com will have BetMGM Texas bonus codes.

A Look at Cowboys Rookie Production

Using Pro Football Reference’s Weighted Career Approximate Value (wAV) system, BetTexas.com stacked up Dallas' 2022 draft class.

The Cowboys 2022 draft class ranked 13th in the NFL with a combined 22 wAV, led by offensive tackle and first-round pick Tyler Smith, who started all 17 games and was named to the All-Rookie Team. He accounted for 8 of 22 wAV, so despite being an underappreciated pick among fans on draft day he certainly proved his worth during the season. He had a better wAV than 16 of the 23 players chosen ahead of him in the draft.

The Cowboys’ best production from the rest of the class came from three defenders taken in the fifth round. Cornerback DeRon Bland (167th pick) was second in the Dallas rookie class with a wAV of 4, while linebacker Damone Clark (176th pick) and defensive tackle John Ridgeway (178th pick) each produced a wAV of 3.

Bland played in all 17 games, starting eight, and had 54 tackles and five interceptions. He did allow 45 completions in 63 passes thrown his way and five touchdowns. Clark played in 10 games, starting five, and made 47 tackles, while Ridgeway played in 15 games and made 24 tackles.

Defensive end Sam Williams (second round) rated a wAV of 2 after making five sacks and recovering three fumbles, but he only played on 27 percent of the plays. Tight end Jake Ferguson (third round) also rated a 2 wAV with 19 catches for 174 yards and two touchdowns in 16 games, but he’ll likely lose playing time to second-round pick Luke Schoonmaker out of Michigan.

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Re-Ranking 2022 NFL Draft Class

Rank After Year 1 Team Class wAV* in Year 1 NFL Network Class Rank After Draft
1Seattle406
T2N.Y. Jets302
T2Kansas City303
4Houston298
T5N.Y. Giants2811
T5Green Bay2813
7Atlanta267
T8Detroit254
T8Jacksonville2522
T10Tennessee2412
T10Chicago2429
T10New England2432
13Dallas2224
T14Baltimore211
T14Cincinnati2116
16L.A. Chargers2014
17Tampa Bay1925
T18Pittsburgh1815
T18Indianapolis1818
T18San Francisco1827
21Buffalo1517
22Denver1310
23New Orleans1326
T24Las Vegas1120
T24Minnesota1123
T24Washington1130
T27Carolina1031
T27Cleveland1019
29Arizona931
30L.A. Rams820
31Philadelphia75
32Miami321
* — Approximate Value is a measurement used by Pro-Football-Reference.com to evaluate a player’s season and compare him to other players.

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Cowboys 2022 Draft Class Ranked 13th

Dallas’ 2022 draft class wound up in the middle of the pack because Smith was really the only top starter, helping the Cowboys offense rank third in the NFL in points scored. Everyone else basically plugged a hole and without those three fifth-round defenders making a difference, the 2022 class would have been a bust.

Five of the team’s nine picks played 15 games, led by Smith and Bland at 17 games.

The Cowboys will be hoping for a little more production from the 2023 class, or the Eagles could finally break the 18-year streak of no-repeat champions in the NFC East. No team has won in back-to-back years since the Eagles did it in four straight from 2001-2004.

Defensive tackle Mazi Smith (first round) from Michigan left fans feeling just as uninspired as they did after Tyler Smith’s selection in 2022. Mazi Smith only made 48 tackles for the Wolverines last year, and he’s not a pass rusher at all with just one half-sack in three years in college.

Linebacker Demarvion Overshown (third round) has a chance to provide some impact after making 96 tackles and 10 for a loss in his final year at the University of Texas.

Aside from Schoonmaker, the Cowboys didn’t draft any other possible weapons for quarterback Dak Prescott until the sixth and seventh rounds with running back Deuce Vaughn from Kansas State and receiver Jalen Brooks from South Carolina.

Vaughn is a feel-good selection since his dad, Chris Vaughn, is a Cowboys scout, but he put up big numbers for the Wildcats. He rushed for 1,558 yards, caught 42 passes for 378 yards and scored 12 times in 2022. 

It’s highly unlikely anyone from the Cowboys draft class comes close to being a top rookie. Smith ranks 26th on BetMGM’s odds for Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year at +5000, while Vaughn comes in at 32nd in the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year odds at +8000.

If Vaughn has that big of a year, then it means something bad has happened to incumbent starting running back Tony Pollard, and that won’t spell good things for the Cowboys offense.

It’s unlikely the 2023 class will produce a difference maker like the Cowboys found in 2021 in linebacker Micah Parsons, who has a wAV of 36 after two All-Pro seasons. And it’s also unlikely the Cowboys found the one missing piece that ends their Super Bowl drought. But maybe they found enough to extend that NFC East curse to 19 years and keep the Eagles from winning it again.

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Author

Douglas Pils has been a sports journalist for 30 years in Texas, Arkansas and New York having worked for the San Antonio Express-News, the Associated Press, The Dallas Morning News and Newsday. He most recently ran the Student Media Department at Texas A&M for eight years.

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