The combine has taken over the NFL landscape and with the results will come a dynamic shift in mock drafts. Fans should understand what the measurements mean to teams. Athletic markers are projections to how well a player’s abilities they showed while on campus will translate to the next level. Athleticism isn’t the end all be all, but traits are traits. The majority of NFL rosters are comprised of people who were in the upper echelon of testing among collegiate athletes.
In order to compete with them, the majority of players need to also be in the top quartile of athletes and the ones who become superstars are often in the top-10 percent. There are of course a bunch of outliers, but they are still outliers. So with that said, before the freakish nature of some of these prospects start to shift opinions of those who had no access to this level of info prior, let’s see who was being shipped to Dallas from the various outlets.
CBS Sports: RB Bijan Robinson, Texas
Oct 8, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA: Texas Longhorns running back Bijan Robinson (5) celebrates after scoring a touchdown inst the Oklahoma Soonduring the annual Red River Showdown agaers at the Cotton Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Aaron E. Martinez/Austin American-Statesman- USA TODAY NETWORK
Robinson could end up being the star of this entire class. He has all the skill that you’d want out of a workhorse back, and could be an opportunity for Dallas to reset its backfield. Tony Pollard is coming off an injury and is set to be a free agent, while the Cowboys can finally get out from under Ezekiel Elliott’s contract.
USA Today: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
Sep 3, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (11) is tackled on a kick return by Notre Dame Fighting Irish cornerback TaRiq Bracy (28) during the NCAA football game at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-USA TODAY Sports
In comes an immediate dose of reliability in the passing game that was too often lacking in Dallas’ post-Amari Cooper landscape. If he’s able to shake off a 2022 campaign curtailed by a hamstring injury, Smith-Njigba should become a fast favorite of Dak Prescott given his refined approach.
Others picking JSN: The Athletic
NFL.com: WR Quentin Johnson, TCU
December 31, 2022, 2022; Glendale, Ariz; USA; TCU wide receiver Quentin Johnson (1) runs a route against Michigan during the second half at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Breen-Arizona Republic
Ncaa Fiesta Bowl Game
The Cowboys must improve the WR corps to help Dak Prescott regain his Pro Bowl form. Johnston is a speedster with the big-play potential to take advantage of one-on-one coverage on the outside.
Yardbarker: TE Dalton Kincaid, Utah
28. Cincinnati Bengals — TE Dalton Kincaid, Utah
Syndication The Register Guard
Tight end Dalton Schultz is a free agent, and the Cowboys are in desperate need of more receiving help for Dak Prescott. Kincaid had a breakout season at Utah, with 70 catches for 890 yards and eight scores.
Saturday Blitz: Safety Brian Branch, Alabama
Sep 17, 2022; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Brian Branch (14) sacks Louisiana Monroe Warhawks quarterback Chandler Rogers (6) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
The best safety on the entire board is finally going to be drafted at the end of the first by the Dallas Cowboys and it’s going to be a nice fit for him. Some even consider him to be the best defensive back in the entire draft class, but the cornerback position is much more of a need in the first round for most teams so I can see him dropping to the Cowboys at No. 26.
Brian Branch is one of the best tacklers in the entire class and he’s elite against the run while being above average against the pass.
Bleacher Nation: WR Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee
Tennessee wide receiver Jalin Hyatt (11) pulls in a first down catch Vanderbilt defensive back Ja’Dais Richard (34) during the first quarter at FirstBank Stadium Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn.
Ncaa Football Tennessee Volunteers At Vanderbilt Commodores
Walter Football: DT Siaki Ika, Baylor
Nov 27, 2021; Waco, Texas, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders offensive lineman Weston Wright (70) attempts to block Baylor Bears defensive tackle Siaki Ika (62) during the second half at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
The Cowboys are deseprate for help at receiver, but they also want to upgrade the interior of their defensive line to help them disrupt the Eagles and 49ers offenses.
Siaki Ika is a massive nose tackle who can apply a bit of pressure on the quarterback.
Sharp Football Analysis: CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois
Nov 6, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Devon Witherspoon (31) celebrates a win against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the fourth quarter at Huntington Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
The Draft Network: WR Zay Flowers, Boston College
Nov 26, 2022; Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA; Boston College Eagles wide receiver Zay Flowers (4) signals first down after a catch against the Syracuse Orange during the second half at Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Dak Prescott cannot carry the Cowboys by himself. He needs more weapons on offense, especially at wide receiver. CeeDee Lamb is a stud but where is the other talent? Zay Flowers is a dynamic receiver that can break plays at any moment. He can create for himself before and after the catch. His YAC ability makes him a great option in the quick passing game. Lamb and Flowers is an upgrade over last year’s receiving corps.
Fantasy Pros: LB Drew Sanders, Arkansas
Nov 5, 2022; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks linebacker Drew Sanders (42) tackles Liberty Flames quarterback Johnathan Bennett (11) in the second quarter at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Clearly, the Cowboys have no issues investing in the position, where they could be thin in 2023 given that Parsons now plays primarily at edge and Vander Esch and Anthony Barr are both slated for free agency.
The No. 1 “athlete recruit” in the 2020 class, Sanders broke out in his lone season at Arkansas (103 tackles, 13.5 for loss, 9.5 sacks) after transferring from Alabama.
In a weak class for the position, Sanders is competing with Trenton Simpson to be the No. 1 off-ball linebacker selected.
Sportsnaut: OG O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida
Feb 4, 2023; Mobile, AL, USA; American offensive lineman O’Cyrus Torrence of Florida (56) looks to block National defensive lineman Karl Brooks of Bowling Green (13) during the second half of the Senior Bowl college football game at Hancock Whitney Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports
When the Cowboys had one of the best offensive lines in football, they were dominant offensively. They still have several pieces from that great line in place, including Zack Martin. Yet, Tyron Smith could be on the outs, leading Tyler Smith to likely shift to left tackle. If so, adding a road-grader like O’Cyrus Torrence will create plenty of lanes for Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard to run through if they’re still on the roster.
Touchdown Wire: Safety Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M
Oct 16, 2021; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Texas A&M Aggies defensive back Antonio Johnson (27) gets ready before the snap against the Missouri Tigers during the second half at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Johnson is a tough evaluation, as you have to separate his individual performance from the schematic weirdness and iffy efficiency of the Aggies’ defense. What we do know about Johnson is that he’s a 6-foot-3, 195-pound headbanger who can wreck offenses everywhere the defensive line to free safety. Dan Quinn, who stuck around to stay as the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator, would seem to love a new chess piece with this much effective versatility.
NFL Spin Zone: WR Josh Downs, UNC
Nov 25, 2022; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels wide receiver Josh Downs (11) attempts a catch in the end zone as North Carolina State Wolfpack cornerback Derrek Pitts Jr. (24) defends in the second overtime at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Trading Amari Cooper clearly didn’t work out, so the Dallas Cowboys add Josh Downs from North Carolina. Downs is gaining traction leading up to the draft and would give them a complete No. 2 wideout, allowing Gallup to go back to the role of WR3, which he was much better in.
Yahoo Sports: DT Mazi Smith, Michigan
Sep 24, 2022; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Maryland Terrapins running back Roman Hemby (24) is tackled by Michigan Wolverines defensive lineman Mazi Smith (58) in the first half at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Mazi Smith might end up being the star of the Combine if he performs up to standards of being on Bruce Feldman’s annual freak list. He’s supposed to have a dominant showing even though he weighs more than 330 pounds.
DraftWire: CB Cam Smith, South Carolina
Sep 24, 2022; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks defensive back Cam Smith (9) celebrates an interception against the Charlotte 49ers in the second half at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
Trevon Diggs is obviously one of the NFL’s top corners, but the Cowboys could use an upgrade on the other side of the field. Smith was one of the nation’s most consistently dominant cover men all year long in 2022, forcing opposing quarterbacks to look elsewhere, something they won’t be able to do in Dallas.
Drafttek: TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
Jan 1, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish tight end Michael Mayer (87) scores a touchdown in the first half of the Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium while being defended by Oklahoma State Cowboys safety Kolby Harvell-Peel (31).
Ncaa Football Fiesta Bowl Oklahoma State At Notre Dame
It’s likely that Dalton Schultz finds a new home when he hits free agency, and while Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot both have the potential to thrive with more reps, neither has the upside of Michael Mayer. More importantly, Mayer would give them a weapon that stretches the seam in this offense, opening up the middle of the field where Dak Prescott loved to throw the football in his better years. Getting Prescott back to the player he was at his best could mean allowing him to operate over the middle of the field more often. Mayer can help in that area, and considering he’s one of the top five pass-catchers in this class, it will be hard to pass him up if he gets to 26.