Cowboys 2022 NFL Draft picks: Here’s what to know about Day 2 selections Sam Williams and Jalen Tolbert

The first three rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft is officially in the books, and it didn’t go quietly into the night, thanks in large part to the NFC East. It was the Philadelphia Eagles stealing the show away from the New York Giants – who had an electric first two grabs in defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux and offensive tackle Evan Neal – when the Eagles started wheeling and dealing, grabbing defensive monster Jordan Davis and then striking a blockbuster trade deal with the Tennessee Titans to acquire wideout AJ Brown before awarding him a four-year, $ 100 million contract.

Even the Washington Commanders got in on the draft-day trade action, but the Dallas Cowboys decided to stand firm at 24th-overall, having found no player worth trading up for and passing on offers to move down. As it turns out, the latter was due to a player they had their eye one, specifically, and they made their affection known when they went on the clock and gave the nod to the offensive tackle Tyler Smith, formerly of Tulsa.

But, who is Smith? Well, he’s one some NFL general managers had a first-round grade on, despite his name having mostly flown under the radar of the general public until very recently, and the Cowboys were one such team. He now presumably allows them to cross off one of several needs going into Day Two, but he’s not without his warts, while also not lacking in potential.

So let’s talk about what he brings to the table for Dallas, and what needs to improve immediately – followed by the two subsequent selections in defensive end Sam Williams and wide receiver Jalen Tolbert.

Three things to know:

  • Raised in Fort Worth, Texas
  • Overcame Blount’s disease as a child
  • Will begin NFL career as guard, not tackle

Notable athleticism comps: Kyle Long, Ikem “Ickey” Ekwonu, Charles Cross, Penei Sewell
Playing style: Mauler
Area of ​​opportunity: Hand technique (leads to holding penalties when combined with style of play)

It appeared the Cowboys were entertaining a trade back when they went on the clock with the 24th overall pick, and in fact were, later admitting there were several teams calling them with interest to move up. They listened intently, but instead stood pat and passed on more notable talent – eg, Jermaine Johnson, Nakobe Dean, Devin Lloyd and Tyler Linderbaum – going with more of a project [at starter] in Tyler Smith out of Tulsa. Smith enters during a time of tumult on the Cowboys offensive line, with continued durability issues on an aging Tyron Smith and the decision to release starting tackle La’el Collins to pass the mantle to backup swing tackle Terence Steele.

The jury is out on if Smith, who has a good ceiling, can contribute immediately or if he will need polish (the latter making it a debatable pick when tying him to the first round). Owner Jerry Jones noted Smith was the 16th-ranked player on their board, and there’s sentiment around the league that he wouldn’t have made it out of the first round, which explains the Cowboys decision to not trade down with potentially the hopes of selecting him later.

That said, Smith has plenty of work to do if he’s to be his apparent to anyone on the offensive line but, and it’s key to keep this in mind, he has the physical ability to do just that. A lot of his progress early on will fall on the lap on offensive line coach Joe Philbin, and largely in trying to get Smith to scale down the number of penalties he usually draws per game – especially on a team that has often believed themselves targeted by NFL officials on holding penalties (something head coach Mike McCarthy benched former starting left guard Connor Williams over in 2021).

With Williams now a member of the Miami Dolphins, Smith will move from offensive tackle, where he played mostly at Tulsa, to left guard beside All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith. The younger Smith becomes the fourth offensive lineman selected by the Cowboys in the first round, and the three before him lend hope to what he himself might become: Zack Martin (2014), Travis Frederick (2013) and Tyron Smith (2011). Both Martin and Frederick were viewed by many as he reaches at the time, and went on to have stellar careers, with Martin’s still ongoing and Frederick retiring only due to his battle with Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

Standing just under 6-foot-5 and weighing in at a healthy 324 pounds, Smith has plenty going for him if the penalties (his only real red flag) can be reduced or eliminated. He plays with a visceral rawness that, while often getting him in trouble with officiating, also makes him a bully on the offensive line. He’s not a player opposing pass rushers enjoy dealing with on a snap-by-snap basis, and his arm length (85th percentile) combines with his wingspan (92nd percentile) to make for a very long day for defenders.

Add in his ability to pop outside for those times when Tyron Smith will presumably not be available due to injury, and you can easily see why the Cowboys valued him as a late first-round grab, which is essentially a high second-round pick – – for all intents and purposes.

“I have a lot of versatility for both [guard and tackle], “Smith told Dallas media following the selection.” I’ll work them all. … I definitely see myself as a tackle for sure, but I’m willing to move wherever I need to go to mesh with the organization or wherever I am. “

Even more impressive for Smith is the fact he overcame the aforementioned Blount’s Disease, per NFL Network, a structural deformity in his legs as a child that effects the growth plates around his knees. When he was in middle school, doctors had to forcefully / medically break his legs and put them in cages to let them heal / grow properly, but several NFL teams cleared him and there are no issues expected as an adult; particularly seeing how long ago the procedure was [successfully] done.

It’s been a long road for the Dallas-Fort Worth area native to get to where he is now, playing for his hometown team. Should he effectively absorb the teachings of Smith to his left and Zack Martin to his non-immediate right – adding in the previous successes of Cowboys first-round offensive line selections – he’ll have a very real chance at being the added stopper needed in front of quarterback Dak Prescott following a draft that saw the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles both add some serious firepower to their pass rush.

Much like the first-round O-lineman before him, he’ll have to overcome the argument of who the Cowboys should’ve selected instead but, to be fair, once / if he learns how to refine his raw power and football anger into a more polished and penalty-free product – look out.

Round 2, no. 56: Sam Williams, EDGE, Mississippi

Three things to know:

  • One of the best pass-rushers in 2021
  • Off-the-field red flags caused draft slide
  • Will immediately challenge to replace Randy Gregory

Notable athleticism comps: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Shaq Lawson, Jermaine Johnson II
Playing style: Twitchy finesse
Area of ​​opportunity: Off-the-field concerns

Keeping with their theme of the 2022 NFL Draft, the Cowboys again passed on bigger ticketed names – eg, linebacker Nakobe Dean – and went with defensive end Sam Williams, the former Ole Miss talent who will presumably look to challenge Dorance Armstrong and Dante Fowler for the right to replace Randy Gregory opposite DeMarcus Lawrence. Williams is a First-Team All-SEC honoree who racked up sacks in ascending fashion over the course of his three seasons in Mississippi, going from 9.5 sacks in 2019 to 12.5 sacks in 2021 (32.5 sacks total). His fall was due to some off-the-field red flags, but the Cowboys are banking on that being in his rearview.

And now, to the film.

Williams isn’t the most powerful player in this class of edge rushers, but he doesn’t have to be, largely because you’d be hard-pressed to find someone with the level of quick-twitch that exists within the former Ole Miss pass rusher. What makes him that much more unique is his ability to blend it with speed and finesse – able to gobble up a lot of ground quickly but, more importantly, owner of a great bend and lean off the edge. He plays low through the point of attack, making it difficult for blockers to truly engage with his pads, and has a tremendous flexibility and acceleration when shooting the gaps. His hands are also moving at all times, slapping away blocks to make for quite a stout package that opposing blockers won’t enjoy lining up against.

He’ll need to work on his lateral movement though, or at least his ability to quickly diagnose when he should go east-west and not simply north-south, and he has been known to be upended if a blocker can get him out of his low stance prematurely. Huge upside exists on Williams, but it is another red-flag prospect for the Cowboys, much like cornerback Kelvin Joseph was in 2021 when he garnered the nod as the team’s second-round pick, and that can’t be denied or deleted.

Williams was charged with sexual battery (eventually dropped) and subsequently suspended from Ole Miss in July 2020. He’d go on to be reinstated and again began making an impact, his physical skill set being inarguable; and the latter is what the Cowboys are focused on – operating under the belief Williams won’t see his red flags translate to the NFL level.

“That’s not me. That’s not going to determine the type of person I am … But all I’m thankful for is a chance from a team that believes in me.” Williams told Dallas media following the selection. “It’s the past. Obviously, I didn’t do anything. Now, it’s a whole new start ahead of me, and that’s what I’m looking forward to most.”

Round 3, no. 88: Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama

Three things to know:

  • Deep vertical threat who can play all three WR spots
  • Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year (2021), 2x First-Team All-Sun Belt
  • Expected to fill role vacated by Cedrick Wilson

Notable athleticism comps: Reggie Wayne, Dante Pettis
Playing style: Speed ​​kills
Area of ​​opportunity: Concentration drops

In the third round, Dallas found its wide receiver in Jalen Tolbert of South Alabama – a prospect who doesn’t hail from a big program but brings a big skillset to the table. He’s a vertical threat who finished his collegiate career with two consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, scoring 16 touchdowns in his last two years at South Alabama. His 1,474-yard season in 2021 showed the entire world what he can be if he remains focused and sees the ball into his hands. Add him to a soon-to-be healthy Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb, and it’s a great start following the controversial end to Amari Cooper’s time in Dallas.

You can expect to see Tolbert move around between all three WR spots, as needed, having the quickness to break free at the second level against nickel corners and linebackers but also possessing a 4.49s 40-yard dash speed that can punish slower outside corners or anyone who doesn’t get their hips turned quickly enough on a go route. Tolbert is smooth, butter even, and often uses his footwork and burst to shimmy his way into the open field – picture a car changing gears – reminiscent of what Cole Beasley once was for Dallas. But, unlike Beasley, Tolbert can take the top off of opposing defense on a consistent basis; and with a hand size that makes it difficult to wrestle a catch away from him.

Cue the film.

Tolbert’s biggest opportunity will be to clean up his drops, which happens because he’s often ready to turn upfield before looking at the ball into his hands. Add that to the fact that while he’s not poor at blocking, he could stand to improve a bit, particularly on a team that enjoys running the ball. In all, landing Tolbert late in the third round is a fantastic value for the Cowboys, and doing it with the 88th-overall pick is a bit of cosmic poetry for Dallas.

Having received a call from Prescott ahead of the draft to gauge the possibility of the selection, Tolbert says there was an “immediate vibe” struck with the Cowboys franchise quarterback. It’s clear that feeling is mutual and that Prescott gave the green light, and now all Tolbert has to do is off to the races in Dallas – because he’ll have no shortening of opportunities to do just that.

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