Predicting Cowboys’ Starters After 2022 NFL Draft | Bleacher Report

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    The 2022 NFL draft wasn’t as flashy as the past two for the Dallas Cowboys, but that doesn’t mean it won’t have acted as an effective influx of talent.

    After getting CeeDee Lamb and Micah Parsons in the back-to-back years, the Cowboys opted for an offensive lineman in the first round. Tyler Smith isn’t likely to sell a lot of jerseys but is likely to wind up as a starter in Year 1.

    With the draft in the rearview, it’s a good time to break down what the starting lineup might look like once the season starts. The bulk of free agency is over, and it’s possible the final 53-man roster is already in place.

    Given the decisions they have made in free agency and their draft class, here’s what the Cowboys starting lineup could look like on both sides of the ball, as well as the most intriguing position battle.

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    Starting Lineup: QB Dak Prescott, RB Ezekiel Elliott, WR CeeDee Lamb, WR Michael Gallup, WR James Washington, TE Dalton Schultz, LT Tyron Smith, LG Tyler Smith, C Tyler Biadasz, RG Zack Martin, RT Terence Steele

    All things considered, there’s going to be a lot of continuity on offense. There are only two starters who would be considered new. James Washington enters the starting lineup after getting buried on the depth chart in Pittsburgh. The Cowboys will hope that he can step into the Michael Gallup role while Gallup looks to fill the void left by Amari Cooper’s departure.

    On the offensive line, rookie Tyler Smith is likely to be an early starter. The Cowboys must replace Connor Williams at left guard, and they didn’t draft Smith in the first round for him to sit on the bench. The mauling run-blocker could have a future at tackle, but he might enjoy instant success on the inside while meeting a need for Dallas.

    If there’s a surprise candidate to lose his job during camp, it would be Terence Steele. The organization didn’t draft an obvious replacement, but 2021 fourth-round pick Josh Ball and 2022 fifth-round pick Matt Waletzko could push him.

    The third-year player only gave up two sacks in 13 starts last season but conceded 10 the year prior. He will have to prove he can be a consistently reliable option.

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    Starting Lineup: DE DeMarcus Lawrence, DT Neville Gallimore, DT Osa Odighizuwa, DE Dante Fowler Jr., LB Micah Parsons, LB Leighton Vander Esch, NB Jourdan Lewis, CB Trevon Diggs, CB Anthony Brown, S Malik Hooker, S Jayron Kearse

    Continuity is a strength on the defensive side of the ball as well. Most of the names in this projected lineup were starters last year. Coordinator Dan Quinn made great strides with this unit last season, and it hasn’t lost very much.

    The big question is obviously at defensive end. Losing Randy Gregory in free agency stings. Signing Dante Fowler Jr. will help ease that sting, but the hope should be that second-round pick Sam Williams works his way into the lineup.

    Leighton Vander Esch returns on a one-year deal. That feels like it is less about Vander Esch playing well and more about the Cowboys not valuing the position all that much. They were only in their base defense 1 percent of the time last year, per Sports Info Solutions.

    So the vast majority of the time, they only have two on the field. And Micah Parsons is an obvious every-down kind of player. That leaves Vander Esch to compete with a young group of linebackers for snaps.

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    Jalen Tolbert and Damone Clark stand out as two picks in the Cowboys drafted who could wind up paying big dividends. Clark will probably miss his rookie season with a spinal injury but has a high ceiling if he can get healthy.

    Tolbert, however, has a shot at cracking the starting lineup.

    It’s obvious that CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup will be the top two receivers, but Washington and Tolbert are both new additions in Dallas. Washington has the advantage of experience and some proven production. However, Tolbert is a slightly better athlete according to their relative athletic scores, per Kent Lee Platte of Pro Football Network.

    Still, Washington’s production dipped in Pittsburgh. He hasn’t come close to the 725-yard season he enjoyed in 2019. Some of that could be down to Ben Roethlisberger’s dwindling arm strength and the competition he faced for targets.

    Tolbert will be looking to make the massive leap from the competition he saw at South Alabama to the NFL. If he’s able to overtake Washington early, that’s a great sign he’s in for a strong career.

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