By Martin Rogers
FOX Sports Columnist
The Dallas Cowboys went into the 2022 NFL Draft with a strict plan that had a central theme running through it.
If you’re sick of getting “big boy’d,” the thinking went, there is only one thing to do. Go get some big boys of your own.
Just in case you’re not fully versed in the quaint traits of the Texas football lexicon, getting “big boy’d” means your team got pushed around physically by bigger, stronger dudes, especially at the line of scrimmage.
The reason for such a plan was based off Jerry Jones’ most recent memory of live football action. The last time the Cowboys took the field was on Jan. 16, in a 23-17 Super Wild Card Weekend defeat to the San Francisco 49ers in which they got well and truly “big boy’d”.
Unable to compete at the line on either side of the ball, Dallas couldn’t protect Dak Prescott from getting thrown to the ground five times, couldn’t stop the San Francisco run, and saw a promising season end at the earliest playoff hurdle.
Jones didn’t like it and sought to fix it through the draft.
With such a philosophy, the resulting execution was as you might expect. Lots and lots of really big dudes. Lots of physicality. And according to many experts, lots of unknowns. But one thing the Cowboys draft class will never be accused of is being small.
“Clearly, [the Cowboys] were traumatized from the physical butt-kicking San Francisco delivered during the playoffs,” wrote Jean-Jacques Taylor in the Dallas Morning News.
There was certainly some science and plenty of pre-planning involved, but if you stumbled across this draft without any prior knowledge, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Dallas war room simply opted for spending their picks on the largest human beings they could possibly find.
First-rounder Tyler Smith, an offensive lineman out of Tulsa, was the most penalized player in college football last season, with 12 holding penalties and four others. He is, however, 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds.
Fourth-round tight end Jake Ferguson (6-5, 244) is known for blocking with ferocity. Before offensive tackle Matt Waletzko (all 6-8 of him) was taken in round five, head coach Mike McCarthy specifically reminded those around him of “the playoffs,” inferring that more size was needed against the 49ers.
The trend continued to the very end of the draft, with defensive tackle John Ridgeway coming in a 6-6, 320, and linebackers Damone Clark and Devin Harper also added to the roster.
Mission accomplished. Big boys identified, scouted, and selected.
The reaction, let’s just say, wasn’t exactly great. The football think-tank can be a snooty place these days and an approach that appears to be little more than adding large bodies is going to get perceived as overly simplistic, with too little attention given to the football attributes and too much to the tape measure.
No one is doubting that many of the Cowboys’ new players are big. There are, however, some questions about whether they can be any good at the NFL level.
Both ESPN’s Mel Kiper and USA TODAY scored the Dallas draft in the bottom two out of all 32 teams.
“I am going D-minus for this draft because I can’t begin to sell it back to you,” FS1’s Skip Bayless said on “Undisputed.” “I can’t begin to defend it.”
Dallas Cowboys get C+ grade for NFL Draft I UNDISPUTED
The Dallas Cowboys chose Tulsa offensive lineman Tyler Smith in the first round of the NFL Draft this weekend and then added 8 more picks on both sides of the ball.
And that’s what Dallas has to work with. That’s the takeaway ahead of a season that was hoped to be some kind of breakthrough. No one is buying that this is a better roster than the one that ended last season, not with receiver Amari Cooper, defensive end Randy Gregory and guard Connor Williams heading a group of departed free agents.
None of the newcomers look to be instant impact players. Conversely, NFC East rivals the Philadelphia Eagles got some immediate help. The New York Giants also had their draft class well received.
The NFC East hasn’t been any good for a long time, but it has been absolutely masterful about sharing the wealth. There hasn’t been a repeat champion since 2004 and the Cowboys haven’t been to the postseason in consecutive years since 2007.
With Dak Prescott entrenched as one of the NFL’s better QBs, Dallas hoped this could be the start of a run where it could operate as the figurehead team of the division, set up for repeat trips to the playoffs and regular contention.
It may be the case but all we really know as of right now is that they’ve added some really big boys. That might have helped them back in January, who knows if it helps them moving forward?
Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider Newsletter. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.
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