Sunday, April 30, 2023

Dallas Cowboys 2023 NFL Draft Grades Roundup

The 2023 NFL Draft is now in the rearview mirror, and we have compiled a consensus ranking using NFL draft grades from a variety of sites.

What draft grades have the media given to the Dallas Cowboys? What are they saying about the Cowboys' 2023 draft haul?

MORE: 2023 NFL Strength of Schedule - Grade: B+

Smith will be a tough guy to move inside and has the athleticism to win gaps more consistently. Schoonmaker will meet a need to replace Dalton Schultz as a receiving/blocking tight end, while Overshown is in the Jayron Kearse mold and should be a solid second-level defender.

Dallas sent fifth-round picks to Houston for Brandin Cooks (161st) and Indianapolis for cornerback Stephon Gilmore (176th). They chose Fehoko as a hustling edge rusher who has the bulk to play inside in sub packages. Richards is a great pick for a Cowboys team needing depth at tackle. They gave up a 2024 fifth-round pick to select the long, athletic Scott, whom I thought might go earlier. Vaughn joins his father -- a Cowboys scout -- in Dallas. He'll provide depth and open-field quickness.

ESPN - Grade: B

After another early playoff exit that saw the offense sputter late in the season, the Cowboys fired coordinator Kellen Moore and promoted Brian Schottenheimer. Coach Mike McCarthy will go back to calling the plays, like he did in Green Bay. With tight end Dalton Schultz leaving in free agency and running back Ezekiel Elliott getting cut, Dallas had holes at both positions heading into the draft, and I thought it could address each of them on the first two days.

In Round 1, however, the Cowboys went a different direction, and I have no qualms about it. Mazi Smith (26) is the best run-stuffing defensive tackle in this class, a 323-pounder who will instantly improve their run defense. Their D-line too often last season was blown up at the line of scrimmage, so adding an anchor like Smith will help the entire front seven. If you look at the other NFC East teams, Dallas needed to beef up to stop the run.

I would have taken other tight ends over Luke Schoonmaker (58), but he does have intriguing traits. Tucker Kraft and Brenton Strange were available and higher on my board. Schoonmaker will turn 25 as a rookie, so the question is about how much more room he has to develop. DeMarvion Overshown (90) is one of analyst Louis Riddick's favorites in this class; he can be impressive as a blitzer.

Edge rusher Viliami Fehoko (129) had 23 sacks over the past three seasons; I highlighted him as a potential sleeper in December. Running back Deuce Vaughn (212) is a great player in a 5-foot-5 package. I'd love to see him succeed in Dallas, where his dad is a scout.

There's not much flash in this class, which is not usually how team owner Jerry Jones does things, but I can't knock many of these selections. Dallas did well.

SI - Grade: C

The Cowboys went for need with the run-stopper Smith, but they probably would have gotten a more complete player in Bryan Bresee, who went three picks later to the Saints. Dallas reached for Smith and waited too long to fill the tight end void left by Dalton Schultz. Schoonmaker is a versatile player, but Michael Mayer would have made a bigger immediate impact. Dallas added defensive depth with players Overshown and Fehoko.

PFF - Grade: C+

Day 1: It might not be an exciting pick, but for a team that have struggled to stop the run consistently recently, it makes a lot of sense. An impressive athlete for someone his size, Smith posted PFF grades of 75.0 or better in each of the past two seasons.

Day 2: Schoonmaker is an in-line tight end, so the fit is obvious here for the Cowboys, but it's just that it's a bit of a reach at 58th overall. He averaged 2.15 yards per route run in 2022 but caught just 28.6% of the contested targets he saw. There's some projection here, but he does have the athletic profile where the reach could work out for the Cowboys.

Overshown is an explosive off-ball linebacker who grew into the player many had expected him to become in 2022. The 6-foot-3, 229-pound Longhorn boosted his run-defense grade by more than 40 points from 2021 to 2022. That kind of improvement should be encouraging for Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys.

Day 3: Fehoko makes a lot of sense in the fourth round as a player who offers the versatility to play on the edge and kick inside in certain situations. He dominated at San Jose State in 2022, winning 21.5% of his pass-rushing attempts and registering a defensive stop on 10.9% of his snaps in run defense.

Richards struggled as a run blocker in 2022, producing sub-60.0 PFF run-blocking grades on both zone and gap plays. If there's a silver lining to his play, though, he had a 75.5 PFF pass-blocking grade and allowed 20 total pressures from 667 pass-blocking snaps.

Scott earned a 70.9 coverage grade in 2022 and has good size at 6-foot-2 and 202 pounds. At his size, his 40-inch vertical leap and 11-foot-1 broad jump are above the 90th percentile.

Brooks has good hands, with only two drops in 2022, but doesn't bring a ton of big play ability with a 4.69-second 40-yard dash.

Fox Sports - Grade: B-

To borrow from baseball, the Cowboys opted to hit a single every time they stepped to the plate. You're not going to find many jersey sellers in this draft class, and there's not much in the way of eye-popping highlights. That's what happens when a nose tackle is the first-round pick and there aren't any other bonafide starters in the class. For the most part, the Cowboys made a concerted effort to beef up their depth in the trenches, with the aim of developing guys down the line.

Tight end Luke Schoonmaker has more potential than he's getting credit for, and running back Deuce Vaughn is a fun addition late on Day 3. To be fair to the Cowboys, an unsexy draft can still be a great draft, so long as they're right about their projections. It's no use getting guys on base if you don't drive any runs home.

USA Today - Grade: C-

DT Mazi Smith (Round 1), TE Luke Schoonmaker (Round 2) and LB DeMarvion Overshown (Round 3) are nice players who could be key contributors. But it's worth wondering if Jerry Jones and Co. will rue opting against help at center or — all due respect to diminutive sixth-rounder Deuce Vaughn — a replacement for RB Ezekiel Elliott who can share the load with franchise-tagged Tony Pollard. Stay tuned on that front. Far more concerning is a perception that the talent gulf between the Cowboys and NFC champion Eagles widened significantly.

The Ringer - Grade: C-

The Cowboys went heavy on non-premium positions over the first two days of the draft, grabbing a run-plugging nose tackle in Michigan's Mazi Smith in the first round before adding tight end Luke Schoonmaker in the second, and off-ball linebacker DeMarvion Overshown in the third. If Smith is able to unlock his high-end athleticism and turn that into better pass-rush production, it would provide a massive boost to this class—but if he's capped out as an early down rotational player, it's hard to find a big-impact player in Dallas's draft haul.

Sporting News - Grade: C

The Cowboys reached right away for need with 4-3 run-stuffing nose tackle Smith in the first round. Schoonmaker, Vaughn and Brooks didn't give them the offensive skill punch they needed. Overshown is their type of linebacker to complement Micah Parsons, and he and Smith save the class for immediate impact, on top of Fehoko's own big defensive upside.

Touchdown Wire - Grade: B

Dan Quinn's defense needed beef and pressure up the middle in this draft, and they got both in Mazi Smith, a 6-foot-3, 323-pound tackle who put up 25 total pressures last season and reminds me of Dontari Poe. Dallas also needed a tight end who could win in space, and they got that in the underrated Schoonmaker. Watch out for Fehoko, who had 12 sacks and 66 total pressures for the Spartans last season, and seems like an ideal Quinn guy with his ability to wreck dudes from multiple gaps at 6-foot-4 and 276 pounds.

But the steal and the story of this class has to be Deuce Vaughan, who has a history with the Cowboys franchise.

The Cowboys don't generally get the credit they deserve for their quality drafts, but we'll sign off on this one.

More: 2023 NFL Draft Grade Roundups

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