In a departure from the front office’s recent draft strategy, the Dallas Cowboys chose a position of need over the best player available in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft by taking defensive tackle Mazi Smith out of Michigan.
With the interior defensive line addressed, Jerry Jones and company move on to day two of the draft.
Several players mocked to go in the first round slid yesterday. With quarterbacks Will Levis and Hendon Hooker still on the board after round one, some of those players could slide even further.
These are the best fits for the Cowboys still available ahead of the second and third round.
Darnell Washington: TE Georgia
There was a lot of pre-draft bluster about the Cowboys wanting to use their first pick on a tight end. They almost had their pick of the litter before the Buffalo Bills traded up one spot ahead of Dallas and made Utah’s Dalton Kincaid the first tight end selected in the draft.
Even if Kincaid had been available, tight ends in general had already taken such a slide that the Cowboys are still primed to pick from a very solid group at the end of the second round, unless four or five other teams take a tight end before the Cowboys pick at 58.
Michael Mayer was a real possibility for the Cowboys at 26. As some experts’ TE1, it’s hard to imagine Mayer plummeting all the way out of the top 50. Every other tight end still available at the end of the first round could realistically be in play.
The most talented of that group is Georgia’s Darnell Washington. The 6’7″ tight end would give the Cowboys a modern-day receiving threat with plenty of blocking upside to boot.
The Cowboys could still go with a tight end at 58 if Washington comes off the board before then. Iowa’s Sam LaPorta is an intriguing player. So is Luke Musgrave out of Oregon State, but Washington’s athleticism gives him an upside that no tight end still available can match, not even Mayer.
Marvin Mims: WR, Oklahoma
Another day 2 target, wide receiver Marvin Mims is a player very likely to be available for the Cowboys at 58. Jones might even be able to trade down if Mims is Dallas’ guy at wide receiver. He won’t be available in the third round, so if the Cowboys want Mims, they’ll need to jump on him in round two.
58 could be a slight reach for Mims, but the fit would be worth it. The Sooners had a lot of success working Mims out of the slot over the last few years.
The Cowboys haven’t been able to put a high-level slot receiver out on the field since Cole Beasley led the team in receiving yards in 2016.
Mims has the tools to be that player for the Cowboys. An impressive 4.38 40-yard-dash at this year’s combine would make Mims one of the speediest players on the Cowboys’ roster. Adding him to a receiving corps that already includes CeeDee Lamb and Brandin Cooks would be a huge help for Dak Prescott.
Tyler Steen: OT, Alabama
Dallas has no time to waste in acquiring more weapons for Prescott and the offense, but they have needs on the offensive line as well.
The Eagles’ defensive line is set to be an elite group for years to come after Philly landed both Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith in the first round. Alabama tackle Tyler Steen is a player the Cowboys could target in the third round to help combat those acquisitions.
In Steen the Cowboys would get a polished player. Steen played both tackle positions over a three-year career at Vanderbilt before transferring to Alabama and starting at left tackle for the Crimson Tide.
He doesn’t have the most upside, but he would be a reliable swing tackle for an offensive line set to change quite a bit over the next season or two.
Zack Martin and Tyron Smith are both closer to the ends of their careers than the beginning, and it’s hard to know what Terence Steele’s level of dependability will be after a serious knee injury.
A player like Steen would help add some stability and youth to an aging and often-injured Cowboys offensive line.
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