(Editor's Note: Over the next month, the staff of DallasCowboys.com is looking to answer the 20 biggest questions facing the team heading into the 2023 season. Today, the staff writers continue the series with a closer look at the tight end position.)
9) Who Wins Starting Role at Tight End?
Patrik Walker: Luke Schoonmaker getting the nod as the 2022 second-round pick gives him a lot of leverage in this situation, but he still has to step onto an NFL practice field and ultimately into an NFL game before any sort of coronation ceremony can begin. Until then, my money is on Jake Ferguson, the former fourth-round pick who — along with Peyton Hendershot — made the Cowboys quite comfortable in waving goodbye to Dalton Schultz. The throne is now Ferguson's until further notice, but Schoonmaker is going to make things difficult. It's going to be Big Ten on Big Ten crime in Oxnard.
Kurt Daniels: I wonder if we'll see more of a committee approach at the position. In 2022, Dalton Schultz played 70 percent of the offensive snaps while Jake Ferguson was at 37 percent with Peyton Hendershot and Sean McKeon at 26 and 11, respectively. And a young tight end room was made even more so with this year's drafting of Luke Schoonmaker. There's just not a lot of experience here and each has his own strengths and weaknesses, so while Ferguson will likely lead the way in playing time, I wouldn't be surprised to see those percentages being spread out more evenly.
Kyle Youmans: I think there could be a different answer to this question as the season goes along. Initially, it's Jake Ferguson's job to lose. He showed signs of potential during his rookie season as he finished with 19 receptions for 174 yards and two touchdowns. He'll have every chance early to hold on to the job with a completely new target load this season after only seeing 12 total targets in the final 10 games. However, Dallas spent a second-round pick on a tight end for a reason. And even with Luke Schoonmaker's skillset aligning with more of a blocking tight end, he'll be involved in the offense often as a rookie. If Schoonmaker can grow as a pass catcher, there may be a shift in how we see the tight end rotation.
Mickey Spagnola: Not sure who starts matters, since this promises to be a position by committee, what with Jake Ferguson, Peyton Hendershot, rookie Luke Schoonmaker and veteran Sean McKeon – the Big 10 Attack. But chances are if the Cowboys start off with a one-tight end formation and at least for the start of the season, the starter will be Ferguson since the Cowboys are looking for an all-around tight end, someone who can block, and Ferguson was their best blocker last season, and who is a threat in the passing game. And if the Cowboys don't establish a capable fullback, got a feeling you will see a lot of two-tight formations. But in due time., Schoonmaker figures to earn his share of snaps, with Hendershot the down field threat. Nice young, versatile group.