Mike McCarthy is still singing the praise for what his rookie class was able to achieve in 2022, but the job is not done, and that means everyone will be expected to level up in 2023
INDIANAPOLIS — If the NFL could be summed up in a single word, that word would be "more". It's what the league and all 32 teams within it demand of every individual on their roster, annually, with the goal of being the last team standing on Super Bowl Sunday.
And while the Dallas Cowboys work to figure out how to return to glory in 2023, they do so with a foundation of youthful talent many other clubs would sell an arm for, and maybe even part of a leg.
Fact is, the Cowboys have become the gold standard as it pertains to the NFL draft, because while they've had their share of misses, they have far more hits in their catalog as of late — Vice President of Player Personnel Will McClay helping to orchestrate a scouting department that is nearly incomparable.
But despite the runaway success of rookies like Tyler Smith, Sam Williams, DaRon Bland and several others selected in the 2022 NFL Draft, it's still and will always be about … well… more.
"I've always gone about it this way from my chair: I just don't wanna go backwards," said head coach Mike McCarthy from the 2023 NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
It's an offseason filled with uncertainty regarding a laundry list of in-house veteran free agents, and while McCarthy is adamant he'd like to keep each of them, the reality is the Cowboys won't be able to. That means the NFL freshman-turned-sophomores who didn't put their stamp on last season will be expected to level up in Year 2, needless to say, but those who flew out of the gate are being held to the same requirement.
For a Cowboys team that depends so heavily on youth, complacency would be devastating.
A quick look at the players who, in varying ways, made an impact over the past two seasons illustrates just how crucial the draft-and-develop strategy is for [continued] success in Dallas.
- Round 1: 19th-overall - Micah Parsons, LB
- Round 3: 75th-overall - Osa Odighizuwa, DL
- Round 3: 84th-overall - Chauncey Golston, DL
- Round 3: 99th-overall - Nahshon Wright, CB
- Round 6: 192nd-overall - Quinton Bohanna, DL
- Round 6: 227th-overall - Israel Mukuamu, DB
- Round 1: 24th-overall - Tyler Smith, OL
- Round 2: 56th-overall - Sam Williams, EDGE
- Round 4: 129th-overall - Jake Ferguson, TE
- Round 5: 167th-overall - DaRon Bland, CB
- Round 5: 176th-overall - Damone Clark, LB
- UNDRAFTED: Peyton Hendershot, TE
- UNDRAFTED: Malik Davis, RB
"My personal experience, through draft-and-develop, the biggest increases in our player productivity will come from within," McCarthy said. "Our first- and second-year players will make improvements. That doesn't show up during the draft, but you're first- and second-year players make improvements. I'm counting on that.
"If you look at our last two draft classes, they played a lot of football early. I've been very impressed with that. I'm hoping for [more] gains from that for 2023. … You just want to get better."
Once you begin factoring in the potential of a player like Matt Waletzko, who has a real shot at earning the role of swing tackle if he can remain healthy — having battled a shoulder subluxation in 2022 — and several others who are vying to make a name for themselves this coming season, e.g., Jalen Tolbert, something becomes chandelier-clear here.
If the Cowboys can strike the perfect balance of free agency additions/re-signings with a youth movement that's arguably the best in the league, there's simply no reason for McCarthy and the front office to expect or (to be frank) to tolerate a step backwards.
And, when the 2023 NFL Draft gets underway on April 27, guess what else they'll be looking for.
You guessed it: more.