FRISCO, Texas — As free agency wanes in the NFL, mock draft season is in full effect and, quiet as it's kept, everyone knows exactly what the Dallas Cowboys will do with the 26th-overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft; except for the Cowboys themselves. That is to say we can all only have fun speculating until the event gets underway in Kansas City on Thursday, April 27, but what is known is where this team is in need of an upgrade.
They did a masterful job in free agency with making sure they don't enter this year's draft in dire straits at any position, but that doesn't mean they're all set across the board.
So as we continue the inaugural edition of "Fast Forward", let's focus on the offensive line, a position the Cowboys addressed in the first round last year. Could they possibly go that route again?
Last year, the Cowboys had trouble finding consistency across the line due to injuries at tackle and occasionally at left guard and center. Head coach Mike McCarthy has said this offseason that he's done hoping for better health on the line, and is now just accepting the fact that he'll need more than five capable linemen to be ready to start.
That being said, the Cowboys currently have a surplus at tackle, assuming Tyron Smith can stay healthy for a lengthy period of time, and that Terence Steele makes a full recovery with his ACL injury.
For now, let's look at what they have on the line from left to right:
- Left Tackle – This is has been Tyron Smith's spot for over a decade but now it appears Tyler Smith will be the left tackle of the future. Still, if the Cowboys struggled to find an adequate left guard and both Steele and Tyron Smith are healthy, Steele could slide into left guard like he did at times last year. Backup spots could be Matt Waletzko and/or Josh Ball.
- Left Guard – For now, the Cowboys will try veteran addition Chuma Edoga to replace Connor McGovern. Matt Farniok might get the chance to start at left guard as well and don't rule out Tyler Smith or maybe even Steele.
- Center – Tyler Biadasz is coming off his first trip to the Pro Bowl. His late-season injury proved his worth even more. It's not likely the Cowboys will draft a center to push him, but maybe for backup purposes. Alec Lindstrom and Farniok are the top options for backup center.
- Right Guard – Zack Martin is back. Enough said. He made yet another Pro Bowl and All-Pro and he's as steady and consistent as any player on the team.
- Right Tackle – This is one of the most intriguing spots on the roster right now, mainly because it's still April. But Jerry Jones said Tyron Smith will likely start out at right tackle. The Cowboys still love his pass-blocking ability. Steele might be the better run-blocker. Right now, it's a good problem to have, but one that will probably turn into a luxury at some point in the season.
Top 2023 Prospects:
O'Cyrus Torrence, Florida – Considered by many draft experts as the best guard in the draft and he could be sitting there at No. 26 for the Cowboys. Instantly, he would step right in and play left guard, a position he's played as a freshman, before his last three seasons at right guard. But Torrence would also instantly make the line stronger, given his 6-5, 330-pound frame. He spent the first three years in college at Louisiana before transferring to Florida last season, where he was a consensus All-American.
Steve Avila, TCU – One of the players who visited the Cowboys over the last two weeks in their 30 Visits/Dallas Day group that came to The Star. Avila was also an All-American last season at guard after earning second-team All-Big 12 honors in 2021 as a junior. That position flex to play both guard and center is always attractive, especially if you can do both at a high level.
Best Fit (Post-Day 1):
Darnell Wright (Tennessee) – Has the ability to play both left and right tackle and even played a couple of games at guard as a freshman. But his 6-5, 330-pound size is a good spot for him to play several spots across the line, as long as he has the mobility to play tackle, which he possessed at the Senior Bowl in January. The Cowboys have a history of drafting players from the Senior Bowl and Wright was a standout during the practices in Mobile.
Jordan McFadden (Clemson) – If the Cowboys don't address the guard position in the first two rounds, another option either in Rounds 3 or 4, could be McFadden, who is one of the more athletic interior players in this draft. McFadden (6-2, 303) is one of the very few guards that ran the 40 in under five seconds. Now, it's like the Cowboys or any NFL team would want him sprinting down the field too often, but having mobile guards who could pull and get out on screens is a must, especially in this West Coast offense.
Juice Scruggs (Penn State) – If anything, he's got one of the best names of the NFL Draft this year. And he's also a former teammate of Micah Parsons at Penn State. But Scruggs would be a mid-to-late-round option at center, but also with the ability to play some guard. Scruggs started 25 games in the last two seasons, with 16 at center and 9 at guard. And he was an All-Big Ten performer for both seasons, meaning he's used to making that transition with ease.