(Editor's Note: With over 20 players set for unrestricted free agency, the Cowboys' roster is destined to look much different in 2022. Still, a large percentage of their roster is already in place, and they'll have plenty of work to do to improve last season's 12-5 record. In the coming weeks, the staff of DallasCowboys.com will evaluate those players already under contract, examining their past performance and future outlook. Today, we continue the series with defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa.)
The Good: You can't understate the benefits of good drafting.
Osa Odighizuwa didn't turn a ton of heads when the Cowboys drafted him 75th overall last spring, as there was more focus on the big names like Micah Parsons and Kelvin Joseph.
And yet, it was Odighizuwa who wound up playing 54% of the defensive snaps, second among the rookie class only to Parsons. Injuries forced the UCLA prospect into the starting lineup earlier than anyone anticipated, and he responded with 36 tackles, two sacks and 12 quarterback hits.
In a league that's driven by finding early contributions from big-time draft picks, Odighizuwa flashed his potential quickly.
The Bad: All of that said, Odighizuwa looked like a guy who learned a lot about the marathon of an NFL season.
After playing just seven games during the COVID-shortened 2020 college football season, Odighizuwa was thrown into the NFL grinder and appeared in 17 games last year. If you look at the splits, he recorded all of his sacks in the first month of the season. In addition, nine of his 12 quarterback hits came before the Cowboys' mid-October bye week.
It's worth noting that some of that dropoff is because Neville Gallimore returned from his elbow injury in the second half of the season. Still, it would be nice to see more week-to-week consistency in Year 2.
Best Of 2021: Odighizuwa looked like a rookie Pro Bowler during a two-game stretch in Weeks 3 & 4. In the Monday night drubbing of Philadelphia, he notched four tackles, two quarterback hits and 1.5 sacks against Jalen Hurts. He followed that up the next week with three tackles, three quarterback hits and a half-sack against Carolina. He might not have reached that high again in 2021, but he showed off plenty of ability as a disruptive interior pass rusher.
Contract Consideration: This is the beauty of hitting on draft picks from a front office perspective. Odighizuwa clearly has the potential to be a regular starter, and he is just one year into a four-year deal that's worth roughly $5.1 million.
What's Next: It was a promising rookie effort, but the Cowboys would love to see another step in 2022. Both Odighizuwa and Gallimore have flashed plenty of ability, but better consistency would be big from both players. In a best-case scenario, these two could provide quite a rotation of versatile defensive tackles with pass rush ability to spare.