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Draft Central | 2022

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Spagnola: The Draft Pick Cowboys Most Needed


FRISCO, Texas – Here is the beauty of the past three days.

One by one, the Cowboys satisfied some glaring needs without using a boardinghouse reach. Without prioritizing one need over another while considering if they scratch this itch, then how many qualified candidates later would be left for that itch.

All needing to do so 24th in line without panicking to compensate for their lower-third place in the 2022 NFL Draft by giving up picks to trapse around in the rounds.

Why needing an offensive lineman, preferably a offensive tackle capable of playing guard on the left side?

Gotcha, Tyler Smith, Tulsa, first round to exactly fit that bill, saying he will be trained as a "left" offensive lineman.

Needing a wide receiver, particularly a versatile one capable of playing all three positions and preferably with speed?

Got one, Jalen Tolbert, South Alabama, in the third.

Badly needing a tight end to complement the franchised (for now) Dalton Schultz, and preferably one with some inline blocking skills.

Yep, Jake Ferguson, Wisconsin, in the fourth, and at a school known for its blocking prowess and from a state known for blocking up cheese, too.

Need depth at offensive tackle, someone to compete with last year's fourth-rounder Josh Ball to possibly become the swing tackle without having to sign a castoff veteran?

Step right up Matt Waletzko, North Dakota, in the fourth, a left capable of playing right.

How about a just-in-case corner for depth purposes capable of playing special teams since the fate of Kelvin Joseph hangs somewhat in balance?

You bet, DaRond Bland, Fresno State, in the fifth, one with speed to burn and an all-around special teams player.

Oh, and how about doing this, instead of taking one of the four fifth-round draft choices to move around in this draft for better positioning, maybe take a flyer on a guy having fallen precipitously because of injury?

Well, here is your guy, Damone Clark linebacker, LSU, a sure second- or third-rounder until doctors at the NFL Combine discovered a herniated disk in his neck in need of repair, which took place March 24 to fuse two of his upper vertebrae together, potentially turning his rookie season into a redshirt year while facing at the very least a four to six month recovery.

Hey, and just for fun, what about one of those WWII pillbox types to clog up the middle against opponent running games the Cowboys have been susceptible to?

Bring on a guy known as "Big John," a good blinking light itself, one John Ridgeway, DT, Arkansas, 6-5, 321, to share that one-technique spot with Quinton Bohanna and Carlos Watkins.

What about a little linebacker depth, knowing that if you move Micah Parsons around at times to D-End, there must be guys to replace on the second level?

Come on down Devin Harper, linebacker, Oklahoma State, in the sixth, and as it turned out final round for the Cowboys, surely at least having a chance to make the final 53 as a special teamer.

Finally, to me, the poison-ivy menacing itch the Cowboys most needed to scratch and the pick that just must click is this one for sure:

Sam Williams, defensive end, Ole Miss, with the 24th pick in the second round, 56th overall, a noted pass rusher, but with the size at 6-4, 261 and speed to burn, with a 40 time at 4.46. Go look at some of his plays. Just what the doctor ordered.

Hey, I think No. 94 might be available, and not saying just to be cute. Seems fearless and relentless, in the mold of a Charles Haley or DeMarcus Ware or Randy Gregory, his 94 predecessors.

And look, I know the Cowboys signed veteran Dante Fowler Jr. as sav for the Gregory departure wound, but for only a one-year deal. Re-signed highly capable veteran Dorance Armstrong, but for a two-year deal.

But guarantee you when this guy is one the field, even if as a designated pass rusher for starters, the opposing QB will be looking for his number to be named soon. Every team needs one of these dynamic bad-will hunters.

"In the NFL, the passing numbers have gone up and you have to get pressure on the quarterback, and you've got a guy who's got wide receiver speed; he's got length and the strength; and knows how to rush the passer and play the run," Cowboys VP of player personnel Will McClay said with a certain amount of satisfaction. "They had him at different spots at Ole Miss early on, and they figured out 'Let's put his hand out on the edge and let him rush.'"

From the looks of things, great idea.

His numbers say so: In 2021, Ole Miss school record 12½ sacks; 57 total tackles, most for a Rebels defensive lineman since 2018; four forced fumbles; and15 tackles for loss. First-Team All-SEC, as meaningful as any of those numbers.

So, then you ask, why available as the 56th pick in the draft?

By now most of you will know he had a brush with the law while at Ole Miss in 2021, Oxford police charging him with sexual assault, causing Ole Miss to suspend him for two months (July and August) but reinstated come September after the charges were dropped.

Had a hardscrabble upbringing, and this is not mentioned to minimize those initial chargers. Just fact.

Sam and his siblings were removed from his birth mother's custody to live with a grandmother at the age of six, then an aunt and later with a high school friend's mother who became his legal guardian. To get to Ole Miss he first had a stop at Northeast Mississippi Junior College. Bouncing around as a child reminds of Dez Bryant's upbringing in East Texas.

This road to a Star on his helmet hasn't been easy.

"I had a friend growing up that is not here today that . . . I just have another chance of life every day that I wake up, so I appreciate it," Williams says. "The things I've been through, the upbringing I had, nine times out of 10 people don't make it where I am. I guess I was one of the lucky ones.

"Well, I say I'm blessed, but other people can say I'm the lucky one. I'm grateful. I'm thankful. I don't know how to explain it. It's just a blessing that I'm here."

As for the Cowboys, with all that has taken place during the past three days of this NFL Draft, all that seemingly has been accomplished with these nine picks, it's a "blessing" for them, too, Sam Williams is here.

Now he just needs to become "Sam the Man."

He's that needed.

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