Perfect Picks 2024: Dallas Cowboys

By Joshua Edwards

The pattern continued for Dallas this past season. Double digit wins, hype, and a disappointing playoff loss. Last time it was to the 49ers, this time it was to the ultra-young, gutsy Packers. Despite having tremendous offensive and defensive numbers by almost all metrics, the Cowboys were once again left wondering what on earth they had to change to go further in the post-season.

Change of a sort did come in the aftermath, with DC Dan Quinn leaving for the top job in Washington (no, not that job), but in a surprising turn of events Mike McCarthy was spared the chop, and returns for a 5th year. Let’s look at what the ‘Boys can do in the draft to help finally get them over their post-season hoodoo.

Round 1 - Johnny Newton, DT, Illinois

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The middle of Dallas’s defensive line is a weak spot relative to the rest of the unit. It’s now a real position of need after free agency, with Jonathan Hankins leaving for Seattle and Neville Gallimore leaving for Miami. The Cowboys haven’t signed a DT yet and although Eric Kendricks will help in run support, they’ll surely be keen to bolster the line in the draft. 

Johnny Newton may well be available at 24 and would be an excellent choice. The Illinois lineman didn’t test at the combine as he recovers from a foot injury, but his measurements fit the bill – Newton is 6’2 and 304 pounds, with 32 3/8-inch arms and 9 1/2-inch hands. Most importantly he’s a disruptive force on a defense. Newton, who went by Jer’Zhan in college, played 47 games for the Fighting Illini and finished with 18 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 79 solo tackles. PFF claims that he also generated 43 pressures in 2023 and 59 in 2022. He can anchor the middle of that line for the Cowboys and give offensive coordinators an extra headache alongside Parsons and Lawrence on the outside.

Round 2 - Trey Benson, RB, Florida State

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If Jerry Jones can avoid the temptation of picking up a running back in the first round, Trey Benson might be a value pick in the second. The Florida State product is routinely ranked in the top 3 prospects at the position this year. Yes, conventional wisdom considers this a bit of a ‘dead zone’ for picking backs nowadays, but if Benson falls, this could make a lot of sense. He ran a 4.39 40 at the Combine, and was productive enough his senior year, rushing for 905 yards and 14 scores. It’s all the more impressive considering Benson’s comeback from an horrific injury in 2020, when he tore his ACL, MCL, lateral meniscus, medial meniscus, and hamstring all at once.

With Tony Pollard leaving, Brian Schottenheimer will surely be keen to refresh the position and Benson’s home run speed could be hard to turn down.

Mid Round Gem - Tommy Eichenberg, LB, Ohio State

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Back to defense for a mid-round dart throw at the linebacker position, which, despite the aforementioned signing of Eric Kendricks, could still do with a freshen-up in Dallas. I love Tommy Eichenberg, who might be my most bullish mid-round gem for this season’s Perfect Picks series. Eichenberg is a seriously oldskool backer, and tough as hell – he played with broken hands for two games back in ‘22. If you recognise the name it’s probably because his older brother is an offensive lineman for the Dolphins.

I personally think the Buckeye is being consistently undervalued because the modern NFL covets lateral speed so much at the position, but in a defense like Dallas’s, with so much speed and athleticism, there could be room for a downhill, run-stopping, tunnel-visioned linebacker like Eichenberg. He finished 2023 with 82 total tackles, and was defensive MVP in the 2022 Rose Bowl – it is worth checking out that tape for a tackling masterclass.

Late Round Sleeper - Omar Speights, LB, LSU

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I’m sticking with linebacker again here and following a (relatively) tried and tested methodology of taking swings on SEC guys with decent numbers in spite of obvious deficiencies. Omar Speights fits the bill, notching 70 tackles last season. Speights might lack in size and has battled injuries (notably a hip issue this past season) but he’s a real hustler and could be worth a flyer, either with a late-round pick or as an UDFA. I look at his Oregon State profile as much as I do his post-transfer LSU production, and think he’ll be an immediate contributor on special teams at the very least.

Draft in full

Round 1 – Johnny Newton, DT, Illinois

Round 2 – Trey Benson, RB, Florida State

Round 3 – Sedrick Van Pran-Granger, OC, Georgia

Round 4 – Tommy Eichenberg, LB, Ohio State

Round 5 – Jowon Briggs, DT, Cincinnati

Round 6 – Omar Speights, LB, LSU

Round 7 – Joshua Cephus, WR, UTSA

Joshua Edwards