3 players Cowboys unwisely passed on in Round 1 of 2022 draft
By Jerry Trotta
On the surface, the Dallas Cowboys didn’t hit a slam dunk in the draft like in recent years when they struck gold in Micah Parsons at No. 12 overall in 2021 and CeeDee Lamb and Trevon Diggs with their first two picks in 2020.
In Parsons and Lamb’s case, the Cowboys adopted the best player available strategy over addressing a position of need.
This year, though, they flip-flopped, plugging an offensive line hole in the form of Tulsa tackle Tyler Smith, who could start at guard as a rookie following the departure of Connor Williams, with the No. 24 pick.
While everyone is obviously pulling for Smith, the selection was widely considered a reach given his rawness and propensity to commit penalties. This narrative intensified after Jerry Jones revealed Dallas’ big board to the media, which showed they had a second-round grade on Smith.
With that in mind, let’s put our general manager hat on and highlight three prospects the Cowboys unwisely passed on to draft Smith.
3 prospects the Cowboys unwisely passed on in Round 1
3. Jermaine Johnson
If you take a look at the Cowboys’ depth chart, they don’t have a pressing need at edge rusher. With DeMarcus Lawrence back on a new-and-improved contract, Parsons putting his finger in the dirt on occasion, and Dorance Armstrong and Dante Fowler in tow, there are worse DE rotations in the NFL.
The second Randy Gregory’s contract agreement went up in flames, however, Dallas should’ve mulled taking a pass rusher in Round 1.
While they drafted Ole Miss’ Sam Williams in the second round, passing up on a prospect in Johnson whom many teams graded as a top-10 player in the draft is begging to blow up in their face.
Fowler has 23.5 sacks in six seasons outside of a breakout 2019 that saw him record 11.5 QB takedowns and Armstrong had never played more than 33 percent of the snaps or tallied more than two sacks before last year.
In other words, Dallas is banking on defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to further expedite their development when they could’ve simply drafted a readymade rusher and potential defensive cornerstone in Johnson.
Though an older prospect, Johnson utterly dominated the ACC in his final season at Florida State, notching ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors and tying for eighth in the country with 18 tackles for loss. He added 12 sacks, 70 total tackles and two forced fumbles for good measure.
The Cowboys have reaped the benefits of drafting the best player available in recent years. They better hope Williams turns into something special and Johnson, who went two picks after Smith to the Jets at No. 26 overall, isn’t the steal seemingly every analyst in the business thinks he is after he slipped to the end of the first round.