Will McClay discusses his role and reveals Cowboys’ draft details

Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy, Will McClay Mandatory Credit: James D. Smith via USA TODAY Sports
Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy, Will McClay Mandatory Credit: James D. Smith via USA TODAY Sports /

Amidst mixed reviews about a Dallas Cowboys front office led by Jerry and Stephen Jones, there is one man who fans seem to love: Will McClay. His official title is vice president of player personnel, but he is known to most as a draft and scouting guru. McClay has been with the Cowboys for over 20 years. With his help, Dallas has drafted eight players who have made at least one Pro Bowl since 2014. McClay’s keen ability to find excellent players earned him a contract extension after the 2021 season.

After the 2022 NFL Draft, the VP sat down with one of the team’s reporters to break down the Cowboys’ decisions and thoughts on the draft. Unlike his boss, McClay was weary to give away too much information. He started the interview by saying, “I’m not sure how much we will talk about.” Regardless, there was certainly a lot to learn from the interview.

Cowboys reporter David Helman started by asking McClay about what kind of players the team was looking for in the draft. Big men with mauler-type play seemed to be a theme amongst the nine players drafted by Dallas. Tyler Smith is 6-5 and 324 pounds, Matt Waletzko is 6-7 and 315 pounds, and John Ridgeway is 6-6 and 320 pounds. McClay confirmed Helman’s idea stating that the Cowboys were looking for physical guys who had an aggressive play style to add to the roster:

"“Football is a big man’s game. We wanted to add big, athletic players to our roster. I think the big thing was to add more of that physicality, more of that temperament to what we do in our team on both sides of the ball, offensive and defensively. Winning at the line of scrimmage. Part of that you do with athleticism, but you also do it with attitude."

In a recent interview, Will McClay discussed what the Cowboys wanted out of the draft and what sold him on certain players

McClay also said that it was important for the front office to get others involved. He told Helman that he gave quarterback Dak Prescott a list of receivers to reach out to, which is how draftee Jalen Tolbert ended up getting a call from the QB. McClay felt that having younger guys talk to prospects could help with the process. Helman argued that McClay was cool given he was wearing a pair of Jordans in the interview. McClay replied, “I’m hip, but I’m still old.”

When asked about what stood out about certain players, the VP mentioned that personality and drive were big factors. McClay was excited about the way the wide receiver approached football. He said Tolbert was prepared, focused, had a great mindset, and was clearly able to state his strengths and weaknesses. He also noted his conversation with Damone Clark at the Senior Bowl, a prospect he said was “all business and all ball.”

Helman also asked the draft guru how he approaches going to events like Pro Days or the Senior Bowl (side note: four of the first five players drafted by Dallas were in the Senior Bowl). McClay said he does his research on what scouts are saying about prospects, but he really tries to go into these events “with fresh eyes.” After so many years of perfecting his craft, he wants to develop his own opinion.

One of the most interesting questions asked was how McClay handles balancing all of the different voices and personalities in the organization. The VP said that while he knows he has his job for a reason, every decision the front office makes is a collective one. He knows that his opinion carries weight, but also recognizes that his stance is not the end all be all. McClay also admitted that it’s not an easy process. It’s incredibly hard to forecast and project how human beings will do when converting from one football environment to another. In order to do that well, McClay said everyone needs to work together.

The VP typically stays quiet and away from the media (especially with Jerry and Stephen Jones taking up a lot of the limelight), but it’s always nice the hear the perspective of others in the front office. The Cowboys are lucky to have his knowledge in the building.

Next. A Cowboys' Way-Too-Early 53-Man Roster Projection. dark