PFF names this Cowboys rookie as NFC breakout candidate

Jalen Tolbert (Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)
Jalen Tolbert (Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Dallas Cowboys’ approach to the 2022 draft differed compared to their strategy in recent showcases when they took the best player available – Micah Parsons, CeeDee Lamb, Trevon Diggs chief among them – over drafting for need.

There’s something to be said about filling a hole, but it leaves front offices vulnerable to attaining the lowest possible value for a prospect. In the third-round, though, the Cowboys got tremendous value in South Alabama wideout Jalen Tolbert.

Nobody would’ve batted an eyelash if Tolbert went in the second round. The fact Dallas got him all the way at pick No. 88 – after Memphis’ Wan’Dale Robinson, Baylor’s Tyquan Thornton, Tennessee’s Velus Jones. Jr. – is a job well done.

As the expected No. 3 wideout behind Lamb and Michael Gallup, Tolbert is probably the safest bet amongst the Cowboys’ rookie class, including their first two draft choices, to make the biggest impact next season.

Tyler Smith could start at left guard, but growing pains are expected if he gets the nod, and second-rounder Sam Williams will likely be eased into the edge rusher rotation with DeMarcus Lawrence, Dante Fowler, Dorance Armstrong and Micah Parsons all in the mix.

With Tolbert expected to contribute from Day 1 as a rookie, Pro Football Focus’ Kambui Bomani named the former Jaguar as one of six potential NFC breakout candidates for the 2022 season.

Is Cowboys wideout Jalen Tolbert poised for a big rookie season?

Here’s what Bomani said about Tolbert’s case.

"CeeDee Lamb is expected to solidify his WR1 standing this year in spite of a few unknowns around him in the Cowboys’ receiving room. Michael Gallup may not be ready for Week 1 while still recovering from an ACL tear, leaving the position of Robin to Lamb’s Batman up for grabs.Dak Prescott’s deep connection with Gallup (95.5 grade on deep passes in 2021) could be taken over by the rookie Tolbert, at least early on, or semi-veteran James Washington. Tolbert had five receiving touchdowns on 20-plus yard passes en route to his career-high 98.2 deep receiving grade at South Alabama last season. The third-rounder boasts the upside to come in and hold down the WR2 position while remaining a mainstay in the Dallas passing offense once Gallup returns."

Bomani brings up a great point about Gallup. After initial reports suggested the former third-rounder would be all systems go by August, Gallup was noncommittal to the media about being activated in time for Week 1. That leaves the door open for him to waltz into WR2 duties if he puts together a productive camp.

We all remember what Gallup contributed to Dallas’ offense as a third-round rookie. While he didn’t truly take off until the Amari Cooper trade, Tolbert will have the luxury of playing behind an ascending star in Lamb, who is sure to draw more coverage as Dak Prescott’s de facto top target next season.

What do you think, Cowboys fans? Will Tolbert take the NFL by storm as a rookie? Whatever happens, the fact the South Alabama product was the only rookie to qualify for the list speaks volumes about what analysts think of his potential.