Free agency is technically the next landmark date in the Dallas Cowboys offseason, but the draft is dominating conversation for the time being with the 2023 Senior Bowl having just wrapped up in Mobile, Alabama over the weekend, and the scouting combine taking place later this month.
The National team cruised to a 27-10 win over the American team, but this annual fixture is all about how prospects perform. Most players take the platform as opportunity to improve their draft stock, while others unfortunately see their draft stock fall over the three days of practice and weekend exhibition.
This is just the first step in the pre-draft process, though. Between the combine, player interviews, and team pro days, prospects have ample time remaining before the showcase to prove why they should be drafted this year.
The Cowboys are one of the best drafting teams in the NFL, and it’s very possible one (or multiple) Senior Bowl participants caught Will McClay and company’s eye. Let’s underline some players who showed out in Mobile this week.
4 Senior Bowl stars we’d love to see in a Cowboys uniform
Jake Haener, QB, Fresno State
Haener might’ve been the biggest Senior Bowl winner. He capped an excellent week of practice by taking home game MVP honors after going 12-of-19 for 139 yards and a long touchdown. The ball fizzed out of his hands during practice — a tell-tale sign he was quick going through his progressions — and is coming off a season in which he led Fresno State to the Mountain West championship.
Jerry Jones claims the Cowboys are committed to drafting a QB this year. With Cooper Rush an impending free agent, Haener makes a lot of sense as a potential mid-to-late-round pick to backup Dak Prescott in 2023
Tyjae Spears, RB, Tulane
If the Cowboys don’t draft a running back this year, fans might go insane. Either way, Spears was the most electric player down in Mobile this year. Northwestern running back Ethan Hull represented the position well, too, but Spears is one of the biggest Senior Bowl risers regardless of position.
Whether he was carrying the football or catching it, Spears was a menace with the ball in his hands. He ripped a long touchdown run on Wednesday in shotgun formation. All it took was two cuts upfield and Spears was gone, which is a testament to his lateral quickness and ability to explode through a hole.
To cap it all off, Spears showed out in pass-protection drills, proving that he can handle his own as a pass-blocker at 5-foot-9 and 204 pounds.
Lonnie Phelps, EDGE, Kansas
Kansas’ program took a colossal step in 2022 under Lance Leipold. While Jalon Daniels and Devin Neal were the Jayhawks’ driving forces on offense, defensive lineman Lonnie Phelps set the tone on defense every Saturday.
Phelps was everywhere for the National team. He nearly sacked Clayton Tune for a safety, and forced a fumble on the first drive after halftime with a nifty arm tackle. Later in the game, it was Phelps’ pressure on Tyson Bagent that flushed the quarterback and forced him into making an off-balanced throw that got picked off.
It’s fun to think about Phelps stepping in as a rotational pass rusher behind DeMarcus Lawrence, Micah Parsons, Sam Williams and Dorance Armstrong. Speaking of which, the Cowboys drafted Armstrong out of Kansas in the fourth round back in 2018. Might Phelps be the next Jayhawk to catch Will McClay’s eye?
Michael Wilson, WR, Stanford
Wilson might be viewed as a Day 2 prospect after a great Senior Bowl week. In Saturday’s game, the Stanford receiver caught 4 passes for 76 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Just how impressive was Wilson? He was named the best catcher at the Senior Bowl by PFF’s Trevor Sikkema.
It’s no secret the Cowboys need to upgrade at receiver. While Wilson shouldn’t be viewed as the position’s saving grace, he’d be a great pickup as the offense’s new WR4 behind CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, and whomever the front office identifies (perhaps Odell Beckham Jr.) as the new third option.
Wilson was Stanford’s captain in 2022, and he has all the off-field intangibles you could want in a prospect. Just watch this interview.