3 players the Cowboys should draft over Michael Mayer in first round

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The Dallas Cowboys own the 26th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and over the past couple of weeks, Michael Mayer to Dallas has been picking up steam.

Notable NFL Draft experts like Mel Kiper Jr., and Todd McShay have the Cowboys selecting Mayer with their first-round pick. Also, analysts like Dane Brugler of The Athletic can't "see Dallas passing" on him if he is available at 26.

Although Dallas enters the draft without a distinctive need, they could use extra tight-end help. After letting Dalton Schultz walk in free agency, a pair of sophomores in Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot will lead that group this upcoming season -- as it stands now.

In his rookie season, Ferguson definitely showed glimpses of what he can bring to the team. His best game of the year arguably came when Schultz was out with injury. He had four catches for 40 yards and a touchdown in a Week 6 loss.

But can Ferguson be the number one guy in Dallas? It appears that the Cowboys are happy with their tight end group, but are searching for a "Travis Kelce type" in this year's draft. That's why it makes sense for the Cowboys to take one early.

There's no doubt that Michael Mayer is a great athlete. He is a great run blocker and is extremely dangerous in the passing game. He put up over 65 catches and 800 yards in each of his last two college seasons at Notre Dame.

But taking him 26th overall might not be the best route for Dallas in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Since 2008, 12 tight ends have been selected in the first round and only two of them have been selected to more than one Pro Bowl: Jermaine Gresham (21st) in 2010 and T.J. Hockenson (8th) in 2019. The most recent selection was Kyle Pitts, who hasn't really lived up to his fourth overall draft status so far.

In the end, though, it would make total sense if the Cowboys took Mayer in the first round. He's a talented tight end that would give quarterback Dak Prescott another surefire weapon. But there are other prospects that would make more sense for Dallas to take at pick 26.

3 players the Cowboys should draft over Michael Mayer

3. Drew Sanders, LB

The Cowboys held Sanders for a top-30 visit earlier this month and the linebacker is projected to go somewhere between the late first round and early second round. It's a possibility that Dallas selects him with the 26th overall pick.

Jerry Jones doesn't have a strong history of selecting players from his Alma mater of Arkansas, but Sanders -- who grew up in Texas as a Cowboys fan and finished his college career with the Razorbacks -- would fit the bill.

Jones has only selected two players from Arkansas since he's taken over as the owner/GM of the team. He selected Felix Jones in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft and John Ridgeway in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

But besides the Arkansas connection, Sanders is an elite inside linebacker that the Cowboys could use next season.

The 6-foot-5 linebacker had a career-high 103 tackles (13.5 for loss), 9.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles in his senior season with the Razorbacks. He's an extremely tough and athletic prospect that has the tools to succeed as a tackler.

With Anthony Barr leaving in free agency, the Cowboys' linebacker group contains Leighton Vander Esch, Jabril Cox, and Damone Clark. The good news for Dallas is that Vander Esch is back with the team after re-signing for a two-year contract.

But between Vander Esch, Cox and Clark, there has been a lot of missed games due to injury.

Vander Esch has had his fair share of injuries in his career, which included playing in just 19 games combined in 2019 and 2020. He also missed three games last year with a neck injury. Cox tore his ACL in 2021 and has played in just 16 games over the past two seasons. Clark fell in the 2022 NFL Draft due to health concerns and managed to play in 10 games last year.

Sanders would not only help bring added depth to the Cowboys' linebacking group, but he would also add another dynamic, fast defender to Dallas' defense.