So Jerry Jones thinks this draft puts the Cowboys on a path to having a more talented team than the 2021 squad.
The Cowboys have lost key starters or contributors such as defensive end Randy Gregory, receiver Amari Cooper, guard Connor Williams, tackle La’el Collins and receiver Cedrick Wilson since the end of last season.
They have not replaced any of those dudes with better players.
Dante Fowler isn’t better than Gregory and neither is second-round pick Sam Williams. And Cooper is better than James Washington or rookie Jalen Tolbert, and you could say the same about Wilson.
Terence Steele is a push with Collins and we have zero idea whether first-round pick Tyler Smith will be a better guard than Connor Williams.
Just because Jones says it doesn’t make it so.
Dallas doesn’t have a better roster than the 2021 team.
— When the owner and general manager says the Cowboys have put together a talented roster, it puts even more pressure on the coach to win.
After all, if the players are good and the team doesn’t reach its goals, then it must be coaching.
It’s going to be difficult for coach Mike McCarthy to survive this season without a deep playoff run — think championship game — with a lesser team.
— The NFC East hasn’t had a repeat champion since Philadelphia did it in 2003 and 2004.
It’s going to be hard for Dallas to hold off Philadelphia this season, despite the Cowboys’ edge at quarterback.
Philadelphia added significant draft pieces in defensive tackle Jordan Davis in the first round and linebacker Nakobe Dean in the second.
Then they acquired receiver AJ Brown in a trade with Tennessee. The Eagles are considerably better.
So are the New York Giants, who added defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux and tackle Evan Neal in the first round. Their hole at quarterback prevents them from being a threat.
Still, they’ve closed the gap.
— This wasn’t a sexy draft, the kind that has the fan base buzzing and media proclaiming future championships.
But that doesn’t mean it was a bad draft, just a boring one.
The Cowboys took players who filled needs at left guard, defensive end, receiver and tight end.
Now, there aren’t many walk-in starters aside from Smith, but they better get between 600-800 snaps from Williams, Tolbert and tight end Jake Ferguson.
— The Cowboys signed Fowler, the third pick in the 2015 draft, to a one-year deal for the minimum salary.
It shouldn’t take Williams long to supplant Fowler, playing for his fourth team since 2018.
Fowler had a career-high 11.5 sacks in 2019, but that’s clearly an outlier. In seasons 2018, 2020 and 2021, Fowler had a combined 11.5 sacks.
The Cowboys’ record of getting big-time production from second-round picks has been hit and miss for the last decade, in part, because they’ve taken so many players with risks whether they’re on or off the field.
Williams, if he’s the pass-rusher Dallas thinks he is, should be on the field in passing situations a lot more than Fowler.
The reality is that second-round picks should start or play significant snaps. Nothing on Fowler’s resume suggests he should keep Williams off the field for long.
— The Cowboys spent four picks on linemen — two offensive and two defensive — and a tight end from run-happy Wisconsin.
Clearly, they were traumatized from the physical butt-kicking San Francisco delivered during the playoffs.
The 49ers controlled the line of scrimmage in their 23-17 win over Dallas.
They rushed for 169 yards and a 4.4 average. Defensively, they limited Dallas to 77 yards rushing, while sacking Dak Prescott five times.
This is a draft designed to prevent the Cowboys from getting pushed around.
— It’s always interesting when a team has its quarterback talk to prospects before the draft.
Well, Prescott spent about 20 minutes on the phone with Tolbert.
If he said something Prescott didn’t like would they have passed on him?
Evidently, Tolbert said all the right things and it’s better to have the quarterback involved than mad and frustrated because he’s not like Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Of course, if Tolbert works out, he’ll be a Prescott pick and if he doesn’t he’ll be a Stephen Jones pick (insert laugh track).
Truth is the Cowboys need Tolbert to be a good player for them this season.
Michael Gallup, a third-round pick, caught 33 passes for 507 yards as a rookie. Dez Bryant, a first-round pick, caught 45 passes for 561 yards and six touchdowns as a rookie.
With Gallup expected to miss a game or two at the start of the season, it would be nice for Tolbert to be ready to play and contribute early.
The Cowboys are one CeeDee Lamb ankle sprain away from Washington being their No.1 receiver at the start of the season.
— I don’t like the idea of automatically giving first-round picks legacy numbers, even though it has become part of the Cowboys’ marketing strategy.
There’s no way in the world you should give a developmental player, the fifth tackle and eighth lineman taken in the first round, the number worn by one of the greatest linemen ever.
Frankly, Larry Allen should have the same treatment Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith have, which is to say no player should be wearing it.
Allen is a Hall of Fame player who’s in the discussion for best guard ever.
Yes, guard Joe Looney recently wore Allen’s number, but that doesn’t make it right.
Lamb was one of college football’s best players, who played at one of college football’s premier programs.
He fell in the draft, and was expected to develop into an NFL star. He could handle being linked to Drew Pearson, Michael Irvin and Dez Bryant — and he didn’t even want to wear it initially.
There’s no need to put the kind of pressure on Smith whether it’s real or perceived.
— John Ridgeway is an interesting pick and not because he went to Arkansas.
He’s a 6-5, 321-pounder whose job is to stop the run.
The Cowboys, for years, have spent little draft capital on first- and second-down space-eaters.
Drafting Ridgeway is the Cowboys admitting they need to get bigger and better against the run.
Dallas finished 16th against the run, allowing 112.8 yards per game.
Maybe Ridgeway can help the Cowboys lower that number.
— The Cowboys love Smith’s potential.
Will drafting him make them a better team in 2022? That’s debatable — and that’s the issue.
Smith is a talented project, who will be making the jump from a Group of Five program while learning a new position.
Then there’s the issue of the 16 penalties he committed last season.
Talk to enough coaches and they’ll tell you players commit a lot of penalties for one reason: they’re not good enough so they have to cheat.
They’re usually not good enough because they’re hurt or they’re not talented enough.
The Cowboys believe he committed so many penalties because of poor technique and too much aggression.
Let’s hope he’s better than Connor Williams.
There’s no guarantee that happens.
Jean-Jacques Taylor, a former SportsDay columnist, is the host of JaM Session Podcast which can be heard Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.
Find more Cowboys coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.