Every Dallas Cowboys draft is an adventure, just trying to figure out which direction Jerry Jones will go with the team’s first-round pick. Over the past decade, Jones and company have placed more stock in the draft than in free agency. Contrary to popular belief, Jones, his son Stephen, and the team’s scouting department have done quite well selecting draft picks during this time. This year they have plenty of needs like any other team, so let’s look at the five players that could be announced at No. 26 in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Darnell Wright: Tackle, Tennessee
Drafting an offensive lineman in the first round isn’t considered exciting or a Jerry Jones-type move, but sometimes it’s necessary and makes sense. Wright is the fourth-ranked tackle by Pro Football Focus and could be available at No. 26 when Jones’ Cowboys are on the clock Thursday night. With All-Pro tackle Tyron Smith’s health and age becoming more of a concern each year, the time could be right for looking to the future at the position. Plus, offensive line depth is never a bad thing in the NFL.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba: Wide Receiver, Ohio State
Under normal circumstances, Dallas wouldn’t have a shot at selecting Smith-Njigba this late in the first round. Still, after missing most of the 2022 season for OSU, Jaxon has been projected to potentially fall into the 20s in this year’s draft. While the Cowboys have other more glaring needs, we know Jerry loves a value pick (like many teams) and could decide to look past the hamstring injury that hampered Smith-Njigba causing him to play in just three games last fall. In 2021, Smith-Njigba caught 95 balls for just under 1,600 yards. The talent is undoubtedly there, so if Smith-Njigba somehow lasts until 26, he could be the steal of the first round for Big D.
Bijan Robinson: Running Back, Texas
The Longhorns’ stud ball carrier feels like the most unpredictable player in the first round. Robinson could be drafted anywhere from No. 8 by the Falcons to the end of round one. Many teams are hesitant to draft running backs in the first round with the continued devaluation of the position. We already know the Cowboys don’t fear this, having taken Ezekiel Elliot at No. 4 in 2016. If the Cowboys are seriously interested in Robinson, it may take Dallas jumping into the top 20 to make that happen. His projections are all over the board in multiple mock drafts, but seeing him fall as far as 26 feels wrong.
Trenton Simpson: Linebacker, Clemson
Anytime you can get an athletic, rangy linebacker with 4.43 40-yard dash speed, it’s hard to pass on that player. Trenton Simpson brings that speed along with the ability to cover and get after quarterbacks when needed. Adding Simpson to a linebacking core led by Micah Parsons could make the Cowboys’ front seven even tougher than last season. This pick would definitely catch the attention of opposing NFC East offenses.
Michael Mayer: Tight End, Notre Dame
After losing Dalton Shulz to the Houston Texans in free agency, the Cowboys have an opening at the tight end position. If Bijan Robinson is no longer available, Mayer could be the one for Dallas, as he’s projected to still be hanging around when the Cowboys pick at 26. Mayer fits the mold of Cowboys TEs we’ve seen in recent years. He’s not the most athletic but brings a big body with pass-catching capabilities and should be able to contribute immediately.