COLLEGE FOOTBAL: SEP 23 Oklahoma at Cincinnati
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FRISCO, Texas -- If the Dallas Cowboys are going to make a fourth consecutive playoff trip next season, they needed to ace the 2024 NFL Draft

They lost eight of their own players in free agency, tied for the third most in one offseason in Cowboys history. Five of those losses were starters: running back Tony Pollard (Tennessee Titans), center Tyler Biadasz (Washington Commanders), left tackle Tyron Smith (New York Jets), defensive end Dorance Armstrong (Washington Commanders) and defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins (Seattle Seahawks). 

Those losses occurred because Dallas wasn't able to re-up quarterback Dak Prescott ($55.1 million cap hit in final year of contract), who led the NFL with 36 touchdown passes in 2023, and wide receiver CeeDee Lamb ($17.991 million cap hit in final year of contract), who led the NFL with 135 catches in 2023, to long-term extensions prior to free agency. Doing so would have enabled the Cowboys to spread those cap hits out more evenly across future seasons. They have signed two external free agents this offseason: 32-year-old Pro Bowl linebacker Eric Kendricks (one year, $3 million contract) and 28-year-old journeyman running back Royce Freeman

"We feel great about what we've been in free agency. All in. All in. All in," Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. "We're all in with these young guys. We're all in with this draft. We're all in with knowing that you have to go. We've had adjustments. ... Again, without sounding defensive at all, the youth, the young guys coming in here and playing are incrementally viable. We're counting on them and we've had that happen for us."  

After being outmuscled in their 48-32 playoff loss against the Green Bay Packers, the Cowboys focused on getting stronger along their offensive line and in their front seven. Their first four picks addressed those areas, and Dallas finished the draft with linemen on both sides of the ball. The mission was to get "bigger and stronger." The Cowboys did just that.

Below is a look at every single pick the Cowboys made along with a grade for each.   

RoundOverall PickPlayerGrade


29 (via trade with Detroit Lions)

Tyler Guyton, OT, OklahomaB (Pete Prisco)



Marshawn Kneeland, DE, Western Michigan B- (Chris Trapasso)
373 (via trade with Detroit Lions)Cooper Beebe, OL, Kansas StateB+ (Chris Trapasso)



Marist Liufau, LB, Notre Dame  
C+ (Chris Trapasso)


174 (compensatory pick)

Caelen Carson, CB, Wake ForestB+ (Chris Trapasso)


216 (compensatory pick)

Ryan Flournoy, WR, Southeast Missouri StateA (Chris Trapasso)


233 (via trade with Raiders)

Nathan Thomas, OT, Louisiana-LafayetteA (Chris Trapasso)  



Justin Rogers, DT, AuburnC (Chris Trapasso)

Cowboys select Oklahoma OT Tyler Guyton at No. 29

Dallas essentially held up a blinking, neon sign at its pre-draft press conference on Tuesday when talking about their biggest draft need: offensive line. After eight-time Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith departed for the New York Jets and Pro Bowl center Tyler Biadasz followed Dan Quinn to the Washington Commanders in free agency, the Cowboys had holes at center and either left guard or left tackle, depending on where they decide to play 2023 Pro Bowl left guard Tyler Smith, a college left tackle at Tulsa, going forward. 

"I think in general, if you look at attrition, if you talk about where it hits us the hardest, it's the guys we lost in the offensive line," Cowboys COO and executive VP Stephen Jones said Tuesday.  

Smith revealed he feels most comfortable at left guard coming off the Pro Bowl nod, but he is amicable to playing left tackle. Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy accidentally revealed that he sees Smith's best position as left guard. 

"Now, where Tyler would line up, it would probably be at guard ... or maybe tackle," McCarthy said laughing. 

Now that the Cowboys selected Oklahoma's Tyler Guyton, an offensive tackle who didn't allow a sack on 335 pass-blocking snaps in 2023, Smith remains at left guard. Guyton, who stands at 6-foot-8 while weighing 322 pounds, possesses plenty of athletic gifts. His 34 1/8-inch arms and 82 1/4-inch wingspan that he measured at the NFL Scouting Combine are ideal attributes for an NFL offensive tackle. Guyton was CBS Sports' seventh-ranked offensive tackle and 36th-ranked overall player in this draft. 

Guyton is quick on his feet and well-balanced in pass protection. The top element of his game is how he uses his hands like a boxer, striking and counter-punching oncoming pass rushers. He also has fluidity with his hips, which allows him to bend and recover well in pass protection. Guyton could improve his efficiency with his hands, and his leverage could improve if he cut down on the amount of snaps in which he stood up too upright. Thirteen of his 15 college starts came at right tackle, so Dallas will need to work on him a lot about transitioning to left tackle. However, Guyton was a blindside protector as a Sooner as Oklahoma's 2023 starting quarterback, Dillon Gabriel, was left-handed. 

Ultimately, Dallas gets what it wanted: an athletic tackle it can replace Tyron Smith with, and Tyler Smith gets to remain at left guard where he and McCarthy feel he can play his best. Mission accomplished, even with the trade back

Prisco grade: B

"This is a move that has been predicted by a lot of people. He played right tackle in college, but can move to the left side. This fills a major need."

Cowboys select Western Michigan edge rusher Marshawn Kneeland at No. 56

Marshawn Kneeland, a fifth-year senior who stands at 6 feet, 3 inches while weighing 267 pounds, comes in with the traits (34 1/4-inch arms and a 4.75 40-yard dash) to provide more to juice to a Cowboys' pass rush that led the NFL in quarterback pressure rate last season (45%).

Kneeland possesses a prototypical NFL edge rusher build, utilizing the long wing span and burst off the line of scrimmage to achieve a leverage advantage over offensive linemen. He also has a strong motor, and the football IQ to diagnose reads in the run game. 

The cons are his quickness when countering a blocker's attempt to slow him down is much slower than his initial jump off the line of scrimmage, and he can get lost inside. Not ever having five sacks in a single college football season, 4.5 was his career high, is a little concerning, but he faced regular double teams on Western Michigan. That won't be the case for him anymore playing alongside three-time All-Pro edge rusher Micah Parsons and four-time Pro Bowl edge rusher DeMarcus Lawrence. While five-time Pro Bowl cornerback Stephon Gilmore isn't on the team anymore and Pro Bowl corner Trevon Diggs is coming off a torn ACL, adding more muscle to their defensive front will take some of the burden off of their secondary. 

Trapasso grade: B-

"Big-time tester who might be just scratching the surface of how good he can be around the corner. Doesn't quite play to his workout but works the edges of OTs very well. Shows glimpses of countering ability. Just didn't ever dominate in the MAC. Roll of the dice."  

Cowboys select Kansas State OL Cooper Beebe at No. 73

Dallas turned its trade back five spots in the first round on Thursday from 24 to 29 with the Detroit Lions into two new offensive linemen: Oklahoma offensive tackle Tyler Guyton (29th) and Kansas State interior offensive lineman Cooper Beebe.

Beebe, a 2023 consensus All-American and back-to-back Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year (2022, 2023), appears to be the long-term replacement for 33-year-old, nine-time Pro Bowl right guard Zack Martin, who is entering the final year of his contract in 2024. Beebe earned First-Team All-Big 12 selections in each of the last three seasons because he is an absolute menace off the line of scrimmage. His burst off the snap is superb as is his handwork. Beebe consistently pancakes opposing lineman into the turf, barreling ahead in the run game like a freight train, forcing others to adapt to his incoming presence. Beebe was mostly a guard in college, but perhaps Mike McCarthy moves him to center for a season in 2024 to replace the departed Tyler Biadasz.  

Their projected 2024 offensive line now looks like this: Tyler Guyton at left tackle, Tyler Smith at left guard, Cooper Beebe at center, Zack Martin at right guard and Terence Steele at right tackle. That's a front five that has as much upside as any in the entire NFL. 

Trapasso grade: B+  

"The reconstruction of the OL continues in Dallas. Older, super-experienced guard-only who's rarely out of position. Athletic limitations are obvious. Low center of gravity gives him quality anchor. Smart pick here despite minimal upside. High floor."

Cowboys select Notre Dame LB Marist Liufau at No. 87

With the retirement of Pro Bowl linebacker Leighton Vander Esch plus 2023 third-round pick linebacker DeMarvion Overshown coming off a torn ACL he suffered in training camp last season, the Cowboys needed to add depth to their linebacker corps. They did so first by signing 32-year-old Pro Bowl linebacker Eric Kendricks in free agency. They add another player in Day 2 by choosing Notre Dame's Marist Liufau in the third round.

Liufau is built like a modern-day NFL inside linebacker at 6-2, 234 pounds and recorded a 4.64 40-yard dash with 34 1/4-inch arms. He has good burst with his first step, and he can close ground quickly. Liufau plays with an aggressive, thumping mentality, something the Cowboys could use in their front seven. He is solid when blitzing and is willing to put his body on the line to make a play. Liufau makes good use of his hands on tight ends in press man coverage off the line of scrimmage. 

He can sometimes overrun plays, and he could do a better job wrapping up to tackle instead of pritorizing the big hit. Jerry Jones is trusting new defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to coach Liufau up to sand off his rough edges. He took some advice from his cousin, Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua, about how to adjust to NFL life. Not bad a person to have as a sounding board in the NFL's rookie catches (105) and receiving yards record holder (1,486).

Trapasso grade: C+

"Hair-on-fire off-ball LB who gets the expected results with that style. Many missed tackles. Many highlight-reel hits. Showed he can cover underneath. Plays faster than his workout. More build-up speed than pure burst. Ball skills are lacking and can be easily baited by play-action. Plus blitzer. Fun add here but overaggression hurts him at times." 

Cowboys select Wake Forest CB Caelen Carson at No. 174

Caelen Carson possesses decent NFL cornerback measurables (6 feet tall while weighing 199 pounds with 31 3/8" arm length), and the fluidity in his hips allows him to remain stride for stride in coverage. Carson does well surveying route progressions in zone coverage and has the anticipatory skills to deflect passes (29 passes defended, including eight in 2023). 

Carson saw a lot of time as an inside corner, making him an ideal player to learn from Jourdan Lewis as a rookie. Only having three career collegiate interceptions and none since his sophomore year in 2021 is a slight concern. He missed the Senior Bowl with a foot injury, but he should be a full offseason participant. If he can improve on his ball skills and be a little more consistent in coverage, he can play either inside or outside corner with some upside as a potential starter down the road. 

Trapasso grade: B+

"Smaller outside CB with just enough quicks to scoot inside if he needs to. Instincts are there. Quicker than fast. And some stiffness appears on film when getting out of his backpedal to change directions. Sound tackler. Not a standout trait type but does everything well." 

Cowboys select Southeast Missouri State WR Ryan Flournoy at No. 216

Southeast Missouri State wide receiver Ryan Flournoy, a two-time Ohio Valley Conference first team selection, dominated at the NFL Scouting Combine, registering a 4.44 40-yard dash with a vertical jump of 39.5 inches and an 11-foot broad jump while standing at 6'1, 202 pounds. 

Flournoy is a prototypical outside receiver with strong physical traits. He's a downfield playmaker, but it can take him a little time to accelerate down the sideline. Flournoy is a long strider, and he is a yards-after-catch threat because defensive backs need to really smack him on the catch to bring him down on their first attempt. He won't win right away off the line of scrimmage because he can struggle to drop his hips and explode out of his breaks. Flournoy is athletic enough to evolve those skillsets in the NFL, and he is adept at making catches away from his body. He could start out as deep ball receiver and look to build out his route tree from there. 

Trapasso grade: A

"Big, chiseled vertical threat who makes it a nightmare for DBs to corral him once he gets the ball in his hands. While he's not incredibly sudden, he is a horse in space. Back-shoulder skill is there. Love this pick."

Cowboys select Louisiana OT Nathan Thomas at No. 233

Nathan Thomas is built like a prototypical offensive tackle, standing at 6-foot-5 while weighing 332 pounds. His 33 3/4-inch arms allow him to redirect defenders with his strength and upper-body leverage. Thomas moves well in zone-based run concepts. He can be late at times to anchor in pass protection, but his natural strength is such that he can negate that issue with his own power. Thomas could do a better job of staying under control when out in space in the run game, and he could improve at his blocking pursuit in the second level of the defense. Thomas exclusively played left tackle in college, so he doesn't have interior experience at the college level. 

Thomas' technique needs refinement, but his agility and natural strength helps him mitigate his fundamental issues. The pure power he plays with may translate better at guard than tackle if Thomas doesn't correct his technique. 

Trapasso grade: A

"No-nonsense power blocker with serious girth and starting caliber length to stay at OT in the NFL," Trapasso said. "Not a high-level athlete but wins with initial quicks and a deft utilization of his length to get into DLs in a flash. Recovery want-to is there. One of my favorite blockers in the class."

Cowboys select Auburn DT Justin Rogers at No. 244

Justin Rogers plays defensive tackle like you would like someone who stands at 6 feet, two-and-a-half inches while weighing 330 pounds: BIG. Opposing offensive linemen struggle with moving him out of their ball carrier's way once he anchors down at his spot. Rogers doesn't have the best lateral movement, but he can move other people up front with ease. He isn't the longest player (32 3/4-inch arms), but Rogers is wide enough to be a stopper against the run on early downs. 

Trapasso grade: C

"Classic block-eating nose tackle," Trapasso said. "Knows how to handle doubles and will occasionally make a play against the run. Lacks the burst, length, or hand work to win routinely up the field."