The Dallas Cowboys had a rocky offseason with many of their players and key contributors departing in free agency. This comes as no surprise as Jerry Jones has lived on building through the draft as his cornerstone for this franchise. In the 2022 NFL Draft, the Cowboys selected nine players, the consensus rating of this draft class was a: B.
While there wasn’t a name that garnered the same excitement as 2021 1st round pick, Micah Parsons, this year’s draft class offers high upside for the future. The Cowboys undrafted free agent (UDFA) class was rated by NBC’s Draft Analyst Thor Nystrom as the number 1 class. Nystrom noted “Dallas’ UDFA class had everything: Draftable talent, depth, athleticism (nine tested in the RAS 80th-percentile or better), and well-reasoned shots at positions of need.”
It remains to be seen what these rookies will bring to the table as a whole. Let’s look at my predictions on the three rookies that serve to make an immediate impact:
3. KaVontae Turpin, KR/PR
Cowboys Rookie and Undrafted Free Agent
8/20/22 – KaVontae Turpin scores a 98 yard kick return + a 72 yard punt return in the same pre-season game vs the Chargers pic.twitter.com/IBnjyVxeJK
— Aryd Empire (BACK UP) (@ArydEmpire2) August 31, 2022
KaVontae Turpin turned heads early this preseason during their matchup with the Los Angeles Charges. Turpin returned a kickoff in the 1st quarter for a 98-yard touchdown. This would get Cowboys nation stirring early. He then did it again in the 2nd quarter by returning a punt for an 86 yard touchdown, who said light doesn’t strike twice? These highlights made Turpin nearly “uncuttable” as he looked to secure a spot on the. 53-man roster.
Turpin comes to the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent. He was signed in July 2022 to a three-year contact after he shined in the inaugural season of the United States Football League (USFL) as a member of the New Jersey Generals. With the Generals, he played in 10 games and led the league receiving yards (540), second in receiving touchdowns (4) and had 921 all-purpose yards.
Turpin is an early-favorite to secure the returner roles on both kickoffs and punts. This provides the Cowboys much needed help as they ranked 26th in average field position in 2021. With adding in a dangerous returner in Turpin may lead to better field position for quicker scoring opportunities. Additionally, Turpin has opportunity for a gadget role, IE: Tavon Austin, but we can expect his most immediate impact to be on special teams to start.
2. Jake Ferguson, TE
Cowboys Rookie drafted in the 4th Round, Pick 129, Wisconsin
Jake Ferguson caught two passes for 29 yards for the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday. Forced three missed tackles and had a great block during a 2-point conversion.#Badgers
— Evan Flood (@Evan_Flood) August 21, 2022
Jake Ferguson comes to us from Wisconsin as a no-brainer selection with the Cowboys having to franchise tag Dalton Schultz to retain his services for one more year. In high school Ferguson was recruited to Wisconsin, when he flashed his ability as both wide receiver and linebacker. At Wisconsin, Ferguson had a modest career while serving as a TE for the Badgers. In 2021, Ferguson broke out for the Badgers all-time great Lee Evans’ record for most consecutive games with a catch (38). As well, Ferguson earned All-Big Ten honors in his senior season.
Ferguson’s a soft-hand receiver, excellent body control and physicality with moderate blocking skills. Ferguson has impressed the Cowboys enough to move on from Jeremy Sprinkle and bumping Sean McKeon to the practice squad. Due to the Cowboys success with 2 TE sets, we’ll see immediate impact from Ferguson as he embraces his TE2 role. We’d expect to see Ferguson lining up on special teams situations, as well, blocking for the aforementioned Turpin. His immediate impact will be lining up with Schultz to work as a blocker and occasional 4th option pass catcher.
1. Jalen Tolbert, WR
Cowboys Rookie drafted in the 3rd Round, Pick 88, South Alabama
I think Jalen Tolbert is easily having his most active, flashy practice of camp. pic.twitter.com/NDKJhYB1W1
— David Helman (@davidhelman_) August 4, 2022
Jalen Tolbert is Jerry Jones’ answer to trading away Amari Cooper for peanuts and a handshake. Before the draft, very few people knew Tolbert and what he brings to the table. Having special interest in the Sun-Belt division gave us a sneak peek to what Tolbert can offer. Tolbert received a two-star rating and received offers from South Alabama and Jacksonville St opting to attend the latter. Tolbert’s defined by his dedication and work ethic to improve. Tolbert’s explosive performance over the last two seasons has put him in the conversation with: Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Drake London, Jameson Williams and George Pickens.
Tolbert had a phenomenal senior season with South Alabama playing in 12 games, making 82 catches with 1474 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Two of his best (and most important) games came at the end of the season against Tennessee and Coastal Carolina. Across both games, Tolbert racked up 17 catches, 334 yards and 2 touchdowns; many scouts becoming star struck at his performance against Tennessee’s corners.
Currently, the Cowboys are dealing with a myriad of injuries to their receiving core, outside of CeeDee Lamb. James Washington (foot) who’s expected back at earliest mid-October and Michael Gallup (knee) who’s out for week 1 will be week-to-week while recovering from his torn ACL. This leaves the Cowboys thin at WR with the remaining WRs having little-to-no regular season experience. Insert Jalen Tolbert, when drafted he projected to be the Cowboys WR3 and offering an outside threat to allow Lamb to operate in the slot. By default, he’s thrusted into a WR2 position and against a scrappy Tampa Bay defensive backfield. We’re projecting Tolbert to have a stat line of: 8 targets, 7 catches, 95 yards and 1 touchdown.
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