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NFC East Draft Review: Dallas Cowboys go heavy on defense

Sound strategy or an overcorrection?

2021 NFL Draft Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Cowboys had a lost 2020 season once Dak Prescott went down but their defense would’ve hindered them no matter their health luck. The Dallas defense was historically bad and the Cowboys went into the 2021 NFL Draft ready to fix it, starting the class off with six straight defensive players for the first time in franchise history. PREVIOUSLY IN THIS NFC EAST DRAFT REVIEW SERIES: Philadelphia Eagles | New York Giants | Washington Football Team.

Micah Parsons, Linebacker, Penn State

After Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II came off the board, Dallas picked up a third-round pick by trading back with Philly. Dallas still got one of the top defenders in the draft with Micah Parsons, who should instantly contribute to their defense.

Parsons is a tremendous athlete at the linebacker position and plays with a ton of aggression. He is raw in terms of his understanding of the game and Dallas’ mediocre defensive line will make his transition to the NFL tough. But Dallas needs to swing for the fences when it comes to defenders and Parsons could pair with a healthy Leighton Vander Esch to form one of the most athletic linebacker duos in the league.

Kelvin Joseph, Cornerback, Kentucky

After missing out on the draft’s top cornerbacks, Dallas got a solid consolation prize in the second round in Kelvin Joseph. There is a lot to like with Joseph in terms of his physical profile and mentality. He is a big, muscled-up athlete who plays every snap like it's his last.

He is a bit of a feast or famine corner, which isn’t surprising given he is still relatively inexperienced (10 starts).

The Cowboys now have two talented, big, athletic cornerbacks in Joseph and Trevon Diggs, but both still have a lot of growth. The Cowboys are deadset on having tons of young athletes on their defense, so they will take the lumps with that.

Osa Odighizuwa, Defensive Lineman, UCLA

The Cowboys address their defensive line woes with the younger brother of former Giants defender Owa Odighizuwa. Where Owa was an edge defender, Osa played most of his college career on the inside.

Osa’s first-step explosion and non-stop motor made him hard to handle for most guards and centers in the Pac-12, but the 280-pounder will struggle to get as much push in the NFL if he can’t add good size or become a consistent technician. Betting on players with Odighizuwa’s motor tends to play well, but there is some risk in hoping to boost your line with a smaller defender.

Chauncey Golston, Defensive Lineman, Iowa

Unsurprisingly, Dallas keeps throwing darts at the defensive line dartboard. Chauncey Golston no doubt had the interest of Dallas with his great size and his straight-line explosion. Golston was never super productive at Iowa, but Dallas is betting on traits and hoping to coach them up.

Nahshon Wright, Cornerback, Oregon State

With Dan Quinn now calling the shots on defense, it’s no surprise that the Cowboys are going after so many “traits players.” Athletic linebackers, small but explosive defensive tackles, long and physical defensive ends… Sounds like what he was working with in Atlanta and Seattle that made those units successful (for varying amounts of time).

Nahshon Wright has rare size for a cornerback at over 6’4” and runs very well. He makes up for a wiry frame by playing a physical brand of football and his ball skills make him hard to contend with in contested situations.

Wright has a lot of room to grow, but you have to imagine Dan Quinn took one look at Wright and thought of a former Seahawk and Oregon State Beaver in Brandon Browner.

Jabril Cox, Linebacker, LSU

Every year, the Cowboys draft one of my favorite players in the draft. This year, it is Jabril Cox.

Cox was a star at North Dakota State before being the best defender on LSU in 2020. He is a fast, athletic linebacker who can cover extremely well. Cox could push for a nickel defender role early in his career and potentially grow into an every-down defender for Dallas.

I am salty about it.

Josh Ball, Offensive Tackle, Marshall

The Cowboys broke their streak of defensive players with a substantial risk on an offensive player. “Risk” rarely defines a day three selection, but the former Florida State tackle has off-the-field incidents (including dating violence) which led him to play for Marshall.

Ball is talented, with all the tools and tape to succeed as an NFL lineman. If he can keep himself right, he has a shot to contribute for the Cowboys down the line.

Simi Fehoko, Wide Receiver, Stanford

Not that the Cowboys need any help at wide receiver, but Simi Fehoko feels like a great pick by them. Fehoko has great size, strength and athleticism and was able to dominate defenders using his physical gifts.

This is a good project for the Dallas staff and I can picture Fehoko being deployed in somewhat of a H-back role for the Cowboys offense.

Quinton Bohanna, Defensive Tackle, Kentucky

Quinton Bohanna is going to be a big addition to the Dallas defensive line. And when I mean big, I mean he is nearly 330 pounds.

Bohanna is a true nose tackle who can make a center’s life hell for two downs. He is a legit run defender who will eat up space in the middle of Dan Quinn’s defense. If he can stay in shape and stay on the field, Bohanna is a great value pick for Dallas.

Israel Mukuamu, Cornerback, South Carolina

Dallas’ third cornerback selection in the draft fits the mold of their previous two. Israel Mukuamu has great size and is physical as hell. He would have gotten more hype if not for an injury-plagued end to his college career and the emergence of his teammate, Jaycee Horn. If Mukuamu can stay healthy, Dallas might have gotten a steal.

Matt Farniok, Guard, Nebraska

Matt Farniok started 32 consecutive games for Nebraska which is no small thing. The 6’6” offensive lineman has great size and length for an interior blocker. He doesn’t have any plus athletic traits, but his technical skill and size mean he could be a valuable depth player for Dallas.


Dallas’s draft had a clear intention and that was to remake the defense in the image of Dan Quinn’s prototypes. They got faster and more physical at every level of the unit with this draft and they are praying that it pays off for them. And soon.


Grade the Cowboys’ 2021 NFL Draft class

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    (116 votes)
  • 44%
    (296 votes)
  • 24%
    (165 votes)
  • 5%
    (34 votes)
  • 9%
    (61 votes)
672 votes total Vote Now

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