NFL Draft News & Analysis

2023 NFL Draft: Dallas Cowboys early three-round mock draft

Penn State Nittany Lions cornerback Joey Porter Jr. (9) questions a call during Saturday's NCAA Division I football game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on October 30, 2021. Osu21psu Bjp 1044

• Primary needs entering offseason: With capable contributors such as Anthony Brown, Leighton Vander Esch, Noah Brown, Connor McGovern, Dalton Schultz and Johnathan Hankins scheduled to enter unrestricted free agency, the Dallas Cowboys could certainly seek replacements at cornerback, linebacker, wide receiver, guard, tight end and nose tackle during the first three rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Joey Porter Jr. is a viable replacement for Brown: The Penn State product proved his talent against some of college football's top receiving talents over the past two years, making him a potential boon to Dallas' secondary if picked.

Jalin Hyatt can provide a vertical element to Cowboys offense: The Tennessee speedster can stretch defenses vertically, which should only create positive knock-on effects for Dallas' other weapons, such as CeeDee Lamb.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

The Dallas Cowboys‘ 2022-23 season ended in disappointment yet again; however, instead of drowning in those sorrows, let's focus on how the team can improve during the 2023 NFL Draft, making sure the disappointment fans are feeling today won't repeat itself after the 2023-24 season.

Round 1, Pick No. 26: CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn State

  • Size: 6-foot-2, 198 pounds
  • 2022 PFF Grade: 73.2

With Anthony Brown scheduled to enter free agency coming off a torn Achilles, in addition to rookie DaRon Bland proving to be an effective slot cornerback, the Cowboys would be wise to invest serious resources to find a more-than-capable outside cornerback during the 2023 offseason. And because Dallas tends to eschew making big splashes in free agency, it's likely the team will wait until the draft to find Brown's replacement.

Luckily for the Cowboys, this year's class is chock-full of impressive cornerback talent, meaning they shouldn't have a problem finding one over the first couple of days of the 2023 NFL Draft who can immediately contribute.

Porter, by most accounts, is one of the top talents this year, so the Cowboys would likely be ecstatic if able to grab the Penn State product at the end of the first round. At 6-foot-2 and 198 pounds, Porter possesses the ideal frame that Dallas looks for in an outside cornerback. Additionally, Porter thrives in press-man coverage and does an excellent job defending his vertical silo, which is a big reason why he's a great fit in Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn's scheme.

Porter's 12 pass breakups across the past two seasons were impressive, especially considering they came against a plethora of talented receivers,  including Ohio State‘s Chris OlaveGarrett Wilson and Marvin Harrison Jr. In fact, in his last two games against the Buckeyes, Porter allowed just 45 yards on 73 coverage snaps.

Round 2, Pick No. 58: WR Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee

  • Size: 6-foot-1, 180 pounds
  • 2022 PFF Grade: 77.4

One thing that became obvious in the divisional-round playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers is that Dallas lacks weapons to win outside the numbers and down the field, outside of Lamb. Michael Gallup struggled to regain his form after returning from a torn ACL that ended his 2022 season, and the rest of Dallas' receiving corps just simply lacks talent (wouldn't it be nice if Amari Cooper was still around? I digress…).

Hyatt has the speed and game-changing athleticism to change that for the Cowboys' offense. While Tennessee's offense didn't challenge Hyatt to become a refined route runner, his speed, ability to run the vertical route tree and propensity to manipulate defensive back leverage would enable him to be the field-stretcher that Dallas' offense so desperately needs. Hyatt's 663 “deep” (passes 20-plus yards downfield) yards ranked third in college football last season, while his 3.27 yards per route run ranks third among receivers in the 2023 NFL Draft who received 50-plus targets in 2022. Additionally, his 156.3 passer rating generated when targeted last season was the highest among all players.

Hyatt's ability to stretch the field vertically should only open up the intermediate zones the Lamb and Dallas' tight ends love to exploit, which should, in turn, help boost the Cowboys' passing-game efficiency in future years.

Round 3, Pick No. 90: EDGE Nick Herbig, Wisconsin

  • Size: 6-2, 228 pounds
  • 2022 PFF Grade: 87.4

This pick, amid Dallas' excellent edge defender crew that includes Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence and Sam Williams, might puzzle fans. While fortifying a strength is never a bad decision, the real reason the Cowboys grab an edge defender in the third round is pure value.

Even though he's undersized at a listed 6-foot-2 and 228 pounds, Herbig is, by my eyes, the most skilled pass rusher in the 2023 NFL Draft, as he displays an advanced pass-rush repertoire and notable technical refinement for his age to go along with promising athletic traits that enabled him to terrorize opposing tackles throughout his time at Wisconsin.

Plying his trade in a Big Ten conference littered with excellent offensive tackle talent, Herbig was a dominant force, posting elite marks in PFF's stable metrics for edge defenders, including pass-rush grade (91.1), pass-rush win rate (23.9%) and pass-rush grade against true pass sets (92.4). Additionally, despite being undersized on the edge, Herbig was able to generate a 78.4 run-defense grade in 2022, ranking inside the 78th percentile among edge defenders in 2022 (min. 20% snap rate).

Herbig could be a Parsons-lite for the Cowboys' defense due to his ability to generate pressure off the edge and be inserted as an effective blitzer from off-ball alignments. While Herbig's lack of size and length will likely deter most teams from investing an early pick on the talented pass rusher, Dallas would be wise to take advantage. And the fact that undersized pass rushers such as Parsons, Haason Reddick and Josh Uche put together incredible years should give the Cowboys more confidence in going against the grain with this selection.

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