Cowboys 7-Round 2023 NFL Mock Draft: Tennessee's Darnell Wright, Cedric Tillman land in Dallas

Tennessee offensive lineman Darnell Wright (58) during football game between Tennessee and Ball State at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022. Kns Utvbs0901

• Tennessee OL Darnell WrightHe is the perfect candidate for a transition from tackle to guard, and his presence would give the Dallas Cowboys one of the best offensive lines, on paper, in the NFL.

• Tennessee WR Cedric Tillman: Even with Brandin Cooks on the roster, Tillman is the big-bodied target that quarterback Dak Prescott needs. 

• Purdue CB Cory Trice Jr.The Boilermakers cornerback is a press-man expert who would fit nicely into defensive coordinator Dan Quinn's scheme.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Due to their work in free agency and the trade market, the Dallas Cowboys will enter the 2023 NFL Draft without the pressure to stray from their board to pick a player at a position of need, which hasn't always been the case for the team.

Therefore, it's much more difficult to discern the Cowboys' draft plans compared to previous years. But that's not going to stop us from trying. So without further ado, let's dive into this week's Cowboys seven-round mock draft.

Round 1, Pick 26: OL Darnell Wright, Tennessee

While he is listed as a tackle, Wright would have to transition to guard if selected by the Cowboys — a move that would have some precedent. Over the past decade, Dallas' starting guards primarily played tackle in college, including Zack Martin, Ronald Leary, Connor Williams and even La'el Collins (started his NFL career at guard before shifting to tackle in Year 3).

Listed at 6-foot-5 and 333 pounds with 33 3/4-inch arms, Wright would be a massive guard who also tested like an elite athlete for the position (9.98 raw athletic score), giving him the ideal physical profile for a guard.

Wright's overwhelming play strength enables him to vertically and horizontally displace defenders at the point of attack, especially on double teams and combination blocks. Additionally, he has the athleticism to pull into space before locating and latching onto second-level defenders to spring his running backs for explosive gains.

In pass protection, the Tennessee product displayed a strong enough anchor that a transition inside shouldn't be much of a problem, and his ability to mirror talented pass rushers such as Alabama's Will Anderson Jr. means that interior finesse rushers shouldn't give him too many problems. Moreover, moving inside will hide some of Wright's issues with range in pass protection, as he tended to struggle when pass rushers forced him to expand his pass set.

The only thing that could potentially give the Cowboys pause is, in addition to Wright transitioning from guard to tackle, he'd also have to move from the right to the left side. However, Wright already has 959 snaps to his name on the left side, and even though he didn't thrive at left tackle like he did once he played on the right side, the movement patterns that are derived from playing on the left side won't be foreign to him, which would help speed up and ease the transition.

The 21-year-old would give the Cowboys an incredibly formidable offensive line that could match up with anybody in the NFL, in addition to a young and talented left side with Tyler Smith that could set the offensive tone for the next decade.

Round 2, Pick 58: WR Cedric Tillman, Tennessee

While the mock draft simulator may not be a fan of this pick, the rest of you should, as Tillman is one of the most underrated receivers in this class. Even though many draft analysts tout Jalin Hyatt as the best Tennesse receiver in the 2023 draft, Tillman is the true top dog for my money, as he wins in ways that translate better to the NFL.

Most of the top receiver prospects lack size, but Tillman checks in at an impressive 6-foot-3 and 213 pounds. And while he's not going to get confused with a speedster anytime soon, his 4.54-second 40-yard dash showed that he's not deficient in the speed department, either. Given his size, it's not surprising that Tillman is skilled in contested-catch situations, showing the ability to shield defenders with his body at the catch point (92nd percentile in contested catch percentage among WRs since 2021). He is also an adept route runner who can create separation against man and zone coverage (93rd percentile in separation percentage since 2021).

The Cowboys already have three starting-caliber receivers on the roster — CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks and Michael Gallup — but Tillman could produce in a niche role early in his career while amplifying Dallas' depth on the outside. Additionally, he can provide value as a big slot receiver who creates mismatches against smaller slot cornerbacks. The Cowboys don't really have a legitimate big-bodied target for Dak Prescott, but Tillman would fill that role quite well.

Round 3, Pick 90: CB Cory Trice Jr., Purdue

Many draft analysts are late to the party on Trice, but don't mind them. The Purdue product is one of the best cornerback fits for Dan Quinn's defensive scheme in Dallas. Given the frequency that the Cowboys utilize Cover 1 and Cover 3, they highly value length, vertical speed and press ability in their cornerbacks, and Trice checks each of those boxes. 

Measuring 6-foot-3 and 206 pounds with 32 3/4-inch arms, Trice is a massive cornerback who thrives in press-man coverage. In fact, there may not be a cornerback in this class who does a better job of landing their hands at the line of scrimmage than Trice. He pairs that with 4.47 speed to effortlessly match vertical routes down the field, where his notable length and ball skills enable him to be a menace at the catch point.

Even though he will need to improve his technique when playing off coverage, Trice brings an ability to press and defend the vertical route that should make him an enticing target for the Cowboys in the middle rounds of the draft. Moreover, Stephon Gilmore‘s presence will give Trice the time to develop into Trevon Diggs‘ running mate on the outside in Years 3 and beyond.

Round 4, Pick 129: DI Kobie Turner, Wake Forest

Even though Osa Odighizuwa has fared well early in his career, the Cowboys would be wise to find another interior defensive lineman who can disrupt opposing offenses.

Enter Turner, who would be a massive steal in the fourth round. Much like Odighizuwa, Turner is undersized (6-foot-2 and 288 pounds with 32-inch arms) but plays above his weight class due to a low pad level, good hand placement, impressive lower-body strength and a red-hot motor. Turner was one of college football's most productive interior defensive linemen last season, producing an elite 92.2 overall grade (fourth at the position) to go along with 34 total pressures and 27 stops.

Turner needs to continue to refine his pass-rush repertoire before he's consistently harassing quarterbacks in the NFL, but his quick get-off and strong hands give him a nice foundation to build off in that respect. He should still be able to contribute early based on his ability to shoot gaps and cause havoc against the run.

Round 5, Pick 169: TE Josh Whyle, Cincinnati

At 6-foot-6 and 248 pounds, Whyle is a more impressive receiver than you typically find in the fifth round, which just speaks to the overall depth of this year's tight end class. While he likely would be a big contributor immediately, Whyle could grow into the seam-stretching tight end that the Cowboys have desperately wanted since Jason Witten‘s athleticism started to decline late in his career.

Round 6, Pick 212: RB Mohamed Ibrahim, Minnesota

Much like Whyle falling to the fifth round, finding Ibrahim in the sixth round illustrates the sheer amount of talent in this year's running back class. Ibrahim may lack some size, but he's a tough runner with great vision between the tackles. He could provide a strong complement to Tony Pollard in Year 1 before taking hold of a bigger role if Pollard moves on in Year 2.

Round 7, Pick 244: LB/S Marte Mapu, Sacramento State

Mapu tore his pectoral in the lead-up to his March pro day, casting some doubt on his ability to contribute in Year 1. Nonetheless, Mapu is a prospect worth stashing, as he displayed incredible versatility and playmaking ability for Sacramento State. His strong performance at the Senior Bowl provides evaluators with confidence that his small-school production can translate to the NFL.

Once recovered from his injury, Mapu could become a special teams menace for the Cowboys, and don't be surprised if he earns a notable role on defense in Years 2 and 3, either.

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