There are a little over two months between now and when the Dallas Cowboys will head out to Oxnard, California for training camp, and when they do they will begin serious work on the 2022 season. It goes without saying that the hope for Dallas is to improve upon last year’s campaign which did feature 12 wins. The first of those victories came against the Los Angeles Chargers who are a team that improved a lot last season despite missing out on the playoffs.
The entire AFC West has seemingly improved ten-fold in the last couple of years what with L.A.’s ascension and now Russell Wilson’s arrival with the Denver Broncos. Dallas played that division a year ago so they will not face any of the foes in the regular season, but they will see them before it all even starts.
The Cowboys are set to hold training camp practices with both the Chargers and Broncos
You may have forgotten, but the NFL cut the preseason down to three games a year ago. The first two matchups for the Cowboys happen to be on the road against the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers.
It is commonplace for teams that square off in the preseason to hold joint training camp practices with one another and it seems that Dallas is set to do so with both of these teams.
Last year the Cowboys held joint practices with the eventual Super Bowl champions in the Los Angeles Rams so perhaps the Broncos and/or Chargers feel as if this is a bit of good luck. Either way it is always nice for teams to get an opportunity to compete against someone who isn’t their own teammates.
Cowboys’ undrafted free agent class ranked best in the NFL by NBC Sports
The Cowboys have a rich history of hitting on undrafted free agents, both from their glory days and in recent years. It’s to the point where each year we find ourselves discussing which UDFA players will make the roster as opposed to which ones might accomplish the feat.
It’s still very early in the process, but it looks like the Cowboys have brought in yet another impressive group of undrafted free agents this year. Thor Nystrom of NBC Sports offers one of the more comprehensive draft boards around, with player comparisons for nearly every draft prospect, and he also uses that board to rank each team’s UDFA class each year.
In each of the last three years, Nystrom has ranked the Cowboys’ UDFA classes in the top ten, with the 2020 group placing first overall and the 2021 group coming in at second. Well, Nystrom’s rankings for 2022 are out now, and Dallas has reclaimed the top spot:
According to Nystrom, six of the Cowboys’ undrafted free agent signings were players he had graded as being worthy of a draft pick. Those six are Boston College center Alec Lindstrom, Ole Miss wide receiver Dontario Drummond, USC cornerback Isaac Taylor-Stuart, Texas A&M linebacker Aaron Hansford, Florida A&M safety Markquese Bell, and Georgia Tech safety Juanyeh Thomas.
Additionally, out of all of the players Nystrom graded as undrafted free agent options prior to the draft, Nebraska wide receiver Ty Fryfogle was at the very top of the list.
The first of Dallas’ UDFA signings that he singled out is Lindstrom, a popular pick for many given the center’s strong pre-draft perception:
I’m still surprised Lindstrom didn’t get drafted. Especially after a similar undersized pivot prospect, Drew Dalman, returned huge investment for the Falcons last year on a R4 pricetag. Like Dalman, Lindstrom is a smart, athletic, undersized interior lineman with deep NFL bloodlines running through his veins.
Nystrom also gave specific praise to the additions of Drummond and Taylor-Stuart:
Drummond is a weird prospect. He’s a 215-pound slot receiver that only runs a 4.65. He was forced to go to “Last Chance U” – East Mississippi Community College – out of high school, and didn’t pop-off at Mississippi until his last year when he could play slot full-time following Elijah Moore’s departure. But he’s a sure-handed, tackle-breaking machine who gets after it blocking. Drummond also has return chops.
Taylor-Stuart was a top-40 overall recruit coming out of high school. He has an ideal blend of length and speed (4.42). He’s a fabulous all-around athlete who owns a second-degree blackbelt off the field. But Taylor-Stuart needs to find a position (corner or free safety?), refine his technique, and improve his instincts. If the light ever turns on, he’ll be a player.
There were also some intriguing comparisons for several of these players. The most notable was comparing Lindstrom to J.C. Tretter, a long-time starter and current free agent who began his career with the Packers under Mike McCarthy.
Perhaps the most interesting comparison Nystrom makes is that of Wake Forest wide receiver Jaquarii Roberson to Cedrick Wilson. Of course, Wilson left the Cowboys in free agency this year after spending the first four years of his career in Dallas. If Roberson can live up to the presence Wilson had in his time, that would be quite the accomplishment.
Finally, there’s Harvard running back Aaron Shampklin, who gets compared to Matt Breida. Undrafted in 2017 out of Georgia Southern, Breida caught on with the 49ers and became a key part of their rushing attack from 2017 to 2019. He hasn’t had the same kind of production in one-year stints with the Dolphins and Bills since, but Breida is an UDFA success story nonetheless. It’s a promising comp for Shampklin, who’s already getting hype from others as well.
All in all, this looks to be yet another promising pool of undrafted free agents for the Cowboys. Training camp and the preseason will offer the best opportunities to see how much they live up to their billing, but the early verdict is looking good.