NFL Draft Prospects Cowboys Must Target After 2023 Shrine, Senior Bowls

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxCorrespondent IFebruary 6, 2023

NFL Draft Prospects Cowboys Must Target After 2023 Shrine, Senior Bowls

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    Stanford WR Michael Wilson
    Stanford WR Michael WilsonMichael Reaves/Getty Images

    The Dallas Cowboys face yet another difficult offseason after falling short in the divisional round of the playoffs. They made a respectable run, but reloading for the 2023 NFL season won't be easy.

    Dallas is projected to be $7.6 million over the salary cap and has several key contributors slated to hit the free-agent market. These include tight end Dalton Schultz, running back Tony Pollard, pass-rusher Dante Fowler Jr., linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, cornerback Anthony Brown and backup quarterback Cooper Rush.

    Given the Cowboys' cap situation, they'll likely have to do much of their rebuilding in the draft.

    Last week, Dallas and the rest of the NFL got an early look at some of the 2023 draft prospects at the East-West Shrine Bowl and the Senior Bowl.

    Here, we'll dive into three standouts from those exhibition contests who should be on the Cowboys' radar heading into the scouting combine.

Terell Smith, CB, Minnesota

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    MADISON, WISCONSIN - NOVEMBER 26: Terell Smith #4 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers looks on during the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium on November 26, 2022 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)
    John Fisher/Getty Images

    With the Cowboys set to potentially lose Anthony Brown at cornerback, they should be interested in adding a defensive back or two in the draft.

    Dallas ranked a respectable eighth in passing yards allowed but struggled down the stretch with both Brown (torn Achilles) and Jourdan Lewis (foot) injured.

    The team surrendered more than 200 passing yards in six of its last seven games, including playoffs.

    Minnesota's Terell Smith had an up-and-down college career but finished strong, continued to shine in Shrine Game practices and would make a great middle-to-late-round target for the Cowboys.

    "He broke out in a big way this past fall with a 78.7 coverage grade, and that carried over to his time in Vegas," Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus wrote. "Smith forced incompletions on six of his 13 targets and allowed only five catches for 44 air yards throughout the week."

    Smith, who logged 34 solo stops, two passes defended and two sacks this past season, is the sort of savvy cover man who could contribute early in Dan Quinn's aggressive defense. He's unlikely to be an early target, but he should be a strong consideration for the Cowboys.

Michael Wilson, WR, Stanford

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    MOBILE, AL - FEBRUARY 01: National wide receiver Michael Wilson of Stanford (4) during the Reese's Senior Bowl National team practice session on February 1, 2023 at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile, Alabama.  (Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Dallas spent much of the past year trying to find a reliable complementary receiver to partner with CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup and Noah Brown. This led to the signing of 33-year-old T.Y. Hilton during the season.

    With Brown and Hilton both headed to free agency, it's time for Dallas to start eying receivers once again. However, with Lamb and Gallup both on the roster, the Cowboys probably aren't going all-in on an elite prospect like TCU's Quentin Johnston—the seventh-ranked prospect on the Bleacher Report Scouting Department's end-of-season draft rankings.

    A middle-round prospect such as Stanford's Michael Wilson would make a lot more sense for the Cowboys, and he should gain plenty of momentum coming out of the Senior Bowl.

    "He was plagued by injuries during his Stanford career, and the team's performance declined in recent years, not giving Wilson an ideal environment in which to thrive. But this week appeared to be the right place for him to do just that," NFL Media's Eric Edholm wrote. "After routinely looking like one of the best receivers on the field during practices, Wilson caught four passes for a game-high 76 yards on Saturday."

    Wilson also caught the game's only receiving touchdown, capping a strong week for the former Cardinal. While he only topped 500 receiving yards once in college (in 2019), the former 4-star recruit has the physical tools to thrive under new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

Tyjae Spears, RB, Tulane

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    MOBILE, AL - FEBRUARY 01: American running back Tyjae Spears of Tulane (22) during the Reese's Senior Bowl American team practice session on February 1, 2023 at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile, Alabama.  (Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The Cowboys have a tough decision to make at running back. They could lose Tony Pollard in free agency, and they might have to cut Ezekiel Elliott to keep the 25-year-old.

    Releasing Elliott with a post-June 1 designation would save $10.9 million in cap space.

    Either way, Dallas should be in the market for a dual-threat running back, and Tulane's Tyjae Spears could fill its needs.

    The 21-year-old racked up 1,581 rushing yards, 256 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns this past season, and he continued to shine during Senior Bowl week.

    "Spears was the best running back in Mobile, whether he was toting the rock or catching it," NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah wrote. "He popped a long run during Wednesday's practice and when he's matched up against a safety one on one, the defender can't even get a finger on him."

    Spears only had one two-yard carry in the game itself but did catch three passes for 15 yards. His collegiate production speaks volumes, though, and he would be a tremendous addition to the Dallas backfield in 2023.

    *Cap and contract information via Spotrac.