4 draft picks the Cowboys passed that will be worth watching in the years to come

The 2024 NFL Draft is now in the books. The Cowboys have added eight new rookies to the team and there is a wide range of opinions out there on if they selected the right players or not. Grades range from A- to D and everywhere in between depending on who you ask.

Regardless of how you think the Cowboys should be graded for their draft selections, it will ultimately take a few years to truly gauge the success of Will McClay and Co.’s decisions made inside the war room. Did the Cowboys find their starting center and left tackle for years to come? Was taking a defensive end in the second round truly the best choice? Will these other players make contributions in meaningful ways?

Beyond evaluating how the Cowboys’ draft picks perform, the players that they passed on should also be assessed to fully grasp the entire picture of the Cowboys’ 2024 Draft. There were many players that analysts and fans would have chosen in place of the choices that the Cowboys made. Here are just a few names to keep an eye on as hindsight becomes 20/20.

Graham Barton

As the Cowboys were on the clock at number 24 in the first round of the draft, Graham Barton, the center from Duke, was ready and available for the taking. Instead, they decided to trade back to the 29th spot in hopes that he might still be there. Things didn’t quite work out the way many had hoped when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers snatched up the two-time First-team All-ACC player just two picks later. Out of the four players the Cowboys had in mind when trading back, the only one available was OT Tyler Guyton.

The Guyton pick is a good one considering the need to fill the hole left behind by Tyron Smith’s departure, but that isn’t the only player that the Cowboys got from the trade. They also received the 73rd pick in the third round where they selected a beast in Cooper Beebe who will likely fill that center spot. In missing out on Barton, they gained two big guys on the offensive line. As of right now, it definitely seems as though the Cowboys won this trade, especially since both positions were needs coming into the draft.

Trey Benson

One of the biggest criticisms that the Cowboys have received post-draft is that they did not come away with a running back. Many believed that the Cowboys would pick up the Florida State running back since they had already lost out on Jonathon Brooks prior to their second-round pick. According to Stephen Jones, they felt like that would have been a little bit of a reach and went with who they believed to be the best player available: DE Marshawn Kneeland. Benson was picked by the Arizona Cardinals before the Cowboys had another shot at him early on in the third-round.

While the pick was a bit of a surprise to fans, the Cowboys did need extra help on the defensive line as Dorance Armstrong and Dante Fowler both left in free agency, and DeMarcus Lawrence is playing on the last year of his contract. Kneeland was regarded as one of the top EDGE players in this draft and adding another disrupter alongside Micah Parsons could make for a very exciting show to watch.

As far as the running back position goes, the Cowboys have since signed a familiar face in Ezekiel Elliott, adding to an RB room that consists of Rico Dowdle, Royce Freeman, Deuce Vaughn, Malik Davis, Snoop Connor, and newly added UDFA Nathaniel Peat. None of these names really stand out above the rest as the surefire RB1. Will the Cowboys regret not picking up Benson when they had the chance?

Payton Wilson

Payton Wilson was regarded as one of the top LB prospects in this year’s draft. Although he has been healthy recently, his long laundry list of injuries including ACL, knee, and shoulder injuries may have slotted him lower on the Cowboys’ ranking. While Wilson was available to them in the third round, the Cowboys decided to go with the LB from Notre Dame, Marist Liufau. Wilson was eventually picked by the Pittsburgh Steelers later in the third round.

Dane Brugler of The Athletic has Wilson ranked a bit higher than Liufau with Wilson as the fourth best LB and Liufau at number 15. Wilson is a bit closer than Liufau in regards to getting meaningful snaps at LB this season, but the Cowboys are hopeful that Liufau can close that gap fairly quickly.

Both players were reported to have 30 visits with the Cowboys, and as both were also readily available at that 87th pick, one can presume that Liufau really impressed the coaches and scouts during his visit. The Cowboys decided to go with the less risky option with their second third-round pick, will it pay off?

Brenden Rice

With their sixth-round pick, at number 216, the Cowboys selected WR Ryan Flournoy from Southeast Missouri State. As they were making their pick, many fans thought that picking Brenden Rice would make for an excellent story as his Dad is the legendary San Francisco 49er, Jerry Rice. Instead, Rice was selected by the Los Angeles Chargers early in the seventh round.

While adding Rice would be fun because of his big name, he was also ranked a bit higher than Flournoy according to multiple outlets including NFL.com and The Athletic. However, Flournoy flourished during the NFL Combine showcasing his speed and athleticism. That may have been a big factor for the Cowboy’s war room as they were making their decision.

Flournoy has mentioned that he models his game after Dez Bryant and Jerry Rice and he has the capability to take over that contested catch receiver role once owned by Michael Gallup. Both players will need to put in the work on their respective teams. Will both live up to their potential?

There are a lot more players that could be added to this list to watch in the coming years when evaluating the success of the Cowboys’ 2024 draft. And it is very likely that there will be sleeper names that will breakout making all other 31 teams look like fools for skipping over them. Hopefully, after a few years this Cowboys’ draft class will grade out as an A+, but only time will tell. What other draftees will you be watching closely?


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