Final 2024 NFL Draft Grades: ‘Bullyball is coming back to Dallas.’

The 2024 draft is in the books. The Cowboys started off strong – their trade-down in the first may have been the highlight of this draft – and continued to add a lot of muscle, toughness, and physicality to the team over the last three days.

Bullyball is coming back to Dallas, to paraphrase one of the draft grade comments below.

The Cowboys did not address every gap and will need to look for some veteran additions as they head into the season, but their failure to pick a running back anywhere weighs heavily on the public perception of the Cowboys draft effort and the corresponding grades, even if it’s unclear how a 6th- or 7th-round RB would have significantly improved their 2024 fortunes.

The Cowboys are predictably clapping themselves on the back for the haul of offensive linemen while simultaneously explaining away that RB thing.

Jones spoke with reporters after the Cowboys finished Day 3 of the draft and was asked about the team selecting three offensive linemen. In his view, the 2024 crop of talent was strong at the position and Dallas just took advantage of that. Fortunately, he explained it much more colorfully than that.

“Why do you rob banks?” said Jones, via The Athletic’s Jon Machota. “Because that’s where the money is.”

Though amusing, Jones’ answer didn’t address the running back question. That was left to executive vice president, chief operating officer and director of player personnel Stephen Jones.

As the younger Jones explained, the Cowboys had a different player graded higher than a running back each time their selection came up. He expects the team to add someone in free agency.

Is the focus on what the Cowboys didn’t achieve at RB obscuring the view of what they did achieve in this draft?

The crew at the Dallas Morning News gets to weigh in first on this draft:

  • Michael Gehlken: B
  • David Moore: B-
  • Tim Cowlishaw: C+
  • Calvin Watkins: C
  • Kevin Sherrington: D

Gehlken explains what the Cowboys tried to achieve in this draft and wonders if they could have been a bit more creative going about it.

It seems silly to slam the Cowboys for not drafting a running back when this was widely considered a weak class at that position. They took players higher on their board instead of choosing a back for the sake of it. That restraint is largely commendable. But when you see clubs like the Philadelphia Eagles maneuver on and off the clock, creativity does appear to be lacking. Having four compensatory picks in 2025 gave Dallas a weapon to attack this draft more, and it failed to fully unholster it. This draft probably goes differently if everyone in the war room was under the final year of their contract.

Watkins saw the Cowboys fill a lot of needs but wonders about the immediate impact of this draft class.

The first three rounds of the draft went fantastic for the Cowboys. They found a left tackle, center and depth at pass rusher. You can say second-round pick Marshawn Kneeland replaces Dorance Armstrong, but in reality, he’s going after DeMarcus Lawrence’s spot for the 2025 season. So the Cowboys filled needs and looked toward the future. Not finding a running back was a disappointment and some of the Day 3 picks left you wondering what type of impact will they have in 2024.

And Kevin Sherrington gives no quarter when it comes to the RB question:

Three days, no running backs. Even in a bad year for the position, that was inexcusable. Is Zeke the answer? Because if it is, they might as well sign Moose to lead block for him. Running back was one of two positions where they absolutely had to get a starter, and they whiffed. Wow.

The draft grades from the national pundits show an even wider range than we saw from the DMN writers, which just means there’s a take for just about every taste below.

Danny Kelly, The Ringer: Grade A-

The Cowboys ate their vegetables in this draft, grabbing a trio of tough and physical trench players with their first three picks. Dallas added a highly athletic offensive tackle in the first round in Tyler Guyton, who’s raw but moves exceptionally well and could emerge as their future blindside stalwart. I loved the Marshawn Kneeland pick; he’s an explosive, long-levered pass rusher with great size and a solid repertoire of pass-rush moves and will complement Micah Parsons well on that defensive front. And Cooper Beebe is an ass-kicker of an interior lineman who moves people in the run game. Adding three tone-setting future starters is good work by Dallas.

Chad Reuter, Grade A-

Gaining a third-round pick in a move down the board and still landing a starting tackle made for a successful Thursday night for Dallas. Kneeland and Beebe should prove to be excellent values, while Liufau will be a solid addition to the middle of the Cowboys’ defense. The Notre Dame ‘backer was picked a bit early for my taste, though.

In Round 5, Dallas added Carson, a versatile corner/safety who was considered a Day 2 prospect near the start of last season. Flournoy has the tools to make the squad his rookie year. The Cowboys did not take a running back with any of their eight picks, leaving a sizable hole on their roster they’ll still need to fill this offseason. Dallas had four picks within the top 90 selections, but were without a fourth-rounder, having sent theirs to San Francisco last August for Trey Lance . That investment could work out quite well if the former No. 3 overall pick is able to find his game at the pro level.

Cam Mellor, ProfootballNetwork: Grade B+

It might not have been the sexiest draft class of all time, but the Dallas Cowboys came away from the 2024 having built a very clear identity for the franchise going forward. Bullyball is coming to the Cowboys, with some big nasty beasts being selected on both sides of the ball.

Tyler Guyton has long-term left tackle potential, and Cooper Beebe is a beast on the interior, giving Dallas some flexibility as to how they construct their best five offensive linemen going forward.

Marist Liufau is a seek-and-destroy heavy-hitter from the linebacker position, and even wide receiver Ryan Flournoy has physicality as the hallmark of his game.

If you were looking to pick fault, you could argue that there were better nose tackle options available to complete the class in Round 7, but it was good work from a Cowboys front office who were feeling the heat following an offseason of relative inactivity.

Mel Kiper, ESPN: Grade B-

This draft [was] extra important for Dallas, which absolutely had to take rookie starters in the first and second rounds. So how did team owner Jerry Jones & Co. fare?

Not bad. The Cowboys were able to trade down five spots in Round 1, pick up an extra third-rounder and still get their guy. Tyler Guyton (29) is going to get a chance to be their starter at left tackle, and from what I see on tape, I think he can make the move over from the right side. He has special ability as a pass-protector and can get to the second level in a hurry in the run game.

Defensive end Marshawn Kneeland (56) and guard Cooper Beebe (73) have the talent to step in and play significant snaps as rookies. Kneeland is excellent against the run and has developed pass-rush moves. Marist Liufau (87) was a reach on my board, but I know Dallas wants to be better against the run, and he’ll help there. Caelen Carson (174) is an underrated cornerback who was a starter for four seasons at Wake Forest.

What keeps Dallas from a higher grade? Not taking a running back in place of Liufau, particularly with several really good ones available.

PFF: Grade B-

Guyton — Dallas selects the former defensive end Guyton out of Oklahoma to reinforce their offensive line. He’s the 39th-ranked player on the PFF big board and is considered something of a project with outstanding athletic ability. He didn’t allow a sack in 355 pass-blocking reps this season, but he only earned a 59.0 PFF true pass-blocking grade.

Kneeland — The Cowboys recover some defensive line depth that they lost in free agency, as they pick up Western Michigan‘s Marshawn Kneeland. He is a natural run defender who improved as a pass-rusher as his career progressed. Over the past two seasons, he posted an 88.0 PFF run-defense grade, which is the best among FBS edge defenders who played at least 300 run-defense snaps in that span.

Beebe — The Cowboys continue to address their offensive line and grab one of the best offensive linemen in college football over the past two seasons. Beebe’s 91.8 pass-blocking grade since 2021 ranks first among all FBS guards in that span, and he allowed just two sacks from 1,206 pass-blocking snaps over that time. The question is where he plays in the NFL, with a move to center a possibility.

Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Grade C

The Cowboys settled for Guyton in the first round after some more plug-and-play blocking-ready players were taken ahead of him. He likely will need time to be groomed as Tyron Smith’s replacement. Beebe has a better chance to start. Kneeland and Liufau fit their schemes, but they did reach a little for both.

Chris Trapasso, CBSSports: Grade C-

I, personally, am not sure what the Cowboys are doing. Ok, well I do know they stood by their word and attempted to rebuild the offensive line. I commend that. I loved Beebe in Round 2 and particularly Thomas in Round 7.

Guyton is very much a project who doesn’t quite play to his workout. Kneeland is another project-y type who never came close to dominating in the MAC. Liufau plays with his hair on fire. I like that. Minimal coverage chops beyond following crossers, and he misses tackles at too high a rate for my liking.

Flournoy can be the gem of this class. Size, burst, long speed, and power through contact. It’s all there with him, and the receiver group did need a little jolt.

Matt Verderame, Sports Illustrated: Grade D+

We discussed this on the MMQB podcast, but Dallas’s continued insistence on behaving and drafting like a team that has already won something of consequence is puzzling. Guyton may have the highest upside of any tackle in this class, but owner Jerry Jones has to consider who benefits from a longer-term project when everyone on his staff is being held to the fire this year. There needs to be some thought put into Guyton’s long-term development.

Nate Davis, USAToday: Grade D

An organization that’s allegedly “all in” uses its first-rounder on a tackle (Oklahoma’s Tyler Guyton) with tremendous upside but who may or may not be ready to play immediately. And while the Cowboys needed help in the trenches (second-round DE Marshawn Kneeland, third-round G Cooper Beebe) and potentially filled a hole with third-round Notre Dame LB Marist Liufau, what’s the plan at tailback? Run it back with Ezekiel Elliott? All … in?

What grade would you give this draft class?


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