Position battleground (rookies): Cowboys vs Packers breakdown for draft picks/UDFAs

Previously we broke down both team’s offense and defense for the upcoming game between the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers. Now we dive back into the position battleground, this time looking at how some of each team’s rookie class stack up against each other.

Dallas Cowboys

NT Mazi Smith (First Round)

When Johnathan Hankins was out, Mazi Smith had his chance to show what he was capable of doing. He didn’t shine and become a stud, but the Cowboys were averaging 4.2 yards per carry to their opponents from the start of the season till Week 14 while Hankins was playing. While Hankins was out, the Cowboys defense average yards went down to 3.6 yards per carry, and this team faced some strong rushing competition in that time. Smith also registered his first NFL sack while Hankins was out, so everything wasn’t completely terrible. The issue people will have with Smith is the draft capital spent on in comparison to the production he put out this year. The nose tackle is a selfless position that rarely shows on the stats. Given he’s now got a year of NFL coaching on technique, the hope is the arrow is pointing up. This week expect plenty of rotation on the inside of the defensive line as they try to slow Aaron Jones and the Packers running game down.
Grade: C+

TE Luke Schoonmaker (Second Round)

This pick will always be the one that doesn’t seem to make sense in last year’s draft. Tight ends can sometimes take a few years to reach their potential, and for Schoonmaker that may be the case. Some of his lack of production can be attributed to the fact Jake Ferguson exploded on the scene and had a tremendous season. There is only one ball to go around, and Dak favors Lamb and Ferguson, with some Brandin Cooks sprinkled in. Schoonmaker did fine as a blocker and let’s see how that gets utilized this weekend.
Grade: C

FB Hunter Luepke (UDFA)

Luepke came in and did a whole lot of run blocking last week. The end result was Pollard having a big day. It’s been mentioned a number of times on this rookie series how much better Pollard runs when he has Luepke clearing a path. Hopefully they’re listening and we see more of Luepke doing this against a Packers rush defense that’s struggled this year.
Grade: B-

K Brandon Aubrey (UDFA)

He’s the man of the hour. First year in the league, doesn’t miss a field goal until Week 18, now he’s named to the Pro Bowl and been named All-Pro. He’s been the best kicker this year in the NFL, and it wasn’t even close.
Grade: A+

Dallas Cowboys v Miami Dolphins

Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

Green Bay Packers

DE Lukas Van Ness (First Round)

The Iowa powerhouse has spent this season more in a rotational role on the defensive line. That’s more down to trust and the fact the veteran guys ahead of him have been quite productive themselves. He’s still managed to rack up five sacks which everyone could have predicted given his level of pass rush skills. One of the reasons the coaches don’t want to trust or rely on him completely is his run defense. Give him a couple of years in an NFL weight room and he should pack on more to be a more productive player and play every down,. But for now, expect to see him only a designated pass rusher this week.

TE Luke Musgrave (Second Round)

The biggest setback for Musgrave this year has been injuries. He’s got the skills to be a great move-tight end. A huge area for development this offseason is going to all be on his pass blocking. He offers very little at the point of attack with his lack of strength, and at other times he looks uncoordinated.

WR Jayden Reed (Second Round)

The wide receiver out of Michigan State has been the star receiver for Green Bay this year. It’s true the production numbers aren’t huge, but given what’s around him and the injuries to the receiving corps around him, he’s done better than expected. He’s played across the field and taken snaps from behind the line (he’s scored two rushing touchdowns this year). But he’s also done work on special teams as a returner. It’s very typical of what he did for the Spartans. He’s more of a deep contested catch type receiver as apposed to one you’ll see work an intricate or varied route tree. Fast and scrappy is the best way to describe him.

TE Tucker Kraft (Third Round)

Kraft came in and filled the gaps while Musgrave missed time this year. He was slow to come on but did improve as the season went on as a receiver. He managed to score two touchdowns and get over 350 receiving yards during the nine weeks he played as the team’s starting tight end. You see on tape a guy that’s better at blocking in space than down near the line, whether this is something he can work on is hard to predict. But his versatility has been his biggest asset this season, and if he can develop his receiving skills, he could see more snaps going forward.

K Anders Carlson (Sixth Round)

Carlson has struggled this year. He’s missed five extra points and six field goals. His 81% field goal accuracy puts way down the kicker rankings and the hope is he can improve quickly next year. Patience for the kicker position is always razor thin.

CB Carrington Valentine (Seventh Round)

Due to injuries and roster issues at comeback. Valentine has been a starting cornerback for the Packers since Week 3. He has yet to make an interception in the NFL and he’s given up one touchdown this year. It’s not all bad from the Kentucky defensive back who’s shown a strong will to keep going out there and stay competitive. He ticks all boxes athletically that you look for a capable cornerback on the third day of the draft. But he lacks any level of instincts to read routes or route breaks. That usually has ended with him giving the catch and chasing the carrier down. And usually he’s taking bad angles to get to the ball carrier when it’s there. His length and speed is the one saving grace.

Chicago Bears v Green Bay Packers

Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images


Which team has the better set of rookies?

  • 49%

    Dallas Cowboys

    (93 votes)

  • 50%

    Green Bay Packers

    (95 votes)

188 votes total

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