Dallas Cowboys Blog: The Senior Bowl shaped the Dallas Cowboys 2022 draft class

FRISCO TX — For a week, they were colleagues at Senior Bowl in Feb. Jake Ferguson Matt WaletzkoCheck out the National Team. Sam Williams, Jalen Tolbert, Damone Clark John RidgewayVisit the American Team.

Last weekend, NFL draftThey were again teammates during the finals Dallas Cowboys.

“It’s a spotlight when you’re going against the top prospects of the draft,” said Ridgeway, a defensive tackle from Arkansas, of the Senior Bowl. “It’s a kill-or-be-killed mentality when you’re there. You must go up there and try your best. That’s what all the Dallas Cowboys' prospects did.”

The following teams are also included: Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens Seattle Seahawks• Six Senior Bowl participants were also selected. The Cowboys have chosen 24 college all-star players to participate in the Senior Bowl since 2014. It is played every year in Mobile, Alabama.

Jim Nagy, Senior Bowl executive Director, is a fan of what the Cowboys did.

“I thought Waletzko had a chance to go in late [Round] 3. Ridgeway was a possibility to get there late. Ferguson was a possibility to win. Damone Clark would’ve got in the second round if not for the injury. So they got good value,” Nagy said. “I do think Waletzko could be a starter [one day]. Ridgeway could be a starter, I believe. I think Damone certainly can be a starter if he can bounce back.”

Will McClay, Cowboys vice-president of player personnel, said that the Senior Bowl helped him get a feel for players.

“You get to have your hands on them and you get to see them compete against the better guys,” McClay said. “So that does add to it, but it’s not the end all, be all. It’s just a piece of the puzzle. We like to see them in that setting and see if the information matches. Then you go to the combine and add all of those other things to it.”

It was an opportunity to play against higher-level talent from smaller schools, such as Waletzko and Tolbert. Tolbert, a wide receiver at South Alabama, caught 82 passes for 1,474 yard and eight touchdowns. Waletzko, an offense tackle, was drafted by the NFL in 2006.

“It definitely gave me a chip on my shoulder to prove myself to the teams and just show everyone in the league that I can play with the best of the best,” Waletzko said.

Tolbert was able to catch two passes for 24 yards during the Senior Bowl.

“He’s just a really good all-around receiver,” said Nagy, who's known Tolbert since high school. “He’s got a pro body already. The physical part of the game, he’s ready for that.”

Perhaps what matters more is Tolbert's performance against larger schools. He caught seven passes against Tennessee for 143 yards and one touchdown.

“The Tennessee game was a special one,” Tolbert said. “I had marked that calendar date for a while, and I was actually excited to go out there and play against those SEC opponents and show them that my level of competition does not matter.”

McClay stated that the Cowboys were intrigued by Tolbert's game, and they continued to study him after the Senior Bowl. Tolbert was invited to a private workout by the Cowboys before the draft.

“When you visit with him and you find out his intelligence and his awareness to coverage, to all the things he knows, he shows that he’s further ahead than maybe someone from a smaller conference,” McClay said.

Ferguson, the tight end who was was the Cowboys’ fourth-round pick, caught three passes for a game-high 62 yards and a touchdown in the Senior Bowl.

“What stands out the most with Jake, on top of the versatility, is just the catching skills,” Nagy said. “This guy has some of the best set of hands in this year’s draft whether that be a tight end or a wide receiver.”

Ferguson’s initial introduction to the Cowboys was a 15-minute meeting in Mobile, which was followed a few weeks later with a formal interview at the combine in Indianapolis where he met coach Mike McCarthy and tight ends coach Lunda Wells.

“At Wisconsin, we go by these three words — smart, tough, dependable — and that was my pitch to Coach McCarthy, telling him, ‘Hey, I’m smart. I’m going to be able to pick up the plays. I’m tough, throw me into any scenario and I’ll be ready, and I'm dependable,’” Ferguson said. “[McCarthy]He took the words to heart and used them as a guideline. [draft] call, and he’s going to hold me to it.”

Williams was the Cowboys’ highest pick, No. From the Senior Bowl, Clark was the Cowboys' highest pick at No. 56 in the second round. Clark, who made 135 stops last year at LSU to go with 15.5 tackles for losses and 5.5 sacks, could have been a second or third round pick if he hadn't sustained a neck injury at the combine.

“I saw him at his pro day and his outlook on this thing was incredible,” Nagy said. “I mean he’s just got such a great spirit and his mind is in the right place. I was fearful he might fall out of the draft, but I’m happy the Cowboys took a shot.”

After a week of practice and the game, Clark was voted the Senior Bowl's best linebacker.

“When you take care of business, you reap the benefits,” Clark said. “You handle business and everything else takes care of itself.”

The Cowboys won’t see Clark on the field until November at the earliest because of spinal fusion surgery, but they don’t want to call 2022 a redshirt season for him. The Senior Bowl is a great place to check out his abilities.

“I felt really good,” Clark said. “You turn the tape on, you’ll see it.”

Leave a Comment