in the 2021 NFL Draft. After and selecting superstar Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons -- -- they doubled down on their willingness to roll the dice by grabbing mercurial cornerback Kelvin Joseph with the No. 44 pick.
The team attempted to trade up in the second round with the New York Jets but couldn't strike a deal, and ultimately saw a top target in TCU safety Trevon Moehrig go off the board when the Las Vegas Raiders traded up to steal him away.
Still having several impact options when they eventually went on the clock, they gave the nod to the Kentucky ballhawk who is known for his level of aggression and ability to take the ball away. What the Cowboys are up against is his character, but they're banking on his time to come in Dallas ending better than it did when he had run-ins with his collegiate coaches. Joseph leaves Kentucky after transferring from LSU due to those issues (alleged confrontations with coaches), but his talent is comparable to touted first-round talents like Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II -- two players the Cowboys were eyeing with the No. 10 selection.
Skill-wise, there's nothing to be concerned about when it comes to Joseph.
If the 20-year-old can bottle his fiery demeanor and unleash it between the white lines only, he could be a destructive force opposite former second-round pick Trevon Diggs and in front of a hard-hitting safety in Donovan Wilson (a ballhawk himself). Joseph led the Wildcats with four interceptions in 2020, and that's the kind of takeaway moxy that drove the Cowboys to overlook all else. Also similar to Parsons, he requires refinement stemming from lack of overall experience -- only 12 collegiate starts combined between LSU and Kentucky -- putting a lot of pressure on Dan Quinn and secondary coach Joe Whitt Jr. to get him where he needs to be.
This is a boom-or-bust pick, and there will likely be no in-between. Dallas is banking on the former, and Joseph has more than enough physical prowess to make good on its investment.
And now a look at the Cowboys third-round picks, of which they had three.
This is where the roller-coaster ride careened into a direction the team clearly ordained, but one that leaves any objective analyst scratching their head. What was smart about it was the decision to continue their run on defensive players, having now drafted five consecutive defensive players for the first time in nearly 40 years -- the last occurrence having been in 1982. Where they arguably went wrong is in whom they chose, a criticism that leans more heavily on the final two picks of Day 2 than the first.
75th overall: Osa Odighizuwa, DL - UCLA
With the 75th overall pick, they grabbed defensive lineman Osa Odighizuwa, the first player to be selected out of UCLA by the Cowboys since Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman. This is a pick with a ton of promise, and a prospect I named as a likely grab heading into Day 2. That said, Odighizuwa has the ability to come in and make an impact on the defensive interior -- a position of need -- and also has the added ability to flex between being an undersized 1-tech and the 3- and 5-tech.
Odighizuwa is an All-Pac 12 talent that yields good value at No. 75, and his ability to penetrate the opposing backfield from the inside will please the Cowboys; the 6-foot-2, 282 pound rookie owning an expansive 84-inch wingspan (92nd-percentile) and measurables that put him in the 84th- or higher percentile in arm length and hand size. There's a lot to like about Odighizuwa, making it forgivable the Cowboys waved off impact DB talent to grab him.
Fun sidenote: Odighizuwa was a top-ranked wrestler in high school, and he uses the techniques to help his football abilities.
"It helps me a lot just in terms of leverage and awareness because you get a good feeling and understanding of bodyweight and pressures and just feeling the shifts of bodyweight and knowing to fight pressure with pressure,'' he said on Friday. "That is something that helps me a lot as a football player. And then just a tough mentality."
It's true. It's damn true.
84th overall: Chauncey Golston, EDGE - Iowa
Next came edge rusher Chauncey Golston with the 84th pick obtained via trade with the Eagles on Day 1, and this is where things get a bit more curious, but the Cowboys are hopeful Golston shines under Quinn and defensive line coach Aden Durde -- having been put through the paces by the latter at the Senior Bowl.
It's not difficult to ascertain why Quinn and the Cowboys took a shot on the former Hawkeye, albeit what feels like a bit of a reach for a talent that could've likely been had on Day 3. Nonetheless, the 6-foot-4, 269 pound former Hawkeye is heading to Dallas with a wingspan that literally rivals that of Odighizuwa -- also measuring in at roughly 84 inches -- along with arm length that does the same when comparing the two (35 inches). His 36-inch vertical also helps when it comes time to interrupt the passing lanes, which explains why he had five pass breakups in 2019.
A promising final year at Iowa is what put him on the Cowboys radar, delivering 5.5 sacks and landing his third- career interception (again, wingspan and vertical), and while he might never come close to being what J.J. Watt is as an overall player; he does excel at one thing Watt has made a huge part of his career: swatting passes at the line of scrimmage.
"I just know this team is going to get everything I got," Golston said following the pick, alluding to his ability to slide up and down the defensive line. "Everything out of me. Inside or outside, it doesn't matter where. I'm just trying to provide when I can."
He'll be best used as a matchup to bully tight ends and when trying to set the edge to cap the opposing run attack, but look for him to be rotational and battle players like Tarell Basham and Bradlee Anae for playing time behind Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence. The Cowboys might've been better served going with a player like Patrick Jones II or Ronnie Perkins here -- a justifiable argument -- but Golston isn't nearly the curious selection as what happened with the team's final pick of Day 2.
99th overall: Nahshon Wright, CB - Oregon State
Still in the gambling mood, the Cowboys bucked conventional thought by passing on Elijah Molden and Ifeatu Melifonwu with the 99th overall pick, then watching them go off of the board with the 100th and 101st picks, respectively. It's Wright who got the nod instead, a lengthy cornerback prospect some had graded as high as the fourth round, while others had graded outside of the top 300. Much like the other cornerback selected on Day 2 by the Cowboys, but for a much different reason, this is going to be a boom or bust pick by Dallas. The reason for the wild variation is Wright is one of the more understudied prospects in this year's defensive back class, but the Cowboys felt they didn't want to risk him to Day 3 and -- more likely -- undrafted free agency.
That means you could justifiably label this pick a severe reach, even if it does pan out for Dallas. All of this said, Wright isn't without things to smile about. He's rangy, physical and has a foundation of a potential ballhawk. He leaves Oregon State with five interceptions in only 16 games, a promising sample size, but admittedly one that also points out his overall lack of experience; and that's another reason his name wasn't mentioned in draft circles.
He's also not the speediest in the group, but won't have to be if utilized to his skill set. For man coverage, they have Diggs and Joseph, ideally, with having value as a zone cover who will have to bulk up if he's to take on some of the beefier NFL halfbacks. Wright's ability to high point the ball like a receiver and quickly "sit" at the route break to shrink space for opposing wideouts make him ideal for when the Cowboys switch to zone instead of man coverage (but he will need great complementary play from the safeties to make sure anyone who double moves or go routes him is contained.
"For me, it's just learning how to condense myself to get in-and-out of my base a lot quicker," said Wright of his long strides being a possible challenge on routes against more quick-footed wideouts. "As a defensive back, I was always taught that you're always probably a step behind. Just getting in-and-out of my brakes a little quicker. I've worked on it, and it shouldn't be a problem."
His instincts could translate well with his Richard Sherman-esque frame, albeit an inch taller than the future Hall of Famer and a few pounds lighter, making him an experiment the Cowboys are happy to give a go; although the question might forever be could and should it have happened much later. Wright's career will now forever be compared to an equally lengthy but more impressive Melifonwu, much like Taco Charlton's is to that of T.J. Watt. That means there's a ton of pressure on him to contribute in some fashion rather immediately, be it fair or not so much.
Add another bit of it by his pick being the compensatory gained by the loss of Byron Jones.