DALLAS — The Dallas Cowboys selected former Ole Miss defensive end Sam Williams with the No. 56 overall pick in Round 2 of the 2022 NFL draft.
After the Cowboys used the 24th overall pick in Round 1 to shore up the offensive line with Tulsa's Tyler Smith, Dallas used their second-rounder to address the trenches on the other side of the ball.
Part of the organization's logic in letting defensive end Randy Gregory go – or, at least the sales pitch on why they let him go – was that Dorance Armstrong had matured enough as a defensive end to match Gregory's production. Furthermore, they added an edge defender in Dante Fowler in free agency.
If Armstrong and Fowler take Gregory's place, who takes Armstrong's place as the developmental player in the pecking order?
Enter Williams. The 6’4”, 265-pound defensive end tallied 12.5 sacks, 15.0 tackles for loss, 57 combined tackles, a pass breakup, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery – which was returned for a touchdown – in his redshirt senior season at Ole Miss.
What may have impacted Williams' draft stock is his tumultuous 2020. In July 2020, Williams was arrested and charged with sexual battery, but the charges were dropped in September 2020 by the Lafayette County Sheriff's Department. Until the arrest and the charges dropped, Williams was suspended from the team's football activities.
Williams ran a 4.46 40-yard dash at the NFL combine and had a 32.5 vertical with a 123 broad jump. Williams has the athleticism to develop into an effective edge rusher, possibly in the mold of Gregory, who left for the Denver Broncos after a combative end to his tenure in Dallas.
The Montgomery, Ala. native will have to deal with the spotlight that comes with playing for the Cowboys. If Williams can keep the focus on football, he should be able to develop into a serviceable starter with the Cowboys coaches surely anticipating even more if all goes well.
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will no doubt have use for Williams, as the first team All-SEC performer is decent in space and can also get into the B-gap to provide a different look. As Fowler and Armstrong have their chances to shine, Williams can work in the background on some of the technical aspects of his game. Where Williams may be a problem for the Cowboys defense throughout his tenure with the team is his run defense.
Given where the Cowboys were picking, the value for Williams is not too bad and he had been an obvious target for the team leading up to the draft. With the selection, Dallas seemingly addresses a need with Williams that will allow them to explore other areas as the draft progresses.
However, to make good on the pick, the Cowboys will need the Ole Miss product to become a contributor at some point along his four-year rookie contract — one that seizes the starting job, not one that becomes the last defender standing due to salary cap or depth issues.
Are you happy to see the Cowboys address the pass rush early in the draft? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.