Cowboys Nearly Landed Playmaking AFC Quarterback: Report

Mike McCarthy

Getty The Dallas Cowboys season ended in disappointment.

The Dallas Cowboys had their eyes on dynamic quarterback Malik Willis in the 2022 NFL draft before the Tennessee Titans traded up in the third round to select the signal-caller. According to 105.3 The Fan’s Bobby Belt, the Cowboys were considering taking Willis with the No. 88 selection prior to the Titans landing the quarterback two picks earlier.

“What if you don’t trade anything at all and you keep Dak and instead literally, while keeping Dak, you draft [Tennessee Vols quarterback] Hendon Hooker in the second round?” Belt explained during a January 25 episode of “Shan and RJ.” “…They almost drafted Malik Willis. They very easily could have drafted Malik Willis in the third round if he would have been there. If he would have fallen two more picks past the Titans, they were absolutely considering taking Malik Willis.”

Ultimately, the Cowboys ended up with wide receiver Jalen Tolbert with the selection who was unable to make an impact this season. Willis also struggled during his eight appearances (including three starts) with Tennessee and looks more like a long-term developmental quarterback moving forward.

The playmaking signal-caller threw for 276 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions while completing 50.8% of his passes this season. Willis also added 123 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground.

The Cowboys Could Look to Draft a Quarterback

If the Cowboys considered drafting a day-two quarterback last year, the situation has intensified even more after this season. Dallas could be in the market for a new backup if Cooper Rush departs for a more lucrative deal in free agency.

Prescott threw a career-high 15 interceptions in the regular season and added two more picks in the playoffs. The Cowboys QB1 still has two years remaining on his current deal, and drafting a quarterback is insurance in case of a Prescott injury. It also gives Dallas a potential long-term quarterback option if things turn south with Prescott in 2023.

“The Cowboys would have to at least consider taking a quarterback in this draft,” ESPN’s Todd Archer wrote on January 27. “It would make more sense to have a potential starter in place for 2024 if the Cowboys don’t go deeper in the playoffs in 2023 in Prescott’s eighth season as the starter.

“…At some point, the Cowboys have to at least consider the option of finding Prescott’s successor, potentially this April. That doesn’t mean trading way up in the first round to take a Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud, but it doesn’t mean waiting until the seventh round to draft a Ben DiNucci either.”

What Quarterback Could the Cowboys Target in the Draft?

It would be a major surprise if Dallas seriously looks to draft a quarterback in the first round. That takes the team out of the running for top prospects like C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young, Anthony Richardson and Will Levis. Yet, Dallas could begin looking at quarterback as early as the second round with Belt mentioning Hendon Hooker as a potential target.

The Vols quarterback is coming off an ACL injury, but Dallas would not need the signal-caller to play right away. Hooker’s age (25) combined with his recent injury could prompt the Vols star to fall past the second round in the draft. Some additional mid-round quarterback targets include Stanford’s Tanner McKee, Fresno State’s Jake Haener and Houston’s Clayton Tune.