When the Dallas Cowboys selected Matt Waletzko in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft, some in Cowboys Nation were left scratching their heads. The left tackle from the University of North Dakota wasn’t exactly a household name and the Dallas Cowboys had grown somewhat notorious over the years for targeting Power-5 players over those who played in lesser conferences.
But those who spent time watching Senior Bowl practices this past winter, knew what was up. The 6-foot-7 tackle made a name when he got a chance to match-up against his peers from bigger schools. And he found himself on the sleeper list of just about every scout in attendance.
Matt Waletzko has a tremendous ceiling and could pay off huge if the Dallas Cowboys stay patient with their timeline.
You can’t teach length and Matt Waletzko has that in spades. His arm length falls in the 96th percentile and his wingspan in the 98th. That, by itself, is not a major feat, but combined with his athleticism, it makes him something special.
Men his size are not supposed to move like he does and that’s why Jim Nagy, the head scout/honcho/marketing genius behind the Senior Bowl, proclaimed his floor to be swing tackle and his ceiling to be a starter, saying “the best football way ahead of him.”
The freak athlete has size and ability you can’t teach. He’s an accomplished (only gave up 3 sacks in entire college career) yet undeveloped blocker, which means he doesn’t have many bad habits to break. In rookie mini-camp the Cowboys made him a fixture at LT and he looked the part.
He also looked…skinny.
It’s not often you call a 312lb man “skinny” but when he’s 6-foot-7, perspectives have a way of changing. Looking more power forward than offensive lineman, Waletzko has a way to go before his body or game is NFL-ready.
After mini-camp practices Mike McCarthy likened the rookie to former Kansas City Pro Bowler, John Alt. Alt, a player of similar stature, made a name for himself as lean bookend two decades back. He proved you don’t need to have lead in your shorts to thrive as a tackle in the NFL.
Even still, it’s hard to envision Waletzko making it against today’s power-rushers without a little more mass on his frame. The good news is the Dallas Cowboys aren’t in a rush. They don’t need their rookie to hit the ground running. They may not even need him to be the top alternate at tackle.
As we discussed earlier this morning, the Dallas Cowboys are going to continue to give their first round pick, Tyler Smith, reps at LT. Not only do they want to keep options open for his long-term future on the team, but they also will consider having him serve as Tyron Smith’s top back-up.
If Tyron goes down this season, Smith may be the best man for the job. And since finding a fill-in at LG is considerably easier than at LT, that’s the preferred course of action if Dallas loses Tyron.
This buys time for Waletzko’s development.
Further insulating Waletzko from premature exposure is second year developmental tackle, Josh Ball. Ball, 6-foot-7 himself, is likely ahead of the rookie in his development. While we know little to nothing about his stage in that process (basically red-shirted in 2021), he came in more polished and he’s added a year of weight-training. But we’ll get to Ball later. For now be excited about the rookie.
There’s a very real future in which Matt Waletzko is the Dallas Cowboys starting OT one day but he’s going to take some time. Luckily for the Cowboys they have options on staff that should buy him said time.