(Editor’s Note: The offseason program is in full swing, and it’s no longer too early to look ahead. As part of the preparation for training camp, this series will introduce 25 key players who are new to the Cowboys’ roster, rookies and veterans alike. The series continues today with wide receiver Jalen Tolbert.)
How he got here: This might have been the most stressful acquisition of the Cowboys’ offseason. If your memory is a fuzzy, a refresher: Tolbert was one of several receivers this front office targeted in the 2022 NFL Draft. The problem is that they also coveted Ole Miss pass rusher Sam Williams, who was also available when they went on the clock with the No. 56 overall pick on April 29. The Cowboys weighed their options, and Williams ultimately became the second-round pick. The draft gods smiled on them, however, as Tolbert hung around another 32 picks and was still sitting on the board when they picked again at No. 88 overall. Having considered him a round earlier, the decision was a no-brainer at the second time around and Tolbert became their third-round pick.
What’s next: High expectations don’t typically fall on a late third-round pick, but that’s the scenario facing Tolbert in his first season out of South Alabama. Amari Cooper was traded to Cleveland back in March, and Michael Gallup is still recovering from a January ACL tear. Tolbert was already going to have a chance to contribute early, but he’ll now have an opportunity to be a Day 1 starter. CeeDee Lamb is this team’s obvious No. 1 option, and James Washington has signed on as veteran depth and another potential starter. But it would be a big boost to an offense in transition if Tolbert is ready to hit the ground running and make starter-type contributions right away.
Bet you didn’t know: It was a bit of a departure for the Cowboys to draft a South Alabama so highly – but this is new and exciting territory for the Jaguars, as well. South Alabama was established as a program in 2009 and didn’t make the jump to the top level of college football until 2012. In those 13 years, Tolbert is just the third Jaguar player to be drafted into the NFL, joining Gerald Everett in 2017 and Kawaan Baker in 2021. Interestingly, all three South Alabama draftees so far have been pass-catchers.
Quotable: “Right now it’s about picking up the playbook, getting as much as he can down and as those questions grow for him, I’ll answer those. That’s when the time will come of getting him one-on-one, watching film and making sure we’re seeing things the right way. He’s a smart guy, has already picked up on a lot. Those questions have already started so we’re moving fast.” – Dak Prescott