Wednesday marks six days to the 2017 NFL Draft Combine, and preparations for the draft are about to hit full speed. Fans everywhere will begin to have a much better understanding of the names worthy of first round consideration – targeting a few specifically to land with their favorite teams.
For those in Cowboys Nation that have been studying this draft since the end of the 2016 season, a few names have already been circulating, mainly because of their position. It is a well-known story line that the Dallas Cowboys need to improve their pass rush heading into 2017 – doing so in the first round of the Draft would only make sense.
Specifically, you've likely seen Auburn EDGE Carl Lawson and UCLA EDGE Takk McKinley mocked to America's Team so far. In my first Pre-Combine mock draft over at Slant Sports, I had a hard time getting both talented defensive ends out of the top 20. The 2017 NFL Draft is loaded with talented pass rushers, but it is equally stacked with teams in need of their services (read: all of them) in prime position to grab some of the elite talents there.
So, will the days of seeing Carl Lawson and Takk McKinley mocked to the Cowboys be short-lived after the upcoming 2017 NFL Combine? The answer depends on a lot of factors.
2017 NFL Draft Combine: EDGE Carl Lawson – Auburn
While it is not the part of the NFL Combine that makes it onto television for draft nuts to admire on NFL Network, the medical evaluations are the most important part of this pre-draft process. Every year, talented players will slide down team's draft boards because of injury concerns discovered at the NFL Draft Combine – while others will get great news and rise.
This is going to be the case for Auburn's Carl Lawson, who was a stud on the field in the SEC as a freshmen in 2013 and Senior in 2016. Missing 2014 and most of 2015 with a shoulder injury though, Lawson is going to need to have to clear the Combine with no medical red flags.
Dominating the on-field drills shouldn't be much of a problem for Carl Lawson, who's tape also speaks for itself when it comes to being the type of disruptive RDE that every team covets.
NFLDraft Carl Lawson Positive 2 – Streamable
For the Cowboys, regardless of what happens with Lawson at the Combine, there are a few scenarios to be weary of when it comes to hoping he's around at the bottom of the first round. In a recent example, Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson entered the 2016 NFL Draft with a shoulder concern – still landing in the top 20 at 19 overall to the Buffalo Bills.
An even steeper slide for Carl Lawson would not only mean that more and more teams are legitimately concerned about the injury potential, but that the Cowboys may not be able to afford adding another player like this to their defensive line. Availability is the greatest asset any NFL player can have, and even when the entirety of the Cowboys defensive line is on hand for Rod Marinelli their game day production is lacking.
Lingering concerns with linemen like DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford has made the need for the Cowboys to not only hit on a pro-ready pass rusher a dire one, but should potentially narrow this search to include prospects guaranteed to see the field and get to work.
You're going to be hearing plenty of talk about Carl Lawson in this 2017 NFL Draft over the coming weeks, with less and less of them potentially involving him landing with the silver and blue.
2017 NFL Draft Combine: EDGE Takk McKinley – UCLA
Just one pick separated Takk McKinley from coming off of my board after Carl Lawson in this first mock draft. The rawer prospect of the two, no one area of the NFL Draft Combine will be more important than the other for McKiney.
Instead, this incredibly explosive UCLA prospect will have a chance to not only clear all medicals but turn even more heads with his on-field workouts and measurements. Already known as a high-ceiling EDGE talent to many draft analysts, McKinley's Combine data will allow him to be compared to current defensive ends in the NFL.
Inside The Star Staff Writer Kevin Brady (a fellow Slant Sports draft scout as well) even mentioned in the above scouting report on Takk McKinley that the potential for him to fly up draft boards has been there all along:
Right now, Takk is projected to go in the late first round, most likely to the Dallas Cowboys or Pittsburgh Steelers. But I have a feeling that as this draft process moves along, Takk's stock will rise greatly as he tests well, and he will be considered as a top 20 pick in the draft.
I'll personally be interested to see McKinley in short-range speed drills on the field from Indianapolis, and will also be keeping an eye on the final numbers for his height, weight, and arm length.
If all of these variables come in better than expected for Takk McKinley, it is a long shot that the Dallas Cowboys can sit home with the 28th overall pick and land this athletic stud. Even just on the assumption that McKinley will be fine through medical evaluations and interview well with teams, it is not unrealistic at all to expect any team drafting in the top 15 to fall in love with his upside and pull the trigger.
What do Cowboys fans have to be excited about at the 2017 NFL Combine?
While this is a question that we'll address in greater detail as the Combine gets closer, a final look at my Pre-Combine mock draft shows that Missouri's Charles Harris – another intriguing EDGE prospect – lands in Dallas.
If you are set on the Cowboys using their first round pick this year on a pass rusher, there is going to still be talent available for them to do so at 28. Cowboys Nation should get excited about how players like Harris actually test out, along with Derek Rivers, Hasson Reddick, and other somewhat unpolished EDGE prospects with all of the traits to produce in the NFL – starting on the field at the 2017 Scouting Combine.