With the 2018 NFL Draft coming into focus more and more each day, and the new league year set to enter April and proceed towards April 26th-28th's event from AT&T Stadium, the realization that this 2018 Draft class is shallow compared to recent years has brought things full circle.
Typically, the prospects linked to a team by either their fans or reporters at the beginning of the offseason are washed away in the month actually leading up to the draft. In the Cowboys' case, their recent presence at some of the top schools in the nation for pro days links them to a number of exciting prospects that have been on Cowboys Nation's radar for a while now.
Inside The Star at Frisco, preparations for the draft will be constantly moving forward, though we can take the luxury here to look back at the importance the week so far has had on the Cowboys.
Alabama Crimson Tide Pro Day
Top Draft Eligible Prospects: WR Calvin Ridley, LB Rashaan Evans, DT Da'Ron Payne, CB/S Minkah Fitzpatrick, S Ronnie Harrison
In the aftermath of the Cowboys using their 28th overall pick on Taco Charlton a year ago, it was revealed that this "controversial" pick was mostly fought for by Head Coach Jason Garrett.
On Wednesday, Garrett and the Cowboys' staff departed from the annual NFL coaches meetings to attend Alabama's pro day - Garrett's first formal stop of the season.
Jason Garrett & a Cowboys contingent of coaches & scouts will be in Alabama on Wednesday for the school's 2nd Pro Day. It will Be Garrett's first campus trip leading up to April draft.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to Crimson Tide prospects that the Cowboys could be interested in. My most recent roundup of national mock drafts pegged both Linebacker Rashaan Evans and Defensive Tackle Da'Ron Payne to the Cowboys. Wide Receiver Calvin Ridley also remains in play for pick #19, even with the team adding Allen Hurns.
Though no formal interest has been announced between the Dallas Cowboys and DT Da'Ron Payne, they do have a 30 visit set with Rashaan Evans, and met with Ridley at the Scouting Combine.
Both defenders have the floor to make an immediate impact on this team's front seven, adding an overall toughness to the unit.
Payne fits the Cowboys' "box" for 1T DTs, with the ability to dip his shoulders and get up the field against the pass. Evans would be an ideal compliment to Jaylon Smith and Sean Lee, an instinctive linebacker with the upside to become one of the biggest steals in this draft.
Florida Gators Pro Day
Top Draft Eligible Prospects: DT Taven Bryan, CB Duke Dawson, WR Antonio Callaway, TE DeAndre Goolsby
Staying in the SEC, Cowboys Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli was spotted at the pro day of the Florida Gators.
Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli with #Gators DT Taven Bryan. https://t.co/u2vti68aWm
To nobody's surprise, Marinelli was taking special interest in Defensive Tackle Taven Bryan. A true Marinelli prospect all the way, Bryan is a budding prospect that's risen up draft boards given his incredibly high ceiling.
Profiled as a potential pick for the Cowboys here, Bryan is raw in his overall game as a 3T DT, but was disruptive enough against top college competition to warrant an early pick. Bryan would fill a need for the Cowboys, as the team did not address their defensive front at all in free agency.
Come draft night, it will be fascinating to see just how much pull Rod Marinelli will find in the Cowboys' war room. It is widely believed that 2018 will be his last season in Dallas, and a wealth of potential replacements - along with new coaches on offense - will all be fighting for "their guys".
Taven Bryan is going to be one of Rod Marinelli's guys.
Maryland Terrapins Pro Day
Top Draft Eligible Prospects: WR D.J. Moore, CB JC Jackson
The D.J. Moore train is full steam ahead! Even before the dynamic Maryland receiver blew up the Scouting Combine, the fit between Moore and the Cowboys has made a lot of sense.
As mentioned with Calvin Ridley, who should come off the board before Moore, the Cowboys should absolutely still be in the market for a WR with their first pick. Using this pick on Moore would fully upgrade Dak Prescott's stable of pass catchers, with the addition of a speedy rookie that can separate down the field and make defenders miss easily in the open field.
Eagles, Bills, Chiefs, Cowboys, 49ers, Texans, Seahawks, Vikings, Falcons, Jets, Dolphins, Saints, Redskins, Raiders, Giants, Bucs, and Colts are all here for Maryland pro day. WR DJ Moore is the featured prospect.
In watching D.J. Moore at his pro day, the Cowboys are doing their due diligence on a prospect that will also visit The Star for a pre-draft visit. Moore met with the Cowboys at the Combine as well.
Texas Longhorns Pro Day
Top Draft Eligible Prospects: S DeShon Elliott, DT Poona Ford, LB Malik Jefferson, CB Holton Hill, OT Connor Williams
Last but certainly not least on the Cowboys' recent flurry of activity is of course their stop at Texas' local pro day.
Decent amount of draft-caliber dudes at Texas' pro day today. As far as the Cowboys are concerned, the guys that stick out to me are LB Malik Jefferson and S DeShon Elliott.
Most Texas Longhorns prospects will be eligible to participate in the Cowboys' "Dallas Day" - an opportunity to workout local players without burning valuable 30 visits.
This will be the case for Linebacker Malik Jefferson and Safety DeShon Elliott. In which rounds the Cowboys could target both players remains to be ironed out, but they have shown special interest in Elliott, meeting with the athletic safety already.
I would also add Longhorns' prospect Connor Williams to any list of potential Cowboys targets, as Williams was once considered a top OT (and overall) prospect in 2017. Returning to school off of an injury, Williams did struggle at times this season, and has been projected by some as an interior player now.
In the market for a starting left guard still, along with as much depth as possible up front, the Cowboys could see plenty of value in taking their chance on Connor Williams.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Just in Texas alone today, three more pro days will take place at SMU, Houston, and Rice. With the full circuit of pro days concluding on April 6th, it is important to step back and check in with the Cowboys' decision makers this week.
Presented with the opportunity to put the Cowboys back in contention quickly, with ten total picks in their home draft, the brain trust of the Dallas Cowboys has been out in full force to - excitingly - look at prospects that even casual fans should have a handle on.
With plenty of work left to be done around the league before the Cleveland Browns go on the clock, do not be surprised when the latest rookie to earn his star as this team's first round pick is one mentioned above.
Cowboys Draft: Reviewing Kansas DT Daniel Wise
Throughout the post draft media process, the Cowboys' decision makers have been adamant that they found multiple draft-able players in undrafted free agency this year. Each of which, of course, will have an opportunity to compete for a roster or practice squad spot this summer.
One of those players who almost certainly had a draft-able grade despite fall through all seven rounds, is Kansas defensive tackle Daniel Wise.
At 6'3" and 290 pounds, Wise projects as a 3-technique in the NFL, and should compete for that very role on the Cowboys defense. Wise is not an overly bendy or athletic player, but he has a good initial quickness which allows him to penetrate gaps well. Wise plays with excellent effort, having the type of motor that I'm sure Rod Marinelli valued highly during the pre-draft evaluations.
A strong and powerful interior presence, Wise can offer some upside as a pass rusher as well. He has quick, active, and heavy hands. When combining his hands with his get-off, Wise is a real threat as a pass rusher. Maybe his most impressive pass rushing quality, however, is the effort which he plays with. Never giving up on a play, you'll have to block Wise until the final whistle or he will threaten for effort sacks.
In college, Wise was often asked to be a two-gap defender from the 5-technique, but that's just not where he'll be at his best. Rather, he should be used in the role the Cowboys likely envision for him, allowing him to play with power at the point of attack and disrupt the running game.
But what are Daniel Wise's chances of even making the team?
The Cowboys made a concerted effort to improve their defensive line this offseason, specifically on the interior. By adding free agents like Kerry Hyder and drafting Trysten Hill 58th overall, Dallas has improved what was considered a weakness during the postseason a year ago.
Not all of these talented defensive tackles will make the team, though, it's simply a numbers a game. And cutting an undrafted free agent will certainly be easier to do than cutting someone who will be owed real money, or was acquired through premium draft capital.
Regardless, Daniel Wise will have the chance to prove his worth during training camp and the preseason. And based on how he projects through his college tape and physical attributes, he'll likely make those final decisions very difficult on the Cowboys' staff.
Pre-Draft Visitors Highlight Dallas Cowboys 2019 Rookie Class
The Dallas Cowboys are "officially" adding 21 rookies to their roster, eight of which they drafted and the remaining 13 are undrafted free agents. The number of rookies the Cowboys are bringing in isn't all that surprising, but what did surprise me was how many of them were pre-draft visitors.
You may or may not know, but the NFL allows 30 allotted pre-draft visits for each team around the league. Teams don't have to use all 30 visits of course, but the majority of them take advantage of the opportunity and generally use up all 30 visits. It's a chance to introduce these rookies into the atmosphere they could be playing in and work them out in more of a one-on-one basis.
The Dallas Cowboys of course are known as a team who take their 30 pre-draft visits very seriously. Over the past several years they've drafted several players who were brought in for pre-draft visits, and 2019 was no exception.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, paying attention to the Dallas Cowboys 30 pre-draft visits is a good idea because the odds of them drafting one or more of them is pretty high. That's why I decided to run a pre-draft tracker this year, and because of it I was able to confirm 27 of the possible 30 pre-draft visitors for the Cowboys.
Here are 2019 pre-draft visitors currently on the Cowboys roster:
- DT, Trysten Hill
- RB, Tony Pollard
- RB, Mike Weber
- WR, Jon'Vea Johnson
- CB, Chris Westry
If you're doing the math, 5 out of 30 equates to 17% of the players the Dallas Cowboys brought in as pre-draft visitors. But, if Dallas only brought in 27 that percentage rises to 19%. To say that the Cowboys value these pre-draft visits would be an understatement, at least as far as 2019 is concerned.
The first three of Trysten Hill, Tony Pollard, and Mike Weber were of course all draft picks and have the best chance to stick around on the final 53-man roster, but I wouldn't rule out Jon'Vea Johnson and Chris Westry. Both were draftable players, but somehow fell through the cracks right into the lap of the Cowboys as UFAs.
I don't really know if it's a good idea the Dallas Cowboys are so transparent with how valuable the treat these 30 pre-draft visits. We've seen teams time and time again trade up right in front of them to draft a player the Cowboys could've possibly been eyeing, and this year was no exception.
After drafting Running Back/Wide Receiver Tony Pollard with the first of their fourth-round draft picks, it looked like the Dallas Cowboys had their sights set on small school Defensive End/Defensive Tackle John Cominsky out of Charleston with their second pick in the fourth. Unfortunately, the Atlanta Falcons traded up a spot ahead of them to draft Cominsky.
This of course isn't the first time the Falcons have done this, which begs the question as to how they knew the Cowboys could have possibly been targeting Cominsky. We can throw a conspiracy theory out there that Atlanta might have been inside source, but that's highly unlikely. More plausible theory is they were paying attention to Dallas' 30 pre-draft visitors as well.
It may be time for the Dallas Cowboys to deploy a little more smoke and mirrors when it comes to who they bring in for pre-draft visits in the future. But regardless, there's no denying the Cowboys pre-draft visitors highlight their 2019 rookie class.
Are you surprised the Dallas Cowboys added so many pre-draft visitors to the roster?
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Draft Grades
Another year, another draft come and gone. The difference was that this year the Dallas Cowboys were without a first-round pick thanks to their trade for Amari Cooper with Oakland. Their de facto first-round pick would obviously earn an A+ from how well he meshed with Dak Prescott and gave this Cowboys offense another dimension.
Given how well the Cowboys have done in the first round in recent history -- all but two of their first round picks since 2011 have been in the Pro Bowl, a trend that continued with last year’s pick, Leighton Vander Esch. This season, the Cowboys only had picks from round two and on. So this year was all about finding value and hoping it would fall into their laps.
Obviously time will tell if any of these players work out or not. For the time being, we can grade the picks based on what we do know. Some picks were worth it, while others raised questions, as well as eyebrows.
58 Overall: DT, Trysten Hill
In what has been considered the best defensive line draft in decades, the Cowboys took a bit of a risk with their first “official” pick. Trysten Hill is a first round talent out of UCF, but reports questioning his love for the game had some give him a third round grade.
Dallas has already had an off-season dealing with talented defensive linemen with questions around their passion for the game (i.e. David Irving) and so obviously people didn’t love this pick.
It’s a high risk, high reward move that we’ll have to wait and see how it turns out.
90 Overall: G, Connor McGovern
As far as value goes, McGovern was probably the team’s best pick. In my pre-draft rankings, Connor McGovern was my fourth overall interior lineman; a player who you can play anywhere in the interior and start immediately.
However, guard didn’t really seem like a need. This was obviously a “best player available” pick. What this pick has done instead is raise a bunch of questions.
Who’s job could be on the line?
Does this imply the team won’t re-sign La’el Collins?
Is Connor Williams going to play tackle like he did in college?
Is one of them going to get traded?
Is Travis Frederick really ready to go?
So many questions surround this pick, but there’s no questioning the player. Connor McGovern is likely a future starter on the line and Cowboys fans should be excited about that.
128 Overall: RB, Tony Pollard
If you follow me on Twitter, you know my feelings about Tony Pollard already.
Tony Pollard might be my favorite #Cowboys pick. Has experience at both the RB and WR position, plus had 7 career kick return TDs in college. He addresses all 3 needs in 1. #NFLDraft
Returner has been a need for a year now. I never liked the team trading away Ryan Switzer because it created a huge hole on special teams, as well as the receiving core.
The team also needed a backup running back to take the load off Ezekiel Elliott a bit. With Tony Pollard, they get all three positions filled in the form of a player who's 6'0" 210 pounds, ran a 4.52 40 and compiled 25 total touchdowns. Terrific value in the fourth round.
158 Overall: CB, Michael Jackson
This is the type of corner Kris Richard loves; big and tall. At 6'1" 200 pounds, Michael Jackson fits the profile.
His 2017 tape was actually better than his 2018 tape, and all four of his career interceptions came in '17. However, the team is obviously betting on his potential, especially with corner being a serious need.
With the Cowboys' four primary corners coming into contract years the next three seasons, odds are that at least one will be gone. MJ doesn’t fill in day one as a difference maker but, given some time under Kris Richard, he could be a nice player.
165 Overall: DE, Joe Jackson
Take Joe Jackson, new Cowboy, as well as Michael and Darius Jackson, and the team is just two short of a Jackson 5 reunion.
The team has been very busy trying to rebuild the depth at edge and Joe Jackson is icing on an already stacked cake. In an off-season that saw the retirement of David Irving and another suspension for Randy Gregory, the team was able to extend DeMarcus Lawrence and trade for Robert Quinn.
The edge room was already full but you can never have too many.
Joe Jackson is a fun, productive player from The U, who was teammates with the previous pick, Michael Jackson. In his career, he totaled 24 sacks and 37.5 tackles for loss all in three seasons. He’s not the fastest edge rusher in the world but has plenty of power to make up for it. With the team only for sure having DeMarcus Lawrence guaranteed beyond 2019, it’s good to have as much talent as possible.
213 Overall: S, Donovan Wilson
The team really needed a safety and it enraged most people that they didn’t pick one earlier. Especially with Taylor Rapp, Juan Thornhill and Amani Hooker all available at different times.
Donovan Wilson is an interesting pick. His career has been a rollercoaster while at Texas A&M, with a highly productive 2015 season, a dip in 2016, a fractured foot in the 2017 opener, and a rebound 2018 season.
Had his career not been derailed by his injury, he’s likely gone way before the sixth round and the Cowboys are obviously betting on his potential. Meets a need, but not a plug-in right away type of pick.
218 Overall: RB, Mike Weber
Tony Pollard is going to get first crack at the backup running back spot. However, given that he’s also the team’s likely return man as well, it makes sense that they’d want to deepen the running back room to give the team a true RB2.
Mike Weber was Ezekiel Elliott’s teammate at Ohio State, but didn’t come close to the impact Elliott had. Only topping 1,000 yards once in college, Weber is likely in competition with Darius Jackson for the backup spot.
He’s not as flashy as Zeke but can pick up the slack when asked to and is a solid receiver out of the backfield. If Weber can’t beat Jackson for the backup spot, then Weber is a likely candidate for the practice squad.
241 Overall: DE, Jalen Jelks
Jalen Jelks falls into a similar boat that both Hurricanes players are in. Like Joe Jackson, he’s a good solid edge piece (fifth round draft grade), but like Michael Jackson, his prior season's tape was better than his final season.
It's interesting that the Cowboys would pick a player who seems to be better suited to play in a 3-4 as a OLB, but has plenty of starter potential. Otherwise he’s a player that’s likely headed to the practice squad that the Cowboys wanted to make sure they get first crack at. Still, a good value in terms of where he was picked.
Dallas Cowboys Overall 2019 Draft Grade: B
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