Teams around the league and NFL hopefuls have all gathered in Indianapolis to take part in the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine. The on-field events are set to start Friday (March 2), which provides a great opportunity for these prospects to show off their athleticism. But, it's what takes place behind closed doors that could really help or hurt an individual's draft stock.
Yes, I'm talking about the interviews these NFL hopefuls have to partake in. They are all poked and prodded to test their mental and physical capabilities. Each interview only takes about 15 minutes, but those 15 minutes could end up being the most important thing they go through in the entire draft process.
Below I've identified four potential Dallas Cowboys prospects who really need to ace their interviews. I think each one of these NFL hopefuls have a chance to upgrade the Cowboys roster, but they can also hurt themselves and be taken off the Cowboys draft board completely if things don't go well in the interview.
DE Arden Key, LSU
Arden Key was regarded as arguably the best pass rusher in collegiate football heading into the 2017 season, but injuries and off-field concerns have kept him from living up to his immense talent. He has the potential to become the best pass rusher in the 2018 draft class, but he's going to have to convince NFL teams he has his head on straight and any past issues are behind him.
In the interview process at the Scouting Combine, the Dallas Cowboys would be wise to poke and prod Key to find out if he would be worth the risk. He has undeniable talent, but so did Randy Gregory and the Cowboys have already been burned once. But, if Key can ace his interview and pass his drug test, he could be the DE the Cowboys are looking for to start opposite DeMarcus Lawrence.
CB Holton Hill, Texas
Based on talent alone, Holton Hill is probably a top-five cornerback in the 2018 draft class. He likely would have been a surefire first-round draft pick and quite possibly the first CB drafted. Unfortunately, Hill has been his own worst enemy due to off-field problems and rumored failed a drug test during his time at the University of Texas. These issues ended up cutting his 2017 season short because of a suspension.
As things stand right now, these are huge red flags and have been a huge factor in why his draft stock has completely plummeted. I don't know if an NFL team, especially the Dallas Cowboys, who would be willing to take a chance on him before Day 3 of the draft. But, if he can do well in the interviews at the combine, he could really help his draft stock. The pairing of Chidobe Awuzie and Holton Hill on the outside and Jourdan Lewis in the slot, could give the Cowboys the best CB group in the NFL.
LB Jack Cichy, Wisconsin
Unlike Arden Key and Holton Hill, Jack Cichy doesn't have any off the field issues. In fact, he is exactly the right kind of guy (RKG) the Dallas Cowboys try to fill their roster with. But, that doesn't mean the interview process is any less important for him. He still has plenty of questions he needs to answer.
Jack Cichy's red flags have to do with his injury history during his time at Wisconsin. He tore his pectoral muscle his junior season and then missed just about all of 2017 after tearing his ACL. If not for those injuries, he would probably be a second round draft pick, but will likely be a Day 3 pick instead. He has starting potential and the Dallas Cowboys definitely need more depth at the LB position, which is why it is so important he does well in the interview.
LB Shaun Dion Hamilton, Alabama
Like Jack Cichy, Shaun Dion Hamilton's interview with NFL teams will revolve around his injury history and whether or not he has sustained more injuries than have been reported. As a junior, he tore his ACL in his right knee, but was able to rehab and regain his starting job in 2017 until he fractured his kneecap in the same knee.
These are his biggest concerns as a Cowboys draft prospect. He has the talent to earn a starting role, but his injury history is definitely a red flag, especially since he is a little undersized. Hamilton will have to ease any of those concerns in the interview process. He will no doubt be poked and prodded about his injuries, but if everything checks out, he could greatly improve his draft stock.
Free Agent CB Orlando Scandrick Joining Washington Redskins
Just two days after being released by the Dallas Cowboys, cornerback Orlando Scandrick has found a new home in the nation's capitol. After 10 seasons in Dallas, Scandrick is signing with the rival Washington Redskins.
Redskins and Orlando Scandrick have agreed to a 2-year deal worth a max value of $10M, source said. From Dallas to a rival.
By joining Washington after leaving Dallas, Scandrick follows in the footsteps of many ex-Cowboys: Terrell McClain, Jason Hatcher, Stephen Bowen, and even Deion Sanders to name a few.
Last week, Orlando reportedly requested his release from Dallas. It was widely expected that he would be a salary cap casualty anyway, though, and especially with the young stockpile of cornerbacks the Cowboys currently have.
Dallas has three young corners they believe in with Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and Anthony Brown. There is also talk that Byron Jones could be moving back to CB next year.
Scandrick, 31, will get to stay in the NFC East and now cover some of his former teammates. Give the reportedly salary, he should at least be the slot corner for Washington next year if not a starter.
Upgrading the Offensive Line Cowboys Top Offseason Priority?
Despite the displeasure by the majority of fans, the Dallas Cowboys continue to hold things close to the vest with their approach to free agency. It's definitely not the most popular approach and tends to drive fans crazy, but things could start heating up now that the free-agent market is starting to settle.
Looking from the outside in, we can only speculate as to which positions the Dallas Cowboys may prioritize in free agency and in the draft that matter. Earl Thomas and the safety position has been the most popular topic of discussion throughout the free agency process, but it looks as if the Cowboys are narrowing their focus on upgrading and adding depth to their offensive line.
This is just speculation of course, but it's based on the fact that the Cowboys are rumored to be bringing in free-agent offensive lineman Marcus Martin and Cameron Fleming. And on top of that, it was announced that two of the Dallas Cowboys 30 pre-draft visitors are also offensive lineman, Will Hernandez, who is popular among Cowboys fans already, and offensive tackle Kolton Miller.
I don't know about you, but it looks as if the Dallas Cowboys are certainly focused in on upgrading the offensive line. This absolutely makes sense after what they went through last season with the carousel at the left guard position and Tyron Smith's struggles to stay healthy.
More than anything, the Cowboys need OL depth heading into the 2018 season. There is only really one spot up for grabs at left guard, but the depth across the OL is absolutely depleted unless you want to rely on Chaz Green again.
This is where Marcus Martin and Cameron Fleming make a lot of sense. Marcus Martin has the versatility to play center and guard, and has done so already in his NFL career. He could compete for the starting LG position, but if nothing else, could replace Joe Looney as the backup C/OG.
Cameron Fleming could be the more important of the two free agents the Cowboys are rumored to be interested in. At the worst, Fleming would be an upgrade as the swing tackle, something he's done with the New England Patriots throughout his career. But, he could compete to become the starting right tackle, which would kick La'el Collins back inside to left guard.
That's all speculation right now, but the Dallas Cowboys would do what's best for the entire team in order to get the right starting five offensive lineman on the field.
The same can be said about rookies Will Hernandez and Kolton Miller. Hernandez would likely be a plug-and-play left guard if he ended up being the Dallas Cowboys first-round draft pick. That would keep the offensive line from shuffling and hopefully solidify the unit for years to come.
Kolton Miller on the other hand would be a lot like the Cameron Fleming situation mentioned above. He can probably tackle on the left or right side the NFL, although some draft analysts believe he will struggle as a LT at the next level.
Of course, there is no way of knowing how much interest the Dallas Cowboys have any of these players right now. But to me, it looks as if upgrading the offensive line is certainly one of their top priorities this offseason.
Is upgrading the OL the Dallas Cowboys top offseason priority?
Cowboys Free Agency: The Thin Line Between Frustration and Comprehension
For die-hard NFL fans, the free agency period is as fun as any other week in the regular season. It's always a fun experience knowing what team is interested in which player and who's visiting who. Heck, there are websites with "free agents trackers" for people who don't want to miss a single thing.
Seeing the huge contracts some players get and discussing whether it's well-deserved money or an overpaid salary provides football fans all around the league with fun football conversations in the middle of March.
This is a period in which, despite not being on the field, every NFL team is doing the same thing. Trying to get better. Which is exactly why most Dallas Cowboys fans are frustrated with how things have gone for their favorite team in this 2018 NFL offseason.
Right now, less than a week after the free agency period officially began, they're the only team left in the NFL that hasn't signed a single free agent.
Surprising? Not at all.
Whether we like it or not, we know how this team likes to operate. A quiet free agency isn't out of the ordinary for the Cowboys. For many years, the NFL Draft has been the priority for them, and they've done a good job at it.
At the end of the day, waiting for the first wave of free agents to pass is smart unless you're looking for a QB or have a huge amount of cap space. When you look at what players are getting, you realize most of them are overpaid. Sammy Watkins got a $48M three-year deal, when he hasn't really proved to be worth it.
I don't think Cowboys Nation would've liked to see the Jones family bring Watkins for that kind of money. Personally, I don't mind the Cowboys' front office letting those first expensive signings occur without them participating in them.
I mean, they've already made a splash, when you think about it. DeMarcus Lawrence was the biggest non-QB free agent of the year and they managed to keep him for at least next season. It's not exactly a free agent signing, but they are paying one of the NFL's best pass rushers more than $17M to wear the Star one more year.
Yes, the Cowboys' team-building philosophy is comprehensible. But when do fans like you and me stop understanding their offseason approach and get bothered by it? To me, that frustration came in the form of Tyrann Mathieu signing with the other NFL team in Texas.
If the Honey Badger had signed a super expensive contract, I'd be fine with the Cowboys passing on him. But Houston was able to get him for just seven million dollars on a one-year prove-it deal.
Mathieu is one of the best defensive talents in the league and will be just 26 years old when next season begins. Why didn't the Cowboys tried to land him, if safety is a position of need? I mean, we've been talking about a potential trade for Earl Thomas all year!
Were they hesitant just because the Honey Badger isn't your traditional safety? Are they so conservative that their reason to not go after him was he wasn't a scheme fit? When you're talking about a talent like his, I think you make things work to see him thrive along young and promising cornerbacks like Jourdan Lewis and Chidobe Awuzie.
The Cowboys can still look at Tier-2 free agents such as TE Eric Ebron or S Kenny Vaccaro over the following days. It could end up working for them, or it could end up just like Nolan Carroll's horrendous game versus the Broncos in week 2 of the 2017 NFL season and his $2M in dead money for this year.
When it comes to the Cowboys' approach to free agency, there's a very thin line between comprehension and frustration. Maybe, just maybe, they make us understand next season when we see results on the field.
For now though, it's tough to stay in the "comprehending" side of things.
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