Each year as the NFL Draft approaches the internet becomes flooded with mock drafts and predictions for what each team is going to do come Draft night. Everyone wants that insider information or analysis to figure out who may be joining their favorite team. Sometimes, the information is right in front of our faces, we just have to analyze and accept it.
The NFL allows teams to host 30 prospects on official visits prior to draft day. Full lists of which players have and have not visited teams are rarely released, but through various media outlets we have been able to come up with a list of 28 prospects who have visited Valley Ranch so far. Inside the Star’s very own Sean Martin listed each reported visit:
So there is no need to name each player. Instead, we will look at the more general trend of these visitors.
Make no mistake about it, these visits are much more than a formality or something that the Cowboys feel they have to do. If history tells us anything, these visits may spell out exactly how this upcoming draft weekend is going to play out.
Historically, when scheduling these pre-draft visits, the Cowboys tend to take two approaches.
- They first bring in large groups of players who are expected to be taken where the team will select in the first round.
- Then, they host an enormous number of players at certain positions they clearly view as needs.
The 2016 draft process has been no different, and can tell us a lot about how the Cowboys will go about the upcoming draft.
The first part of this two-part visit strategy was fulfilled through visits from players of a few different positions, most of which hail from the defensive side of the ball. Of the 10 CBS projected first rounders the Cowboys hosted, 7 of them are defensive studs such as Jalen Ramsey, Joey Bosa, and DeForest Buckner. Dallas has only hosted 11 defensive players in total, so 7 of them being projected first rounders certainly points towards a trend.
A year ago, Dallas brought in 5 projected first round defensive players. Most notably of the group were Byron Jones and Randy Gregory. Of course, both were selected by the Cowboys within the first two rounds of the draft. In 2014, the Cowboys first two draft picks had also visited Valley Ranch prior to draft day, Zack Martin and DeMarcus Lawrence. In 2013, two of the team’s first three picks, Travis Frederick and Terrance Williams, came on pre-draft visits.
The Cowboys know who they like in the first two rounds, and seem to stack their visits with players projected to be around when they pick in those rounds.
It would be an absolute shock if neither of their first two selections were players who had an official visit with the team. In fact, the last time this was the case was in 2012 when Dallas traded up to snag CB Morris Claiborne. However, I think its fair to speculate that the main reason the team failed to host him was because they didn’t believe he would be around when it was time to pick. This year, most of the first and second round visits should be in striking distance for the team.
One may think, well of course the Cowboys first two picks would be of players who they have hosted. Why would they risk a pick on someone that early who they haven’t even had around the facilities? Fair point, but the second part of this two-part strategy shows us that mid to late round picks could be predicted through these visits as well.
Of course, the Cowboys cannot control how the picks ahead of them fall.
For example, they hosted both Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley a year ago and yet failed to draft either of them because both had already been selected. However, the key to this second part is not about the specific names that visit, as much as it is about the volume of a position group that visits.
When you look at who has come to Valley Ranch so far, the sheer number of quarterbacks jumps right at you.
It comes with no surprise the team would do its due diligence on the QBs after last years nightmarish situation, but the need for a young backup is not unique to this offseason. Yet, the Cowboys didn’t host a single QB prospect in either of the last two draft classes on official visits. Going from zero in two years to six in one tells me that this team is almost guaranteed to take a QB at some point. My guess would be Dak Prescott in the 3rd round, but either way I expect pick 67 to be one of the QBs who has come to Valley Ranch this offseason.
Those 6 QBs account for the highest number of visits per any position group.
In 2015, the Cowboys hosted 6 DEs and 6 CBs. Then in the first two rounds, they selected a CB and a DE. Later on in the draft, Dallas returned to the DEs by taking Ryan Russell in the 5th round. Guess what, Russell had an official visit with the Cowboys. As I said before, they did host Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley, but they only hosted three other backs, ranking the RB position 3rd in terms of volume of visits. This lack of volume forced the position to take a back seat when higher ranked CBs and DEs were available.
In 2014 they hosted 9 total defensive linemen and ended up drafting three; two of which had official visits with the team prior to the draft. Sensing a trend? If Dallas hosts a ton of players at one position, you can expect at least 1 or 2 players to be drafted from that position. Furthermore, you can expect those players to have had official visits at Valley Ranch, even if they are late round or undrafted prospects.
In the case of 2016, this trend points towards a few things.
First off, don’t rule out Joey Bosa as the 4th overall pick. The Cowboys have hosted more defensive linemen than any other defensive position, so history tells us they will look to take a lineman within their first 3 picks. Next, guys like Rodney Coe out of Akron and Deon King out of Norfolk State should be expecting a call. The Cowboys brought them in for a reason, and have had a tendency to draft or sign these under-the-radar prospects who have visited such as Mark Nzeocha a year ago.
Lastly, the Cowboys also hosted two offensive line prospects, Connor McGovern from Missouri and Isaac Seumalo from Oregon State.
While every line could use some more depth, many of us are not expecting an offensive lineman to be taken at all. Of course, this could just be Dallas testing the waters, and seeing what (if anything) they can find. However, a year ago Dallas shocked the fan base when they selected Chaz Green in the 3rd round after hosting him for a pre-draft visit. Don’t be surprised if Seumalo is taken early in the 4th round by the Cowboys, who like him enough to bring in to Valley Ranch as they did with Chaz Green.
Simply put, these pre-draft visits matter to the Cowboys.
Whether the visitor is a projected first rounder or UDFA, the team both thinks highly of the player and finds the position of great need. So, whether Bosa ends up being their first pick, or they grab an offensive lineman in the mid-rounds, don’t be surprised.
The visits have nearly spelled it all out for us.