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.
Have the Dallas Cowboys Overcome Their 2nd-Round Curse?
You may not be aware or maybe you've simply forgotten, but the Dallas Cowboys have struggled drafting players in the 2nd-round who can come in and contribute. Typically players drafted this highly are not only immediate contributors as a rookie, but are cornerstone players for years to come. That hasn't been the case for the Cowboys.
I don't know where you stand, but I was beginning to think the Dallas Cowboys were cursed with their 2nd-round draft picks. I know this was an area where they would gamble on players for some reason or another, but unfortunately it never really paid off. Hopefully, things are changing for the better.
Let's take a look back at past drafts to see what I'm talking about.
Past 2nd-Round Draft Picks Dating Back to 2006:
2018 Connor Williams
2017 Chidobe Awuzie
2016 Jaylon Smith
2015 Randy Gregory
2014 DeMarcus Lawrence
2013 Gavin Escobar
2012 (no selection) used to trade for Morris Claiborne
2011 Bruce Carter
2010 Sean Lee
2009 (no selection) traded out of 2nd-round
2008 Martellus Bennett
2007 (no selection) used to trade back into 1st for Anthony Spencer
2006 Anthony Fasano
You may be wondering why I decided to start all the way back in 2006. Well, I believe that's when the 2nd-round draft picks curse started for the Dallas Cowboys.
Anthony Fasano ended up having a solid career in the NFL, but he never lived up to his draft status as a former 2nd-round draft pick. The same can be said for Martellus Bennett, Gavin Escobar, and Bruce Carter. Shed a tear for them if you want, but I'd put them in the "bust" category.
The sad truth is, Sean Lee is the only 2nd-round draft pick on this list to ever see a second contract with the Dallas Cowboys. Although, I guess you can include DeMarcus Lawrence since he will be playing under the franchise tag in 2018. But, that's still not a very good hit percentage in the 2nd-round for more than a decade. Luckily, it looks as if things are changing.
DeMarcus Lawrence might end up being another "hit" for the Cowboys. It may have taken him four years to reach his potential, but there's no denying how dominant he was last season. If he can maintain that dominance this season, he could be looking at a big payday from the Cowboys.
The Dallas Cowboys took a risk on the next two players they drafted after D-Law. They knew Randy Gregory had his off the field issues, but were willing to take a chance on his talent in the 2nd-round. That has yet to pay off, but Gregory has a chance to rebound now that it looks as if he has his life back in order.
The Cowboys took another risk in the following draft when they drafted Jaylon Smith. No one knew if he would ever be able to play again after the devastating knee injury he sustained in his final collegiate game, but it's looking as if he could make a full recovery and return to his pre-injury form. Year 3 will be big for him, but he could end up being an absolute steal.
Fortunately, the Cowboys 2017 and 2018 2nd-round draft picks (Chidobe Awuzie and Connor Williams) look to be cornerstone players for years to come. That's what you're looking for in players drafted this highly.
I say all of this because it's really looking like the Dallas Cowboys have finally broken their 2nd-round curse. Maybe it's a change in draft philosophy or maybe it's because Will McClay's voice carries more weight in the draft room, but it's definitely good news for the future of the franchise. Hopefully it continues.
Do you think the Dallas Cowboys 2nd-round curse has ended?
Cowboys Draft Class: How Many Will Be Starters In 2018?
The Dallas Cowboys have been showered with praise by most national NFL media outlets for their 2018 NFL Draft class. NFL.com graded the Cowboys as having the 2nd best class in the league, and most other analysts have agreed that the team had a strong showing.
But now, of course, it's time to see what these new players will actually do on the field. Some are hoping the team found 3-5 new starters for the 2018 roster, but history would suggest that is pretty rare.
Dallas' 2016 draft class has been lauded as one of the best in the last decade, especially considering they look to have found their franchise quarterback in round four. That strong class only features four full-time starters heading into 2018, but we have to wonder if that's the outlier and not the norm.
Still, as we look back and examine this 2018 draft class it really appears they have found three day one starters in the first three rounds.
First round pick Leighton Vander Esch is expected to be the starting MIKE linebacker this season, with former second round selection Jaylon Smith moving to SAM. Vander Esch wasn't my favorite option at 19, but he is certainly starter-worthy in this Cowboys LB corps.
On day two the Cowboys added OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup, two of my personal favorite picks of their entire class. Williams should be the starting LG week 1 of the season, and Michael Gallup may overtake Allen Hurns as the most productive WR on the roster by year's end.
What about the rest of the class?
Dorance Armstrong will probably have too much competition to start at defensive end this season, but he should be an interesting rotational pass rusher. TE Dalton Schultz has the chance to surprise some people, but overtaking Geoff Swaim as the "starter" would be unexpected.
After that, the player with the best chance to make the team and contribute early on might be Boise State WR Cedrick Wilson. Wilson was a late day-two, early day-three pick to me so snagging him in the sixth round should provide incredible value to this roster. That wide out room is getting very crowded, though, so Wilson has his work cut out for him heading into camp.
How many of the Cowboys' 2018 draft picks will be starters in 2018? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.
Did the Dallas Cowboys Find 4 Starters in the 2018 NFL Draft?
One of the many winners of the 2018 NFL Draft were, without a doubt, the Dallas Cowboys. Not only did they addressed some of the team's most pressing needs, but they managed to draft very talented, capable players beyond the first round.
Cowboys Nation had to feel better about the rookie class the front office walked away with, specially after the second day of the Draft. Just like last year, they managed to find steals in the second and third rounds. In 2017, they did so with Cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis. Now, they stayed put at their original picks and walked away with OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup.
But first things first. In the eyes of many, Leighton Vander Esch wasn't worth the 19th overall pick. While I do agree that Vander Esch was a questionable selection, the Cowboys fixed arguably their most concerning position of all. As much as it pains to admit it, Sean Lee has yet to play an entire NFL season and Jaylon Smith was pretty much the only other capable starter on the roster.
Although Vander Esch needs to develop a ton before reaching his full potential. he's a week 1 starter and an early contributor for this defense. Whether it felt like a "reach" or not, the Cowboys took a starter in the Boise State linebacker.
Later, the Cowboys managed to add an arguably first-round talent with pick #50 to plug-and-play along the offensive line. Texas OL Connor Williams was also seen as a tackle prospect, but he'll likely start at guard for Dallas as a rookie.
Since Ron Leary left for Denver, the left guard spot hasn't been as stable. Jonathan Cooper did a decent job filling that spot, but with Williams taking his place, the Cowboys dominance in the trenches will finally return. Playing next to All-Pros Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, Connor Williams might become the best rookie in this class for the Cowboys.
One can't simply say the team found a "replacement" for Dez Bryant since he's a special player and with a very specific skill set, but Michael Gallup from Colorado State has the potential to become the team's WR1 pretty soon.
In the team's effort to build a Dak-friendly offense, Gallup is a crafty and smooth route-runner who has what it takes to play in any spot of the offense. His skill-set will allow him to play anywhere on the field and become Dak's favorite target in a year in which Jason Witten and Dez Bryant will no longer be lining up on his squad.
Taken in the first three rounds, Vander Esch, Williams and Gallup will be unquestionable starters. The question, however, is who else could become a starter for the Cowboys? Who could line up and start in week 1?
Even though it definitely isn't as certain as the other three rookies, I'm betting on Dalton Schultz to be a more important starter than we imagine. Listen, maybe it's not an ideal scenario to have the TE from Stanford start in week 1, but it could be necessary.
The Rico Gathers Adventure might just be over before it starts and Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin may not be anything special. In college, Schultz was pretty good at run blocking. In the Cowboys' offense, led by one of the best running backs in the league, Ezekiel Elliott, Schultz may be able to find success earlier than expected.
Besides, he has what it takes to catch passes in the NFL and although he certainly won't be the flashiest, he could be enough to give Dak Prescott a reliable tight end.
Dalton Schultz could be the surprise of this Draft for Dallas. He'll probably become a starter at some point in the season and for a fourth-round pick, that's a very good thing to say.
For a front office that's constantly bashed by Cowboys Nation, their job at this year's NFL Draft was a pretty good one. Now it's just a matter of time to find out which picks were as good as we originally thought.
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