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NFL Draft

What’s To Be Learned From Cowboys Pre-Draft Visits?

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.

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Draft - We can Infer a lot From the Pre-Draft Visitors 1

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:

//insidethestar.com/cowboys-draft-prospects-visited-valley-ranch/

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.

  1. They first bring in large groups of players who are expected to be taken where the team will select in the first round.
  2. 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.

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Die-hard Cowboys fan from the Northeast, so you know I am here to defend the 'boys whenever necessary. Began writing for a WordPress Cowboys Blog, and am currently a college student. Lets get going.

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NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft Target: Michigan DT Maurice Hurst

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Draft Target: Michigan DT Maurice Hurst

Heading into the 2018 NFL Draft, it’s pretty clear defensive tackle is toward the top of the Dallas Cowboys’ needs. Dallas has invested multiple draft picks and resources into the secondary, linebackers, and defensive ends, but their interior defensive line still needs to add depth and talent. One potential target to fill this need is Michigan Wolverines Defensive Tackle Maurice Hurst.

Over at Slant Sports I completed a full scouting report on Hurst, giving him a first-round grade and ranking him atop this defensive tackle class.

At 6’2″ and about 280 pounds, Maurice Hurst clearly projects as a three technique at the professional level. Hurst played the under-tackle most of the time at Michigan, but he did kick down over the center or inside the guards at times. Still, I wouldn’t expect a team to draft Hurst to be their one tech of the future.

Hurst is an explosive beast at defensive tackle.

Playing with a nonstop motor, Hurst won off the ball often, but also created effort and hustle plays behind the line of scrimmage during his college career. Hurst’s first step, quick hands, ability to win with leverage, and overall explosiveness shine through on film.

nfldraft2018 maurice hurst 5 – Streamable

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“Here’s an example of that explosive first step. Hurst is lined up as the 3-technique on the far side. Winning with his first-step quickness and burst, Hurst gives the offensive linemen absolutely no chance to block him. He then powers through the recovery attempt by the lineman to make the tackle in the backfield.” ~Slant Sports

Hurst clearly doesn’t have the prototypical size of a defensive tackle in the NFL, but his play style suits his body well.

His explosiveness and burst off the ball make him incredibly dangerous, and his quick hands, low pad level, and strong lower body help him to win against any offensive lineman.

He obviously isn’t at the same level, and may not deserve eye-to-eye comparisons with this player, but Maurice Hurst’s play style and body type remind me of a young Aaron Donald. (I’m not saying he’s better than Aaron Donald, save the comments).

nfldraft2018 maurice hurst 8 – Streamable

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In terms of his fit with the Cowboys, Hurst would compete with Maliek Collins for playing time at three technique.

Respected draft guru Dane Brugler, has mocked Hurst to Dallas in his latest mock draft, but the way they handle both Collins and impending restricted free agent David Irving will play a huge role in determining if Hurst would even fill a need.

Regardless, Maurice Hurst is a name deserving of first-round buzz, and Cowboys Nation should keep their eyes on him this offseason.

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NFL Draft

Sean’s Scout: Memphis WR Anthony Miller a Needed Weapon for Cowboys

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Memphis WR Anthony Miller A Needed Weapon For Cowboys
AP Photo / Jessica Hill

Slotted to pick 19th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys find themselves in position to add a first-round talent to a team that fell just short of the playoffs at 9-7 in 2017. Faltering entirely on offense without RB Ezekiel Elliott too many times this season, it’s hard to argue this asset is not best spent on new talent at WR.

The Cowboys haven’t drafted a wide receiver in the first round since 2010, trading up for Oklahoma State’s Dez Bryant. Frequent injuries and the inability to develop with QB Dak Prescott have diminished Bryant’s status as a star receiver in Dallas, and it may be time to overhaul the position entirely.

After scouting Memphis WR Anthony Miller, he may be just what the Dallas Cowboys need. Let’s take a closer look at his fit in the Cowboys’ offense in the first draft-season edition of Sean’s Scout.

WR Anthony Miller 2 – Streamable

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With 96 receptions for 1,462 yards and 18 touchdowns in his final season at Memphis, Senior WR Anthony Miller is one of the top players at his position in the 2018 NFL Draft. These inflated numbers in the Tigers’ pass-happy offense do little to highlight Miller as a next level prospect…

This film clip and quote from my full scouting report on Miller shows the pure play-making ability Miller has. Miller wouldn’t fill the Cowboys need for an over-the-top burner at WR, but he has no problem tracking the ball with ease and adjusting in the air to make big plays down the field.

…Miller is as tough of a cover as you’ll find thanks to his explosive and concise release off the line.

Anthony Miller is certainly a “Dak-friendly” pass catcher, as he possesses the catch radius to snag passes away from his frame using his exceptionally strong hands. Even when he is covered, Miller is open vertically.

With that said, Miller has more than enough ability to separate with good initial quickness and elite balance through his routes.

WR Anthony Miller 4 – Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

…he wastes no time accelerating through the secondary, and running with a powerful stride that makes it difficult to bring him down.

There may be better technical route runners in this draft class, but few set up defenders as consistently well as Miller — who has the production to match these NFL traits.

A willing run blocker too, Miller could walk into Dallas and immediately earn snaps as an X, Z, or Y receiver. Miller’s best fit to start his career is likely as a Z receiver, drawing less attention in coverage while being allowed to run a full route tree.

…Miller gets on cornerbacks in a hurry, setting them up with his fluidity and size to track the football through contact.

A potential replacement for Terrance Williams with the Cowboys, Miller is somewhat of a similar player in the way he wins with mostly size.

The Memphis product would still be an upgrade over Williams though, as it is much easier to get the ball in Miller’s hands. Add in the red-zone ability that Anthony Miller has to box out defenders, and the run-after-catch burst as an inside target, and Miller is a weapon the Cowboys could desperately use.

WR Anthony Miller 1 – Streamable

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…I found myself constantly impressed with the speed at which Miller gets up the field when taking the ball underneath.

Miller will have nothing but opportunities to raise his draft stock over the coming months. He will be at this month’s Senior Bowl, receiving NFL-level coaching to refine his game. The Scouting Combine will also be critical for Miller’s testing numbers to confirm the athlete seen on tape dominating at Memphis will take the next step.

Earning a second round grade on my 2018 NFL Draft Board, there is a chance the Cowboys have to use their first round pick if they truly want Anthony Miller in Silver and Blue. A very complete player that fills a need, Miller as the Cowboys first pick could make plenty of sense in April.

Tell us what you think about “Sean’s Scout: Memphis WR Anthony Miller a Needed Weapon for Cowboys” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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NFL Draft

Luxury or Need for Cowboys to Draft Another 1st-Round OL?

Brian Martin

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Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, offensive line

Due to growing concerns about Tyron Smith‘s availability and future health, due to reoccurring back injuries, there seems to be a growing consensus among Dallas Cowboys fans that there’s a need to draft an offensive lineman with the first-round pick. But, is it actually a need, or would it be more of a luxury?

There is legitimate concern about Tyron Smith and his future health.

Back injuries have a way of flaring up at the most inopportune times. It’s also not an injury that’s going away anytime soon, if ever. This is the unknown the Cowboys are faced with heading into the off-season, and it could end up having a major impact on the direction they go in the 2018 NFL Draft.

There seems to be a growing consensus around Cowboys Nation that the Dallas Cowboys should seriously consider selecting the best available offensive tackle with the 19th overall pick.

There are probably two reasons for this:

  1. Tyron Smith’s health concerns, and
  2. the need to upgrade the swing tackle position after watching Byron Bell and Chaz Green play in 2017.

But, the question remains: is drafting yet another offensive lineman in the first-round a luxury or need for the Dallas Cowboys?

Personally, I can see both sides of this argument. So, let’s break it down a little and examine each.

Luxury

Zack Martin

Dallas Cowboys RG Zack Martin

The Dallas Cowboys have already invested an enormous amount of resources to build arguably the best offensive line in the NFL.

They’ve spent three first-round draft picks to acquire Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin, two of which have already received long-term extensions with Martin waiting in the wings.

That’s a lot of money devoted to one position, which ultimately means the Cowboys have to go cheaper in other areas in order to fit under the salary cap. This is the money that would be used in free agency to acquire some of those higher-priced free agents fans are always hankering for.

It also can be used to re-sign some of the Cowboys players at other positions, such as DeMarcus Lawrence.

But, it’s not only the money that makes drafting a first-round OL a luxury.

Four out of five of the Cowboys OL are already pretty much set in stone. The left guard position is really the only unoccupied position right now, but that could be filled rather easily. This, of course, is assuming Tyron Smith stays healthy, but regardless, he is the starting left tackle when the 2018 season begins.

Need

Byron Bell

Dallas Cowboys OL Byron Bell

There’s no reason to believe Tyron Smith will be able to play an entire 16-game season going forward. The last two seasons he has had to sit out several games due to injuries, and unfortunately his back issues aren’t going away anytime soon.

To make matters worse, Dallas doesn’t have an adequate backup, which was proven on more than one occasion in 2017. Hence the need.

With the exception of the quarterback, the left tackle position is arguably the most important on offense. They protect the QB’s blindside and are largely responsible for keeping him healthy and upright.

There’s a reason they are drafted so highly and paid so handsomely: they are that important to a team’s success.

There was also a reason the Dallas Cowboys offense started to sputter once Tyron Smith started missing time. Opposing defenses no longer respected the Cowboys LT, and started putting their best pass rusher on that side to get after Dak Prescott.

Prescott ended up having happy feet and it had a ripple effect throughout the entire offense, and not in a good way.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Quite honestly, I think it would be a luxury to draft any kind of offensive lineman with the Cowboys’ first-round selection, but I wouldn’t be completely surprised if that’s the direction they went. There are positives and negatives to both sides of the argument.

But, if they stick to the draft board and an OL is their highest rated player there, I say go for it.

The only thing we can do is have faith that the Dallas Cowboys know more about Tyron Smith’s health and his availability to play then we do as fans. If they decide to draft an offensive lineman early, I think we should all take that as an indication that they are worried about Smith, at least a little bit.

Luxury or Need: Do the Cowboys draft a first-round OL?

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