The Dallas Cowboys scouts are confirmed attendants for at least three college football games this weekend.
Chris Steuber regularly puts together a list of which NFL Scouts officially visit which college games. He confirms that Cowboys scouts will attend at least these three games over the weekend:
- No. 14 Ohio State at No. 20 Michigan State, Saturday, 3:30 pm (ET)
- Arizona State at California, Saturday, 4:00 pm (ET)
- No. 4 Florida State at South Florida, Saturday, 6:00 pm (ET)
As tempting as it would be to think the Cowboys are attending the California game because they have their eyes set on WR Keenan Allen, the reality is that the Cowboys will likely be looking elsewhere in the draft this year. But what other position groups could the Cowboys be scouting in these games?
One way of trying to figure that out is using the CBSsports 2013 draft prospects rankings to see who else the Cowboys may be looking at in the games their scouts are attending. Using the CBSsports rankings leads to an interesting observation: Of the top ten prospects the Cowboys could be looking at in these six games, five are defensive linemen.
I know that with a sample size this small, these results could be entirely coincidental. But let's take a look at the top ten names the Cowboys could be looking at in the three games, as ranked by CBSsports.
Possible Cowboys scouting candidates
|Rank||Player||Pos.||Pos. Rank||School||Ht.||Wt.||Proj. Round|
|4||*Johnathan Hankins||DT||1||Ohio State||6-3||320||1|
|7||*Bjoern Werner||DE||1||Florida State||6-4||256||1|
|27||*Xavier Rhodes||CB||5||Florida State||6-1||217||1-2|
|36||EJ Manuel||QB||5||Florida State||6-4||240||1-2|
|39||*William Gholston||DE||6||Michigan State||6-6||278||1-2|
|51||John Simon||DE||9||Ohio State||6-2||260||2|
|60||*Le'Veon Bell||RB||3||Michigan State||6-2||244||2|
|66||Cornellius Carradine||DE||10||Florida State||6-4||265||2-3|
|68||*Dion Sims||TE||2||Michigan State||6-5||285||2-3|
All data: cbssports.com, * Junior
Granted, most of the linemen on this list look a little bit undersized for a 3-4 defense, and the Cowboys may be looking at players much further down this list. But the Cowboys' interest in defensive linemen is not a big secret. In an interview with Rob Phillips of DallasCowboys.com, Stephen Jones indicated after the draft that the Cowboys likely would have drafted LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers with their first pick had they not traded up for Morris Claiborne:
Had they stayed put at No. 14, Jones said LSU defensive lineman(who went there to St. Louis) likely would have been the pick -- unless they had the option to consider a trade down that would have netted them an extra high pick.
With Kenyon Coleman (33), Jay Ratliff (31), Jason Hatcher (30) and Marcus Spears (29) manning spots along the defensive line, it won't be long before somebody notices that the Cowboys defensive line is actually pretty old and starts clamoring for the Cowboys to invest high picks in the defensive line.
It may also be worth noting that this is the second time the Cowboys are attending Ohio State and Michigan State games this season.
At Ohio State, DT Johnathan Hankins and DE John Simon are two particularly interesting prospects for the Cowboys: In 2011, Simon (16) and Hankins (10) led the Buckeyes in tackles-for-loss, and also combined for 9 sacks (Simon: 7, Hankins: 2).
This year, Johnathan "Big Hank" Hankins leads all defensive linemen in the Big Ten Conference with 25 total tackles after a career high 10 tackles in each of Ohio State’s last two games. This has brought his career total to 108 tackles, second among active Buckeyes only to John Simon’s 122. John Simon in turn enters his senior season as team captain, making him just the seventh two-time captain in Ohio State history and the first since All-American linebacker and St. Louis Ram James Laurinaitis was so honored in 2007 and 2008.
At Michigan State, William Gholston could be a prize catch for the Cowboys. The 6-6 Gholston could be one of the top 3-4 defensive ends in this year's draft, although it's not clear yet whether he will even enter the draft. The third-year player is now in his second season as a starting defensive end, and stood out in 2011 with 70 tackles, including 16 for losses (62 yards), and five sacks in 13 games. His power, speed, and instinct are fun to watch in this highlight reel.
As you watch these or other college games over the weekend, look out for defensive linemen. Chances are you could be watching a future Cowboy.
Feel free to contribute players I may have missed in the comments section.