Earlier my esteemed colleague Tom Ryle gave his take on some of the performances from the 2013 NFL Combine. The Dallas Cowboys probably have most of their needs prioritized by now, but when I watch the NFL Combine I always watch for the best players available. I have a hard time watching the combine with just the Cowboys' needs in mind, but when the time comes to arrange my draft board, then the needs will fall in line with my rankings.
As a disclaimer, keep in mind that the combine is a tricky evaluating tool. Yes, you want to see an athlete show up and perform well in their drills and workouts, but game tape should be first tool to evaluate a prospect. What the combine does offer is the opportunity to see some athleticism up close, and when someone kills the combine you go back and watch the tape again.
Some players aren't going to look good in gym shorts, that's just not their strong point and at the end of the day are good football players.
Tom did a fantastic job of breaking down and analyzing some of the prospects he chose to talk about, but here is my take on the players whose stock is on the rise after great performances at the combine.
Jordan has been a player that I have been high on since the beginning of the college season. At 6-6 and 248 pounds, Jordan is a hybrid type of player who can play a variety of positions. His pass rushing ability is only starting to develop and he is one of the most athletic players in the draft. He may have shot up a lot of draft boards and out of the Cowboys' range, but his performance in the on-field drills was outstanding.
Much like Dion Jordan, Mingo is a "tweener" that may have trouble setting the edge at defensive end, but his 4.58 40 yard dash and 37 inch vertical jump are elite numbers. Mingo has some jaw-dropping moments on his game tape, but there are questions about his motivation, strength and weight. Those are valid concerns with Mingo, but he's a freak that a team will take the chance on. Dallas isn't playing in the 3-4 anymore, but Mingo would be right at home in a "Leo" type of role in the 4-3 defense.
Floyd ran a 4.92 40 yard dash at 6-3, 297 pounds and looked really good in his positional drills. Entering the draft, the former Florida Gator was one of my favorite players in the draft. Floyd has been on the rise the past month and will probably be the first defensive tackle taken. He looked like a great option for the Cowboys, but Floyd is too talented to fall to us and will be long gone before 18.
The story of the combine has to be the prospect that many see as the next Jason Pierre-Paul. "Ziggy" Ansah is raw and he's still learning the game of football, but his athleticism is off the charts. Considering he didn't even start the season out as a starter at BYU, Ansah has really come a long way from the special teams unit and could be one of the first defensive ends taken in April. It's going to be interesting to see if he falls to Dallas at 18.
Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher may be taken ahead of him, but Johnson's stock continues to rise and could have the highest upside of any player in this year's draft class. His athleticism is off the charts and his 28 reps on the bench press show that he has strength. If Johnson falls to the Cowboys, which may be unlikely now, he would be a welcomed sight at right tackle.
Most of the scouts around the league probably anticipated a strong showing from the athletic Hunt, but his performance at the combine has his stock on the rise. A 6-8, 277 pound defensive end who runs a 4.60 40 yard dash, puts up 38 reps on the bench press and records a 34.5 inch vertical is worth the amount of time it may take to develop him.
Regardless of position, Austin was one of the most impressive prospects to perform in the combine. The Cowboys may have their franchise receiver in Dez Bryant, but Miles Austin continues to have trouble staying healthy and has a hefty contract. While wide receiver may not be a need for the Cowboys, sometimes it's about taking the best player available. Austin is a better prospect than Kendall Wright and he went 20th overall last year. I won't push the wagon for the Cowboys to take Tavon Austin at 18, but I'm just saying this kid is one of the best players in the entire draft.
Chance Warmack may be the first guard taken in April, but Cooper is making a push for that title. They are two completely different guards, but Cooper is more athletic and may be a better fit for Jason Garrett's scheme. Cooper answered the critics who said he wasn't that strong with a eye-popping 35 reps on the bench press. Considering that guards aren't drafted too high, I think it's safe to assume he may be available for us at 18.
Cornerback definitely isn't a need for the Cowboys, but it's hard leaving Trufant off the list. His stock has been on the rise since the Senior Bowl last month. Trufant looked smooth in his all of his drills and position workouts, highlighted by a 4.38 40 yard dash. I doubt the Cowboys will be in the market for a cornerback high in the draft, but Trufant proved he is one of the best cornerbacks in this draft.
Safety is probably one of the biggest needs on the Cowboys' roster. Stephen Jones admits that the position is a question mark right now and the deep safety class could provide an answer for the Cowboys. Eric Reid had a really good workout, but Thomas could be found later in the draft and he displayed top-notch athleticism. Thomas reminds me of Bob Sanders, and the Cowboys could use a rocket like that in their secondary.