In previous years, a good indicator of what the Cowboys were going to do on draft weekend was the amount of invites per position they brought in for pre-draft visits.
Each NFL team is permitted to invite up to 30 national draft prospects for a pre-draft visit every year. Per league rules, these visits are not workouts, they are strictly meet and greets where the team can get a better feel for the players and run them through some medical and other tests. Additionally, teams can invite as many local prospects as they want for a workout, and the Cowboys regularly conduct their "Dallas Days" for draft-eligible players who grew up in the area or attended area colleges.
In recent years, these national visits have been a pretty good indicator of which players and which positions the Cowboys were going to select in the ensuing draft. The top picks in six of the last seven drafts - Bobby Carpenter, Anthony Spencer, Felix Jones, Jason Williams, Dez Bryant and Tyron Smith - all visited Valley Ranch as part of the Cowboys' pre-draft visits. That run came to an end last year when Morris Claiborne became the first Cowboys top pick since DeMarcus Ware in 2005 to not be invited to Valley Ranch prior to the Draft.
At the bottom of this post I've summarized all the players (that I could find) invited for pre-draft visits to Valley Ranch since 2008.
The one thing that appears to be a good indicator for the Cowboys' draft plans is the amount of invites per position they brought in for pre-draft visits. Here's an overview of the top two positions (by number of players invited) who visited the Cowboys over the last five years, and what the Cowboys ended up doing about those positions in the draft:
|Year||Most invitations||2nd Most Invitations||Result|
||Running Backs (5)||Mike Jenkins and Felix Jones selected in the first round|
||Wide Receivers (4)
||Jason Williams taken as first pick, no WR drafted high
||Wide Receivers (6)||Dez Bryant taken in round 1, no OL picked high|
|2011||OL (6)||Cornerbacks (6)||Tyron Smith drafted in round 1, no CB selected high|
|2012||CB (8)||OL (6)||Morris Claiborne picked in round one, no OL taken high
We already know that TCU DE Stansly Maponga and OT Terron Armstead out of Arkansas Pine-Bluff have invitations for a pre-Draft visit with the Cowboys, but the chances are good that this year's invites will once again be heavy on the O-line. Watch closely over the next few weeks as word trickles out about which players have received invitations to Valley Ranch - chances are one of them will be the Cowboys' top draft pick in 2013, and chances are that pick will come from the position group that receives the highest number of invitations.
The table below summarizes all the players (that I could find) invited to Valley Ranch for national pre-Draft visits since 2008. The players who eventually ended up with the Cowboys (even briefly) are highlighted in yellow and "Pk" indicates where they were picked in that year's draft.
Pre-draft visitors to Valley Ranch, 2008-2012
|54||Ryan Broyles||24||David DeCastro||10||Stephon Gilmore||7||Mark Barron||11||Dontari Poe||35||Courtney Upshaw||31||Doug Martin||127||Adrien Robinson|
|92||T.Y. Hilton||40||Amini Silatolu||17||Dre Kirkpatrick||29||Harrison Smith||12||Fletcher Cox||113||Kyle Wilber|
|41||Cordy Glenn||62||Casey Hayward||135||Matt Johnson||14||Michael Brockers||119||Keenan Robinson*|
|44||Jeff Allen||76||Ron Brooks*||216||D.J. Campbell||125||Ronnell Lewis|
|55||Peter Konz||80||Jamell Fleming*||154||Korey Toomer|
|- -||Ronald Leary||143||Josh Norman|
|- -||148||Chris Greenwood|
|- -||- -
|Pk||WR||Pk||OL||Pk||CB||Pk||S||Pk||DE||Pk||LB||Pk||RB||- -||- -|
|26||Jon Baldwin||9||Tyron Smith||19||Prince Amukamara||45||Rahim Moore||11||J.J. Watt||40||Bruce Carter||71||DeMarco Murray||- -||- -|
|111||Edmond Gates||15||Mike Pouncey||34||Aaron Williams||100||Da'Norris Searcy||94||>Kenrick Ellis||67||Nate Irving||73||Stevan Ridley|
|114||Cecil Shorts||17||Nate Solder||88||Johnny Patrick||108||Quinton Carter||106||Christian Ballard||68||Kelvin Sheppard||126||Bilal Powell|
|- -||Andre Holmes||22||Anthony Castonzo||89
||Shareece Wright||248||Eric Hagg||72||Martez Wilson|
|32||Derek Sherrod||139||Brandon Burton|
|76||Will Rackley||207||Korey Lindsey|
|Pck||WR||Pck||OL||Pck||CB||Pck||S||Pck||DE||Pck||LB||Pck||FB||- -||- -|
|24||Dez Bryant||17||Mike Iupati||29||Kyle Wilson||37||Nate Allen||10||Tyson Alualu||55||Sean Lee||125||Clay Harbor||- -||- -|
|39||Arrelious Benn||18||Maurkice Pouncey||27||Devin McCourty||49||Taylor Mays||28||Jared Odrick||91||Navorro Bowman||139||John Conner|
|78||Brandon LaFell||61||Vlad Ducasse||76||Chad Jones||71||Morgan Burnett||190||Travis Goethel|
|82||Emmanuel Sanders*||73||John Jerry||96||Brandon Ghee|
|90||Taylor Price||80||J.D. Walton*||126||Akwasi Owusu- Ansah|
|191||Dezmon Briscoe*||106||Bruce Campbell|
|36||Brian Robiskie||58||Sebastian Vollmer||42||Jairus Byrd||33||Louis Delmas||68||Jarron Gilbert||16||Larry English||101||Stephen McGee||122||Anthony Hill|
|50||Mohamed Massaquoi||66||48||Darcel McBath||69||Jason Williams||174||Tom Brandstater||152||James Casey|
|83||Brandon Tate||166||Michael Hamlin||125||Lawrence Sidbury||- -||Chase Daniel|
|87||Patrick Turner||150||Jasper Brinkley|
|41||James Hardy||15||Branden Albert||11||Leodis McKelvin||- -
||9||Keith Rivers||13||Jonathan Stewart||61||Martellus Bennett|
|51||Malcolm Kelly||26||Duane Brown||16||Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie||10||Jerod Mayo||22||Felix Jones|
|53||Limas Sweed||20||Aqib Talib*||104||Beau Bell||23||Rashard Mendenhall|
|105||Will Franklin||27||Antoine Cason||24||Chris Johnson|
|128||Keenan Burton||35||Brandon Flowers||73||Jamaal Charles|
* denotes players who count as a local prospects