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Cowboys Draft '10, Part Eight: Contra the Combine

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Three cone drills? I don't have no three cones.  I'm not doing any three cones.

I don't have to show you any stinkin' three cone drills!

Indeed, the players really. in all likelihood, don't have to do any bench presses, or three cone drills or short shuttle times or 40 yard dashes.  It makes great television, and gives all the draft nuts like us lots to talk about, but let's be clear on where the teams have already done.

The Cowboys have already put a preliminary draft board together.  They assembled it in the last few weeks, based on personal scouting trips, game tapes and Senior Bowl observations.  This is the purest board.  A source who's worked on a few of these told me to look at my lists now, because these were the truest ratings.  They're based solely on performance, and are unsullied by 40 times, Pro Day workouts and smoke from fellow scouts, personnel types and agents. 

Dallas will assemble its final board in April, incorporating the Combine and Pro Day data, but how much of what goes on next week will help re-shape the board?  A source told me that the medical tests and the private interviews which take place behind the scenes at Indy will weigh more on the team's ratings than the on-field workouts will.

That makes sense.  The team should have at least two years worth of most prospects' game tapes to lean upon.  What it does not know at this point is the medical history of its players of interest.  Are any rehabbing injuries?  Have any rehabbed injures in the past.  Are there any odd medical conditions which should be known? 

These are the types of questions at which the Cowboys medical staff has historically excelled.  In '94 guard prospect Larry Allen was rumored to have a rotator cuff problem which might require surgery.  I heard this story up to and even after Dallas drafted Allen in the 2nd round.  Allen was healthy and proved his worth right away.  The same was true for Randall Godfrey.  He also had medical questions which the team checked out and waved off in '96.  He dropped a bit because of those questions and Dallas got a 2nd round value. Most recently, Dallas got a 4th round value on DE Chris Canty because the team did its homework and learned his eye injury after his senior season would not affect his vision long-term.

Other physical questions can be answered.  Does a prospect who seems a bit undersized have the frame to add weight?  What is a players level of conditioning?  Think Terrence Cody's Senior Bowl weigh-in photos, if your mind will allow it.  Or think Andre Smith last year.

These last two behemoths offer test cases on character and maturity. The Combine is the NFL's job fair. Each participant is interviewing with his prospective employers.  Has a player taken this seriously enough to get in shape?  To mentally prepare?  Can he answer questions about football?  Does he display the intelligence to pick up your scheme?  Does he display leadership qualities?  if he's had personal issues in the past, do his explanations satisfy you? 

The teams' coaches, scouts and even its front office types will get to interview dozens of prospects face-to-face and immediately compare notes.  Little, if any of this data will become public knowledge.  Yet this information will likely shuffle the Cowboys final board more than any 40 time.

We'll still have plenty of workout info to sort through.  But then, we already do. How many mocks have you already consumed on this, the 23rd day of February?  I have a test for all of you, that I'm going to try myself.  If you have a site or sites you follow, copy their ratings now, pre-Combine.  These are their performance-only breakdowns. Their preliminary boards.

Next, look at how much or how little they change once the Combine is over.  I'd be wary of any source who produces wild fluctuations based on 40 times or bench press tests.  If we fall for the sizzle of workout numbers, we're being sucked, as Bill Parcells used to say.  But we won't have agents or GMs to blame. We'll have only ourselves.