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Cowboys Draft 2012: The Big Board Version 3.0 (Pre-Combine)

The big event of the month begins tomorrow. The 2012 NFL Combine will kick off and will run through the 28th. There are three very important parts of the combine - the weigh in, the drills and the interview process. The combine provides us with true height and weight measurements. Schools tend to alter the height and weight numbers in their favor so the combine is great for getting a prospects true size. The weigh in process at the beginning of the combine can be the most boring part of the event, but it is still an important part of the process that every NFL team will pay attention close attention to.

For the past few months, we have debated the Cowboys draft needs. Cornerback, safety, pass rusher, defensive line and offensive line look like our most pressing needs. With all of those needs on our minds, we should then shift our focus to certain areas during the combine.

Below is my latest Top 50 Big Board and break-downs by position group. After that, we'll take a look at how some of the drills relate to specific positions.

Make the jump...

This is the third update of the big board, which includes my fifty best draft prospects. I included changes due to some of the prospect's performances at the Senior Bowl and my ongoing draft research. Take a look over my updated rankings and comment on them below. I love getting feedback from the BTB community and I value everyone's opinion. I expect to alter my board after the 2012 NFL Combine. The combine will give me a better feel for a prospects athleticism. I prefer to grade prospects on game tape, but the combine is another important tool in the grading process.

The Top 50

Rank Previous
Player Position College Change
1 1 *Andrew Luck QB Stanford
2 2 *Robert Griffin III QB Baylor
3 3 *Justin Blackmon WR Oklahoma State
4 4 *Matt Kalil OT USC
5 5 *Morris Claiborne CB LSU
6 7 *David DeCastro OG Stanford
7 6 *Trent Richardson RB Alabama
8 10 Melvin Ingram DE South Carolina
9 25 Quinton Coples DE North Carolina
10 11 *Michael Brockers DT LSU
11 12 Courtney Upshaw LB Alabama
12 18 *Riley Reiff OT Iowa
13 13 *Luke Kuechly LB Boston College
14 15 Janoris Jenkins CB North Alabama
15 14 *Nick Perry DE USC
16 8 *Dre Kirkpatrick CB Alabama
17 9 *Peter Konz C Wisconsin
18 23 Michael Floyd WR Notre Dame
19 16 *Jonathan Martin OT Stanford
20 26 Devon Still DT Penn State
21 46 Mike Adams OT Ohio State
22 24 *Dontari Poe DT Memphis
23 21 *Don'ta Hightower LB Alabama
24 NR Alameda Ta'amu DT Washington
25 17 Kendall Wright WR Baylor
26 34 Brandon Thompson DT Clemson
27 NR Cordy Glenn OG Georgia
28 20 *Alshon Jeffery WR South Carolina
29 19 Mark Barron S Alabama
30 NR Vinny Curry DE/OLB Marshall
31 22 *Stephon Gilmore CB South Carolina
32 31 Chandler Jones DE/OLB Syracuse
33 29 Kelechi Osemele OG Iowa State
34 36 Mohammed Sanu WR Rutgers
35 45 *Lamar Miller RB Miami
36 44 *Whitney Mercilus DE Illinois
37 27 Coby Fleener TE Stanford
38 32 Brandon Washington OG Miami
39 35 Orson Charles TE Georgia
40 37 Jonathan Massaquoi DE/OLB Troy
41 33 Zach Brown LB North Carolina
42 38 *Fletcher Cox DT Mississippi State
43 40 Jared Crick DE Nebraska
44 NR *Dwayne Allen TE Clemson
45 48 Chase Minnifield CB Virginia
46 39 David Wilson RB Virginia Tech
47 43 *Jerel Worthy DT Michigan State
48 NR Ryan Tannehill QB Texas A&M
49 50 *Vontaze Burfict LB Arizona State
50 NR Kendall Reyes DL Uconn
- - 28 Alfonzo Dennard CB Nebraska
- - 30 Bruce Irvin LB West Virginia
- - 41 *Ronnell Lewis LB Oklahoma
- - 42 *Jayron Hosley CB Virginia Tech
- - 47 Markelle Martin S Oklahoma State
- - 49 Jamell Fleming CB Oklahoma
(*) denotes underclassmen

Here's how the Top 50 board splits out by position groups

Andrew Luck Justin Blackmon Coby Fleener Trent Richardson Matt Kalil David DeCastro
Robert Griffin III Michael Floyd Orson Charles Lamar Miller Riley Reiff Peter Konz
Ryan Tannehill Kendall Wright Dwayne Allen David Wilson Jonathan Martin Cordy Glenn
Alshon Jeffery Mike Adams Kelechi Osemele
Mohammed Sanu Brandon Washington
Michael Brockers Melvin Ingram Courtney Upshaw Morris Claiborne Mark Barron
Alameda Ta'amu Quinton Coples Luke Kuechly Janoris Jenkins
Devon Still Nick Perry Don'ta Hightower Dre Kirkpatrick
Dontari Poe Whitney Mercilus Zach Brown Stephon Gilmore
Brandon Thompson Jared Crick Vontaze Burfict Chase Minnifield
Fletcher Cox Vinny Curry
Jerel Worthy Chandler Jones
Kendall Reyes Jonathan Massaquoi

What To Watch For In The Combine

Some drills are relevant to a prospects position. The forty yard dash is a good measure for the secondary players. During the individual drills, pay attention to the cornerbacks and safeties, see how quickly they can cut and how fluid their hips are. The three cone drill is another important activity that relates to a defensive backs athleticism.

The forty yard dash is overrated for defensive lineman and pass rushers. The ten yard split is a good measure for a defensive lineman because it will show how quickly they can get up the field. The vertical jump is something to watch for when judging pass rushers. You can get a good feel for a pass rushers explosion off the line by the vertical jump. The three cone drill is important for pass rushers to display their athleticism and how fluid they are when making quick cutbacks.

When watching for offensive lineman at the combine, look for their bench press numbers. You want to see how strong they are. The individual drills will showcase how well an offensive lineman can move. Other than that, I use game tape to evaluate offensive lineman.

The interview process is very important during the combine process. Teams will get time to sit down with the prospects and get to know them better. Players with questionable character and off the field concerns will need to win teams over in their interviews. Answering a question the wrong way could cost a potential draft pick a lot of money. Teams also fall in love with prospects during the interview process and that may be the reason you see teams reach for a player on draft day.

The Cowboys front office will be highly interested in two prospects during the interview process. Cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Dre Kirkpatrick are both considered to be top fifteen picks. Both have blue chip talent, but they have major off the field concerns. These two young men will have to ace the interview process. The Cowboys will do their homework on both prospects and what happens in the interview process could determine if they draft one of them with the fourteenth overall pick.

The RKG mentality has been implemented into the Cowboys culture by head coach Jason Garrett. If Jason Garrett is not impressed with a prospect's answers during the interview process, then the Cowboys will not draft them. There has been a high emphasis placed on character, and I doubt that strategy will be ignored going forward. Hate it or love it, Jason Garrett wants the right type of players on his football team.

The best advice I can offer about the 2012 NFL Combine is to watch the position groupings related to the Cowboys needs. If you focus on our needs during the combine, you will come away with a better understanding of the prospects at their respected positions. Remember that the combine can me misleading and be sure to take it with a grain of salt.

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