We all know that the Dallas Cowboys have a lot of needs for the upcoming draft. Offensive line is the fan favorite, and safety and defensive line are not far behind. They could also use another running back and a linebacker, particularly for the strong side role, would certainly be a good fit.
Based on the players that have been to Valley Ranch to meet with the team, don't be surprised if a tight end is one of the late round selections, and/or one of the priority free agent signings after the draft wraps up.
Dallas has four tight ends on the roster now, but only all-everything Jason Witten and emerging talent James Hanna look to be certain to make the final 53 man roster for 2013. The other two, Colin Cochart and Andre Smith, will be competing but may also only be camp bodies at this stage. The Cowboys normally have three tight ends on the roster, liking the two tight end set, and will need another TE to provide depth.
Our omniscient ubermensch OCC has identified four additional names that have been singled out by the team and given a closer look. Here is a capsule of each:
Dion Sims, Michigan State, 6-5 262 lbs. Primarily seen as a blocking tight end, he still earned second team all-Big 10 honors in 2012. He slimmed down from 285 prior to the combine, and may be looking to become more effective in the passing games. His name is a bit of a surprise because of a guilty plea for receiving stolen goods in 2010 that led to him sitting out the 2010 season. That conviction was later expunged from his record due to his age at the time he committed the crime. He is seen as a 4-5 round talent.
D.C. Jefferson, Rutgers, 6-6 255 lbs. A player a bit under the radar, he injured his pectoral muscle during the combine bench press, stopping after only three reps. A former quarterback, he is seen as very athletic and gets good marks for his blocking. Maybe too good for many Cowboys fans. NFL.com's draft analysis compares him to Martellus Bennett. Likely late round or UDFA prospect.
B.J. Stewart, Cumberland, 6-4 263 lbs. He made the regional combine in Dallas. A small school star, he had 21 receptions for 395 yards his senior season. He was originally a defensive end, playing that position in 2010 and 2011 before switching positions. Probably would be UDFA.
Demetrius Harris, UW-Milwaukee (basketball) 6-7 230 lbs. Talk about under the radar. Harris had originally signed to play football at Arkansas State, but did not qualify academically. He has now declared for the NFL, and although he is not likely to be drafted, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Baltimore Ravens are looking at him as well as Dallas.
These are the players that have Dallas' attention. Looking at four tight ends is an indication that the Cowboys have a plan to find one for the roster this offseason. And this is not the whole story. One thing that has been seen is that the players brought in are often ones that the team is looking to answer some questions about. There may be other targets out there that already meet all the criteria if they fall in the right spot come draft day, or that may be signed as UDFAs. I expect to see at least one more tight end joining the team to fight for that third spot.