The Cowboys may or may not end up drafting a linebacker in the 2014 draft, but you can't accuse them of not doing their due diligence on the available linebackers. Alex Marvez of Foxsports tweeted earlier today that Ohio State Linebacker Ryan Shazier will come to Dallas for a pre-draft visit with the Cowboys.
Every year prior to the draft, each NFL team is permitted to invite up to 30 national draft prospects for a pre-draft visit. These visits do not involve any workouts, they are strictly meet and greets where the team can get a better feel for the players and the medical staff can conduct more thorough medical checkups.
As we've seen in the past, these visits are usually pretty good indicators of which players and which positions thewere going to select in the ensuing draft - and that is one reason why Shazier's visit is intriguing.
The other reason is that Shazier is widely being projected as a late first-round pick, and as such could be an interesting target for the Cowboys in a potential trade-down scenario. Shazier is currently ranked 29th on the CBSSports big board, and we saw earlier in the day that his college production over the last two years matches up with Khalil Mack's, who is ranked sixth overall on the same board.
Shazier did not run the 40-yard dash at the Combine because of a minor hamstring injury, but impressed elsewhere with a Combine-best 42-inch vertical jump, a 10-foot, 10-inch broad jump that was the best among all linebackers and the fifth best 3-cone drill among all linebackers with 6.91.
And even though he was still hampered by the hamstring injury a couple of weeks later, he still clocked an unofficial 4.36-second 40-yard dash at Ohio State's pro day. A number that probably left the assembled representatives from 29 NFL teams suitably impressed. And Mike Mayock as well:
"He's a true 4-3 outside linebacker," Mayock said, touting Shazier's "great speed" and "heavy production." Shazier finished third nationally in 2013 with 144 tackles, and he was tied for second with 23.5 tackles for loss. He also had seven sacks and four forced fumbles. In his final two seasons at Ohio State, he had 269 tackles, 40.5 tackles for loss, 12 sacks and seven forced fumbles.
"The one thing he's got to get better at at the NFL level is, he's got to learn to take on blocks," Mayock said.
Despite that issue, Mayock said Shazier is a great fit for today's NFL because "he's so good in the pass game."
Shazier's ability to run with - and cover - running backs and tight ends makes him the prototype of the modern three-down linebacker, as the trend towards the pass requires linebackers that are faster rather than bigger. That will create a very unique market for players like Shazier, and it's no surprise to see him steadily creeping up the draft boards.
Shazier could be a great fit for Dallas, especially with some of the questions surrounding Bruce Carter, as Shazier best projects as a 4-3 Will linebacker and could be immensely valuable especially in a Tampa-2 type scheme. Perhaps valuable enough to be the Cowboys' first-round pick this year.