It's getting real as the first visitors to the Dallas Cowboys arrive this week. What's most interesting about this list is that the only positions known so far are running back, linebacker, cornerback, defensive end and safety. And that is pretty much the way most of us would want the team to be focusing its attention. Here are the known running backs (with the links to the draft profiles done by Bob Sturm for those who want to check out his insights).
ESPN's take on the impending visits includes the way the team uses its geographic advantage with the Dallas Days visits from players who attended high school or college in the local area.
The Dallas Day workouts have netted the Cowboys a number of undrafted free agents through the years. This is one of the bigger advantages the Cowboys have in the draft process because of the number of high school players from the area that go on to play major and not-so major college football. The Cowboys can conduct workouts and get a good bit of intelligence on players they might pick or try to sign as priority free agents.
There is a lot of hope that Dallas will grab one of the top names in the talent-rich running back class, but things don't always work out the way we want them to. The Cowboys might be forced by how the draft unfolds to look in later rounds. The mothership offers one name that you may not have seen as a possibility should the team have to find a back in the later stages of the draft. (You might also see him written about under his nickname "Buck".)
Javorius Allen, USC - Allen gets lost in the shuffle in such a talented draft class, but he was a 1,489-yard rusher for the Trojans last year - while adding another 451 receiving yards. He averaged 21 carries per game last season and could be taken as late as the fourth round.
In a game of specialization, Washington Husky Shaq Thompson is a bit of a throwback. He played both ways in college, seeing time at linebacker, strong safety and running back. He has stated he does not want to carry the ball in the pros, but did do both linebacker and safety drills during his pro day. But his wide skill set may make him an interesting proposition as a strongside linebacker who can stay on the field in the nickel and use those safety skills. And he is one of the scheduled visitors to Valley Ranch.
Thompson professed a preference for linebacker and said most teams have said that's where they see him playing. Thompson's skills lead themselves to a more varied portfolio than many linebackers, however, and it seems that more than a few clubs are interested in seeing how they can integrate that into their defense.
I mentioned Sturm's draft profiles earlier, and he serves up a few more.
The Cowboys need secondary help, but the final couple of lines in Sturm's look at Collins point out how he is not likely to be a good fit for them.
He is very good, but you better figure out how to deploy him effectively. Easily the best strong safety in the draft, but this is also a very weak field.
As he said, the safety crop is rather sparse.
But, as it stands, if this is a safety who someone thinks is ready to be on the field early on, I am going to have to beg to differ. I cannot have risk-taking, poor-tackling safeties preserving back-breaking plays on my defense, and Randall, for all of his gifts, seems to be the opposite of safe from the action I observed.
Wide receiver is hardly seen as a priority for Dallas in the draft, but Sturm is doing his due diligence. And he likes Parker. A lot.
When ranking Amari Cooper versus DeVante Parker, you are honestly ranking two fantastic prospects against each other. I see the consensus is that Cooper is the "best in class" and although (as you have read) I believe Cooper is the real deal, I would personally lean in Parker's direction as the better player and the guy I would select first. I find him better underneath, quicker and more elusive in short spaces, having better hands, and 2 inches taller.
Turning to the mothership's view of prospects, we come to a player who could fit very nicely for the Cowboys. And Owamagbe Odighizuwa is a very real possibility to be available for Dallas in the first round.
He's slated right into that sweet spot where the Cowboys will pick in the first round - from the mid-20s until the end of the first round. Odighizuwa isn't listed in the same breath as the surefire top-10 pass rushers, like Leonard Williams or Dante Fowler, but he's certainly top tier. That makes his draft position hard to predict, as he could last until pick No. 27, or he could be taken five-to-10 spots higher.
On to the non-draft news of the day.
Pending the draft, the Cowboys are hoping Darren McFadden can be at least part of the solution in replacing DeMarco Murray. While his last few seasons with the Oakland Raiders were disappointing, the team hopes he can get a new lease on life behind the dominant offensive line of the Cowboys, and with the potent passing attack led by Tony Romo to take away the ability of opposing defenses to load up the box. Head coach Jason Garrett explains what the team sees in him.
"He is a big explosive back,'' Garrett said. "He is quick. He is fast. He is physical. He can run inside. He can hit the home run. He can catch the ball. He can protect."
Ben Gardner, who is a bit of a fan favorite, got his number changed from 71 to 93, which is more appropriate for a pass rusher. But his may mean more for someone else.
The issue arises when realizing that No. 93 has been occupied since 2007 by Anthony Spencer, who is currently still a free agent.
It's been a quiet month for Spencer since free agency opened. Reports came out in March that the eight-year veteran was visiting New Orleans and former defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. There hasn't been much other news about him - including whether the Cowboys intended to bring him back into the fold.
Judging by the fact that a second-year defensive end -- who has yet to take a professional snap - has switched to his number, it doesn't seem so likely.
Some of us don't think Adrian Peterson is really a topic of great concern for Dallas, but some others do, so here is the latest.
NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported that Peterson will meet with the NFL on Tuesday to discuss reinstatement, per a source informed of the situation.
There is still no word on when the league, moving with glacier-like speed, will make a decision on Greg Hardy's suspension, but perhaps they have taken a step closer.
This comes after the office agreed to allow the NFL, the NFL Players Association, Greg Hardy's attorney and their experts to view the seven photographs described in the consent order. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department previously allowed NFL investigators to review photographs collected as evidence by police in the case.