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Dallas Cowboys Pre-Draft Visits: What The Scheduled Visits Can Tell Us

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With the first pre-draft visits announced, we're starting to get a better look at what the Dallas Cowboys will do in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

With so many needs, the Dallas Cowboys could go a variety of ways with their first-round pick. They could also go a variety of directions with their entire draft strategy. One draft philosophy could entail a defense-focused draft while another could entail drafting a running back and a wide receiver to get the most out of Tony Romo's last few years.

One thing that's for sure is that the Cowboys have done a much better job at running their business in the past few years. While they're not making the sexy acquisitions by adding a guy like Mario Williams or Lamar Miller in free agency, they are preparing themselves for their future cap situation and additionally remaining competitive in the league this offseason. That's quite a hard balance, but with this new way of management, things seem to be looking in the right direction.

As the draft nears, evaluations become that much more important. At this point, the Cowboys are shaping their draft board to position themselves to nab players who will not only fill voids, but also make impacts for this franchise. One key assessment of that is the pre-draft visit and workout process, which works as follows:

  • The Cowboys are allowed to bring in up to 30 usually high-profile, national draft-eligible players for official pre-draft visits, usually in early April.
  • Additionally, they can also bring in as many draft-eligible local prospects as they like for visits and workouts during "Dallas Day", also sometime in April.
  • They can have as many meetings and/or private workouts as they want with prospects as long as these don't happen in Dallas.

Let's take a look at who the Cowboys have already scheduled pre-draft visits with, or who they've had or will have some other form of contact with:

Cowboys Pre-draft Visitors per 3/23/2016
CBS Rank Name POS College Proj. Rd Status
3 Joey Bosa DE Ohio State 1 Official Visit
10 Vernon Hargreaves CB Florida 1 Official Visit
11 Laquon Treadwell WR Ole Miss 1 Official Visit
13 Shaq Lawson DE Clemson 1 Official Visit
14 Sheldon Rankins DT Louisville 1 Official Visit
38 Derrick Henry RB Alabama 1-2 Official Visit
549 Ryan Brown DE Mississippi State - - Official Visit
Dallas Day Visitors
CBS Rank Name POS College Proj. Rd Status
949 Jakeem Grant WR Texas Tech - - Dallas Day
Private Workouts
CBS Rank Name POS College Proj. Rd Status
5 Jared Goff QB California 1 Private Workout
7 Carson Wentz QB N.D. State 1 Private Workout
33 Paxton Lynch QB Memphis 1-2 Private Workout
39 Connor Cook QB Michigan State 1-2 Private Workout
106 Dak Prescott QB Mississippi State 3-4 Private Workout
184 Justin Simmons DB Boston College 5-6 Private Workout
207 Yannick Ngakoue DE Maryland 6 Private Workout
250 Luke Rhodes LB William & Mary 7 Private Workout
271 Terrance Smith LB Florida State 7-FA Private Workout
306 Alonzo Russell WR Toledo 7-FA Private Workout
- - Robert Johnson WR Mississippi State - - Private Workout

At first glance, this is a pretty good list, highlighted by players coming from bigger, well-known schools. History has shown that the Cowboys are extremely interested in their pre-draft visitors as potential draft picks. Look no further than the 2015 NFL Draft. Six of the Cowboys' eight draft picks came in for a pre-draft visit, another had a private workout prior to the draft. That's pretty incredible. Dallas will invite a lot more players, both for official pre-draft visits and for Dallas Day, but there are already names to remember on here.

What do the unofficial visits tell us?

Just a few weeks ago, Jerry Jones went on record saying how the Cowboys wouldn't be picking a quarterback with their first-round pick. At the time, that seemed like just a smokescreen, but the Cowboys have since begun initiating private workouts with a lot of QBs. The Cowboys could be addressing the backup quarterback position in the middle rounds, where Connor Cook and Dak Prescott could be potential targets, despite where CBS has them ranked.

Some players you may not know DE Ryan Brown and WR Robert Johnson, two Mississippi State products that fit what the Cowboys look for at their positions. Brown is a 6'5, 265-pound athletic guy who can be productive in the right role off the edge. Brown is currently recovering from foot surgery so it will be hard for the Cowboys to fully view what he can bring physically in person, but a sit-down meeting could be extremely beneficial for both parties. Johnson is 6'0, 200 pounds. He runs a 4.49 and could be effective if he's used in the right role.

Something to be aware of regarding these lists is how the Cowboys have been in contact with four defensive ends. Joey Bosa, Shaq Lawson, Yannick Ngakoue, and Brown are all intriguing prospects. The reason for that is because Bosa looks to be a first-round pick, while Lawson copuld slip into the second, while and Ngakoue and Brown could be middle or late round picks. This means that the Cowboys are scheduling their plans, both their primary plan and their backup plans, in order to bring in the defensive end(s) they'd like.

What does the official pre-draft visit list tell us about the Cowboys?

Six of the seven prospects on this list could all be drafted in the first round or at thetop of the second. Something to be aware of is that this list will expand with lesser-known players as the weeks go on. The reason why these six prospects need to monitored is quite simple. The fact that the Cowboys picked these six players is evidence that the Cowboys are not only interested in these players, but that they also want to learn more about these players.

In the coming days, Dallas will continue to fill up these lists. But with free agency wrapping up, Dallas' draft decisions will continue to mold. Another trend to notice is that the Cowboys seem to be moving away from smaller-school prospects. So far, there's only one William & Mary player on the list, though that might still change.

Dallas' draft plan will continue to change, but as these lists fill out they could give us a good indication of where the Cowboys are trending with their draft philosophy over the coming weeks.

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