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Dallas Cowboys 2018 draft: Five things to expect from the combine

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There’s a lot more going on than just guys running around in their underwear.

2015 NFL Scouting Combine Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The 2018 NFL combine starts up on Friday and this will give fans four days of drills and testing as scouts evaluate this year’s crop of players entering the draft. Over 300 college prospects will be on display in Indianapolis for our viewing pleasure. For those interested in specific players, here is a breakdown of when certain position groups will be performing.

While all the running and jumping is a big part of it, the combine offers much more than that. Here are the top five things you can expect to get out of this weekend’s activities.

1. The Medicals

There might not be a more important element to the combine than getting a status update on the medical evaluations for many of the players entering the draft. Getting a clean bill of health could help a player rise up the draft board and help GM’s feel better about their potential draft investments. Here are a few players that could be of interest to the Cowboys organization:

G Isaiah Wynn - The guard from Georgia has become a popular name when it comes to first-round targets, but there will be many who will be interested in how well he’s recovering. Right after the Senior Bowl, Wynn had surgery to repair a torn labrum.

DE Harold Landry - In 2016, the defensive end from Boston College was the top pass rusher not named Myles Garrett as he compiled 16.5 sacks on the season. Last year, however, wasn’t so kind as he dealt with injuries. He’s a player most expect will be there at 19, which could end up being a good deal if that ankle has healed up nicely.

C Frank Ragnow - If the Cowboys don’t get their guard in the first round of the draft, this blocker from Arkansas could be the way to go. He suffered a high ankle sprain that cut his college career short.

LB Jack Cichy - The Wisconsin linebacker has missed a great deal of action over the last two seasons (including all of 2017) so he’s a big wild card going into the draft. He’s flashed some great play in a limited sample size, but his medical updates will be very important to any team looking to take a chance on him in April.

2. Player Interviews

If the medicals are the meat, then the interviews are the potatoes that will make up the most filling part of the delicious meal that is the college combine. Players will be asked all types of questions and while the answers themselves may not be as important, how they compose themselves while answering speaks volumes. Will they demonstrate confidence? Will they throw teammates/coaches under the bus? Are they an excuse maker? Do they express irritation with certain types of questions?

All of these things will tell a story and that story will be scrutinized by those teams interested in those players.

DE Arden Key - After a four month hiatus last spring, the pass rusher from LSU will be under the microscope this weekend. He’s got great raw talent, but is a huge character risk and how he conducts himself will loom large when it comes to his draft positioning.

QB Baker Mayfield - While the Oklahoma quarterback shouldn’t be on the Cowboys radar, you can bet all the QB-needy teams will be interested in what he has to say. And whether he goes before 19 could help push an actual target that much closer to Dallas. Mayfield has been quite the character during his college tenure and it should be interesting to see if he holds himself accountable for his past antics.

3. Drills

While impressive 40-times stand out the most for the casual fan, the scouts will use a plethora of drills to evaluate these prospects. If you’re a cornerback or a wide receiver, break away speed and acceleration is crucial. LSU cornerback Donte Jackson is expected to make a push to break the all-time record for a 40 time set by Washington WR John Ross last year at 4.22 seconds (previously at 4.24 by RB Chris Johnson). If he pulls that off, he could end up hearing his name called on Day 1 (cha-ching!). For a player like Southern Methodist receiving star Courtland Sutton, how he tests out on the 40 could be significant. A difference of a tenth of a second could affect his draft position considerably and cost him several millions of dollars over the course of his four-year rookie contract.

And it’s not just the speedsters that will impress during this drill. If Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea runs a sub 4.9 40 while carrying 340 pounds of cargo, you might as well kiss any shot of him being there at 19 goodbye.

While speed is great for some guys, other positions look closer at other physical abilities. The 3-cone shuttle drill is one of them most important drills at the combine. Regardless of position, scouts want to see how well players change direction.

Big, strong offensive linemen are great, but not so much if they are stiff and cannot move well. The little things matter and they matter a lot.

4. Measurements

For the most part, teams already have a good idea of how tall players are or what they weigh. But other aspects of their measurements are meaningful too. For example, Will McClay isn’t as interested in a cornerback’s height as much as he is his wingspan. That might explain why the Cowboys were so excited about selecting 5’ 10” Jourdan Lewis. While on the short side, his arm length of 31 5/8 put him in the 61% percentile for his draft class.

For edge rushers, many of the OLB in the 3-4 scheme want to appeal to 4-3 defense teams as well. This could mean packing on a few extra pounds. UTSA’s Marcus Davenport has put on 30 pounds since his sophomore season, but is it enough to give teams what they are looking for?

5. Contract Talks

While the young, soon-to-be rookies will be showcasing their athletic ability and the scouts do all their scouting stuff, agents of these college prospects will also be doing double duty, working for their veteran clients who are hitting free agency. This will provide an opportunity for discussions to take place as agents attempt to pitch their client to potential investors. NFL agent Chris Cabott explains...

“For your veterans that are going into free agency, the combine is a time where you’re going to speak with a lot of teams and just kind of get an idea of where there may be interest in a player. In terms of teams that a player is already on, at that point you’re hoping to talk some serious numbers with them,” Cabott explained.

Stephen Jones will be meeting with DeMarcus Lawrence’s agent during the combine so both sides will get a good idea of how close they are towards reaching an agreement.