Ed. Note: Wanted to acknowledge that our old friend OCC was a big contributor to the creation of this post. You guys might recognize his style throughout. Thanks OCC!
Every year, Cowboys draftniks look forward with the greatest anticipation to the annual pilgrimage of draft prospects to Dallas for their pre-draft visits with the Cowboys. After the Combine, hardcore draftniks start scanning the news wires and social media outlets for any mention of a prospect making his way to Dallas.
But why all the excitement?
Every year in early April, the Cowboys are allowed to bring in up to 30 usually high-profile, draft-eligible players for official pre-draft visits. Additionally, they also bring in as many draft-eligible local prospects as they like for visits and workouts during “Dallas Day”, also sometime in early April.
Since 2007, all but one of the Cowboys’ 10 top picks in the draft all visited Valley Ranch as part of the Cowboys’ official pre-draft visits. Bobby Carpenter ('06), Anthony Spencer (‘07), Felix Jones (‘08), Jason Williams (‘09), Dez Bryant (‘10) and Tyron Smith (‘11) were all brought in for pre-draft visits, while Morris Claiborne (‘12) became the exception that proved the rule: Claiborne became the first Cowboys top pick since DeMarcus Ware in 2005 who wasn’t invited to Dallas prior to the draft. But the Cowboys got right back on track when they invited Travis Frederick (‘13), Zack Martin (‘14), Byron Jones (‘15), Ezekiel Elliott (‘16), and Taco Charlton ('17) for an official visit.
But it’s not just about the top pick.
Over the last five drafts, almost half the Cowboys' draft picks (45%) were brought in for an official pre-draft visit:
|Picks||Travis Frederick||Zack Martin||Byron Jones||Ezekiel Elliott||Taco Charlton|
|Terrance Williams||DeMarcus Lawrence||Randy Gregory||Dak Prescott||Chidobe Awuzie|
|J.J. Wilcox||Ken Bishop||Chaz Green||- -||Xavier Woods|
|B.W. Webb||- -||Damien Wilson||- -||- -|
|Joseph Randle||- -||Ryan Russell||- -||- -|
|- -||- -||Mark Nzeocha||- -||- -|
In the Cowboys’ hierarchy of pre-draft activities, meetings, workouts, interviews, and private workouts frankly don’t mean all that much.
The holy grail of Cowboys pre-draft activity is the official pre-draft visit, which is why we’ve been faithfully tracking these visits since 2008 here on BTB, long before it became hip to track such things, and long before the Cowboys decided to clamp down on the information about pre-draft visitors.
We're not allowed to talk about workouts or visits.— Bryan Broaddus (@BryanBroaddus) January 3, 2017
But just because the Cowboys don’t want the news to leak out doesn’t mean it won’t. Here are the eight players we know of so far that'll come to Dallas for an official pre-draft visit.
|Cowboys Pre-draft Visitors per 3/21/2018|
|NFL.com Rank||Name||POS||College||Proj. Rd||Source|
|7||Calvin Ridley||WR||Alabama||1||Bobby Belt|
|16||Leighton Vander Esch||LB||Boise State||1||Tony Pauline|
|21||Will Hernandez||OG||UTEP||1||Bobby Belt|
|23||Rashaan Evans||LB||Alabama||1||Bobby Belt|
|93||Kolton Miller||OT/OG||UCLA||3||James Layton|
|159||Nyheim Hines||RB||N.C. State||5||The Wolfpacker|
|185||Deshon Elliott||S||Texas||5-6||Jared Stager|
|182||Daurice Fountain||WR||Northern Iowa||6||ConnorNFLDraft|
In addition to the 30 players the Cowboys bring in for the official pre-draft visits, they also bring in up to 50, and sometimes even more, draft-eligible local prospects (who are usually less well known) for a workout in Dallas. A player is considered a local prospect if he went to high school or college in the Dallas/Fort-Worth area. TCU, SMU and North Texas are the three colleges in the area from which the Cowboys are allowed to invite prospects.
BTB member Trent Schoneweis created a nifty map detailing the boundaries of the area from which prospects qualify for “Dallas Day”.
For now, we don’t have any names for Dallas Day yet, though that will change over the coming days and weeks, and we'll continue updating our visitor tracker here on BTB.
It'll be interesting to see which positions on the official pre-draft visitor list the Cowboys go heavy at this year, and where those positions will be ranked. We’ll almost certainly see a large number of wide receivers getting an invitation. But it’s anybody’s guess which positions they’ll focus on beyond that.
Could we see a spike in mid-round offensive linemen? Will the top-ranked safeties all get an invitation to the Star? And what are the Cowboys going to do about defensive tackles?
We’ll get a better idea over the next days and weeks as the names begin to trickle in. Until then, which positions outside of wide receiver would you expect the Cowboys to focus on this year?