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Pre-draft visits & private workouts: What do they tell us about Cowboys’ draft strategy?

The Cowboys pre-draft visits and private workouts will tell us everything we need to know about their strategy.

Kansas State v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Our fearless leader, Dave Halprin (with an assist from OCC), pointed out the first eight of the Cowboys 30 visits. Anyone that has been a part of this community knows that one of the Cowboys “Golden Rules of Draft” is told within those pre-draft meetings:

“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, Dave also determined that almost half of the Cowboys picks were pre-draft visits at 45%. Here’s an update chart of the visits/ workouts thus far and let’s see what we can put together from this list:

[Table updated 3/27]

Player Position School Proj. Round Source Dane Brugler Rank Type of Visit
Official pre-draft visit in Dallas
Vita Vea DT Washington 1 Aaron Wilson 10 Pre-Draft
Calvin Ridley WR Alabama 1 Bobby Belt 16 Pre-Draft
James Daniels C Iowa 1 Rob Howe 18 Pre-Draft
Leighton Vander Esch LB Boise St 1 Tony Pauline 22 Pre-Draft
Will Hernandez OG UTEP 1 Bobby Belt 23 Pre-Draft
Connor Williams OT Texas 1 David Helman 24 Pre-Draft
D.J. Moore WR Maryland 1-2 Neal Dalal 29 Pre-Draft
Kolton Miller G/T UCLA 1-2 James Layton 31 Pre-Draft
Christian Kirk WR Texas A&M 1-2 Bobby Belt 32 Pre-Draft
Rashaan Evans LB Alabama 1-2 Bobby Belt 36 Pre-Draft
Nyheim Hines RB NC State 3 The Wolfpacker 87 Pre-Draft
Deshon Elliott SS Texas 4-5 Jared Stager 145 Pre-Draft
Darius Leonard LB South Carolina State 5 Tony Pauline 169 Pre-Draft
Daurice Fountain WR Northern Iowa 5-6 ConnorNFLDraft 196 Pre-Draft

Player Position School Proj. Round Source Dane Brugler Rank Type of Visit
Private workouts this week or next Player
Nathan Shepherd DT Fort Hayes State 2 ConnorNFLDraft 55 Private Workout
Austin Corbett G Nevada 2 Tony Pauline 56 Private Workout
Vyncint Smith WR Limestone UDFA Charean Williams -- Private Workout

First of all, and this is subject to change, the Cowboys are seemingly narrowing down their first-round options to receiver, guard, or linebacker. Of course, it’s very early in the fray but if the Cowboys do decide to trade up for someone like Derwin James, would they act similarly to what they did with Morris Claiborne? If your remember, Claiborne was the last player that they selected in the first round without bringing him for a 30 visit. Could they be bluffing again?

Another interesting takeaway from this list is that it would suggest even if they do not plan on an offensive lineman in the first, they’re likely to draft one high within the first three rounds. All three lineman on this list are projected to be selected in the first three days. Will Hernandez is represented by the same agent as Tyron Smith, that’s just another connection that would make RJ Ochoa proud.

Nathan Shepherd is a guy that we haven’t discussed much but for those who are curious, he is an interesting player. Shepherd will be 25 years old in his rookie season as he looked like a grown man among boys in Division II football. He dominated the competition with his unrelenting motor and violent hands, sometimes too violent (he broke his hand at the Senior Bowl). Shepherd has climbed up the draft boards after a pretty decent combine performance. The Cowboys will bring him in for a private workout to see if he could be a target at some point. He really stands out with his short-area quickness off the snap and that’s likely to get you on Rod Marinelli’s radar. Check out my colleague Cole Patterson profiling Shepherd among other defensive tackles.

When it comes to offensive skill positions, the Cowboys have a need for speed. Nyheim Hines ran the fastest 40 of any running back at 4.38. Daurice Fountain is not only a polished route runner and one of this draft’s best kept secrets, he also has 4.4 speed. Last but not least is the unknown in Vyncint Smith who posted a 4.36 40 time at South Carolina’s Pro Day (went to school at nearby Limestone). Smith has a workout scheduled with the Cowboys at some point soon.

Leighton Vander Esch is a very good football player though he would likely get the “Taco Charlton treatment” if he were drafted in round one. Still, the Cowboys like players from Boise State, two remain on the roster with Tyrone Crawford and DeMarcus Lawrence. At one time, Dallas had four with the two aforementioned plus Orlando Scandrick and Kellen Moore. As far as Rashaan Evans is concerned, he’s another great player but the Cowboys haven’t drafted an Alabama player since 2001, so much for that Jason Garrett-Nick Saban connection.

Last but not least, my hometown guy, DeShon Elliott, the safety from the University of Texas. Elliott was a productive player but as a one-year starter, he could have used just a little more seasoning to hone his skills. Elliott has plenty of ball skills but in the NFL, he projects best as a box safety that’s better when he’s closer to the ball. Elliott would be a great option in the fourth round but he’s still a project.

Of course, this is not even a third of the list but we’ll be sure to keep BTB updated with any rumors we hear for these visits and workouts. Also, keep in mind that the Cowboys will have Dallas Day, where they are allowed to meet with prospects that attended high school or college in the Dallas/ Fort Worth area. Once we see news of those prospects we will make the necessary updates. It’s all coming together, Cowboys Nation.

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