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Pre-draft visits: The latest updates and draft strategy analysis

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The draft draws closer and the tea leaves are becoming easier to read.

NCAA Football: Towson at Maryland Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

As always, we’re tracking pre-draft visits for the Cowboys. They are crumbs along the path to figuring out their first-round pick in the draft. Once we get the list of the full 30 visits, we’ll have a grouping that will almost certainly contain the Cowboys first pick.

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.

So far, this is what we have.

[Table updated 4/3]

Player Position School Proj. Round Source Draft Scout Ranking
Official pre-draft visit in Dallas
OL James Daniels C Iowa 1 Rob Howe 18
Will Hernandez OG UTEP 1 Bobby Belt 23
Connor Williams OT Texas 1 David Helman 24
Kolton Miller G/T UCLA 1-2 James Layton 31
Desmond Harrison OT West Georgia 6-7 Josh Norris 228
WR Calvin Ridley WR Alabama 1 Bobby Belt 16
D.J. Moore WR Maryland 1-2 Neal Dalal 29
Christian Kirk WR Texas A&M 1-2 Bobby Belt 32
James Washington WR Oklahoma State 2-3 Todd Archer 70
Antonio Callaway WR Florida 4 Josh Norris 136
Daurice Fountain WR Northern Iowa 5-6 ConnorNFLDraft 196
DL Vita Vea DT Washington 1 Aaron Wilson 10
Da'Ron Payne DT Alabama 1 Albert Breer 14
Harold Landry DE Boston College 1 Albert Breer 19
Taven Bryan DT Florida 1 Albert Breer 25
LB Leighton Vander Esch LB Boise St 1 Tony Pauline 22
Rashaan Evans LB Alabama 1-2 Bobby Belt 36
Darius Leonard LB South Carolina State 5 Tony Pauline 169
Others Nyheim Hines RB NC State 3 The Wolfpacker 87
Deshon Elliott SS Texas 4-5 Jared Stager 145

That’s 14 names so we’re almost half way there. What can we learn?

Four of the 14 are wide receivers. This follows the theme of the offseason - the Cowboys want to almost completely overhaul that unit this year. They’ve added two players in free agency, Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson, and they are spending a whole lot of time talking to top prospects. We have three potential first-rounders in the pre-draft list, and as RJ Ochoa let us know, Jason Garrett visited Courtland Sutton personally at his pro day. It seems like no matter what the situation is with Dez Bryant, the Cowboys are going to stock up on receiver talent and are likely going to take a player at that position early in the draft, if not the first round. Some of the veterans like Terrance Williams or Cole Beasley could be in danger.

We also have three linebackers among the visits including two potential first-round picks in Rashaan Evans and Leighton Vander Esch. That puts linebacker second to wide receiver among the partial list, unless you throw players into a generic offensive line bucket.

Four offensive linemen make the list, with some pure guards, some combo players and some tackles. The Cowboys have said they are trying to get the best five players on the field along the line. We know three of them in Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin. The fourth will be La’el Collins, but will it be at right tackle or at left guard? Based on the names they are inviting and the fact they are expected to go high in the draft, it looks like Dallas could be serious about not knowing which direction they want to take with Collins yet.

If they like the guards come draft day, they can keep him outside and let Cam Fleming be the swing tackle. If they like the tackles, they could kick Collins inside and let a rookie draft pick battle Fleming for the right tackle position. Remember, Fleming is only on a one-year deal so they could be using him as insurance for a new rookie tackle. [Corrections: Edited to say Fleming, not Collins, is on a one-year deal. My mistake in the original.]

If you’re a betting person at this point, the Cowboys first-round pick will be a wide receiver, a linebacker or an offensive lineman. Don’t bet yet, though, we still have 16 more names to find out about before we get any real clarity.


LOCAL PROSPECTS INVITED FOR “DALLAS DAY”

Draft Scout Rank Name POS College Proj. Rd. Height Weight Source
161 Trey Quinn WR SMU 5 5-11 203 Todd Archer
-- Quan Jones WR Baylor FA 6-4 215 Twitter
-- Tejan Koroma OC BYU FA 6-0 290 Dane Brugler
-- Mason Gentry DT SMU FA 6-6 300 Twitter
2017 UDFA Matt Davis QB SMU -- 6-0 212 Jon Machota
2017 UDFA Dane Evans QB Tulsa -- 6-1 210 Jon Machota
2017 UDFA Jerod Evans QB Virginia Tech -- 6-3 238 Jon Machota
2017 UDFA Skyler Howard QB West Virginia -- 6-0 207 Jon Machota
2017 UDFA Seth Russell QB Baylor -- 6-3 220 Jon Machota