The NFL Combine can be a useful tool in getting a better feel for a player's athletic traits. If there are question marks about a player's speed, you’ll get answers. If you want to find out how strong a lineman is, that will be revealed as well. The combine provides an opportunity to confirm or debunk some of the narratives running around as it pertains to a player’s athleticism. A good performance could help boost a player’s draft stock while a bad one could make him slide.
It’s worth mentioning that there is no substitute for watching the tape, and while these combine drills provide information, it’s important not to overreact to them. For example, one of the top tackle prospects coming out of the 2018 draft was Oklahoma’s Orlando Brown who had a great college career dominating a high level of opposition. However, the knock on him was that he was slow. His combine numbers validated such and suddenly an elite on-field performer wasn’t selected until late in the third round. Brown has outperformed every tackle from his draft class and this now Super Bowl champ has earned Pro Bowl honors in each of his last three seasons. The lesson learned - trust the tape!
Today, we're going to take a look at ten potential draft targets for the Dallas Cowboys from the offensive side of the ball, and specifically identify what we should be looking for. On Thursday, we’ll see the drills for the QBs, WRs, and TEs, and on Friday it will be the OL and special teams. The defense will have their drills on Saturday and Sunday.
Let’s dig into some prospects...
OC Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
The Iowa star is a favorite of many fans as they welcome an upgrade from the other Tyler, Tyler Biadasz. Linderbaum is a fundamentally sound player who is NFL-ready and performs well as a run blocker and in pass protection.
What to look for: Lack of size is his kryptonite and nothing he can do at the combine will change that so he’ll need to test well in the 10/20 splits and three-cone drill. Anything respectable in the bench press reps certainly won’t hurt.
WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas
If the Cowboys go wide receiver in the first round, it could the Razorback “wide back” who gets selected as he’s been projected to go in the vicinity of pick 24. On tape, there is a lot to love, but he still brings about a few questions when it comes to him being a complete WR.
What to look for: One of Burks’ best traits is his tackle-breaking ability which won’t be on display in drills. He can still shine by showing off his hands and plucking balls. The concern with Burks has been his route-running ability so how well he maintains control of his body and his understanding of his assignments will loom large.
OG Zion Johnson, Boston College
Despite having the two Connors, the Cowboys had all kinds of fits getting reliable play from their left guard position. Johnson is a player who might be able to step in right away and fill a need as he’s a good run blocker with good fundamentals.
What to look for: Not known for his athleticism, any showing of good movement will be a plus. His bread and butter is his balance, so a good 20-yard shuttle score is important.
OT Trevor Penning
Yesterday, we explained how the Northern Iowa tackle could be the perfect choice for the Cowboys at pick 24. This 6-foot-6, 330-pound monster could end up being the next best thing at tackle and would come in handy should Tyron Smith or La’el Collins not be available.
What to look for: While Penning is a good athlete for his size, demonstrating how good he is could drive up his stock. He still has a lot to learn so how well he can process information from the coaching staff will also be important.
TE Trey McBride Colorado State/Cade Otton, Washington
It’s hard seeing the Cowboys match the market price of free-agent tight end Dalton Schultz, so look for them to find his replacement in the draft. The team puts an emphasis on good in-line blockers over pass-catching space tight ends so both McBride and Otton are players to keep an eye on.
What to look for: Since the drills highlight pass-catching and not blocking ability, these guys will want to show they can be threats in the receiving game. Getting in and out of their breaks and demonstrating good hands will help show just how well-rounded they are.
Keep an eye out for these guys...
If the Cowboys are targeting a wide receiver who could replace Michael Gallup, they don’t necessarily have to take one early as there are some good options in later rounds.
WR George Pickens - one of my favorites from watching the tape, this Bulldog wideout has amazing hands, but after tearing his ACL back in March, can he demonstrate that same level of suddenness that raised eyebrows before he got hurt?
WR Alec Pierce - the Bearcat receiver has already been identified as a perfect replacement for Gallup as he’s good at so many things. If he can get out of his breaks well, he could move up a tier in WR groupings.
WR Jalen Tolbert - there’s a lot to love on tape, but the South Alabama star needs to test well at the 3-cone drill and not allow his inconsistent hands to let him down.
WR Skyy Moore - this undersized wide receiver from Western Michigan is a savvy route-runner, but can he show enough athleticism to prove he’s can be a legit threat?
The great Gil Brandt provided us with this handy little chart to help us know what to look for at each of the offensive position groups.
For more offensive prospects the Cowboys should be watching, make sure to check out David Howman’s list from last week.