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2022 NFL combine: What the Cowboys should be watching for from these 10 defensive prospects

What will you be looking for this week at the NFL combine?

NFL: International Combine Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s NFL combine week where we have an opportunity to see how players test out athletically. It’s a time when scouts have an opportunity to see if months of assessments actually match up to their athletic measurements. This can solidify one’s thinking about a certain prospect or make you go back to the tape (always trust the tape).

On Monday, we took a look at ten different offensive players and identified what the Dallas Cowboys should be looking for with those players at the combine. Today, well address the defense with ten more players.

EDGE Jermaine Johnson, Florida State

All of the first-round edge-rushing candidates will be at the center of attention for many teams because when these players are selected can shake up the entire dynamic of Day 1. If one of the stronger prospects does fall to the Cowboys, FSU’s Jermaine Johnson is a guy to look out for.

What to look for: He’s a guy who should shine in the 10-yard split (explosion) and any bag drill that showcases his length. While he has good agility, Johnson doesn’t have a lot of bend so keep an eye on his 3-cone time (charts courtesy of Todd McShay’s guide to every combine drill).

Three-cone drill measurables, courtesy of Todd McShay

Note: For his three-cone chart, McShay appears to have the colors mixed up between the outstanding/red flag criteria.

EDGE George Karlaftis, Purdue

Whether it’s Johnson, Karlaftis, or even David Ojabo, the Cowboys are likely to see one of these strong edge-rushing prospects fall to them, but which one? There is a lot to like about Karlaftis and he could be a sneaky value pick at 24.

What to look for: Athletically, he should test well as he has nice get-off and great change of direction. He also has great lower-body explosion and leg drive so his broad jump should be impressive. Karlaftis has shorter arms that aren’t going to get any longer, so he needs to capitalize on every opportunity to confirm his athleticism.

Broad jump measurables, courtesy of Todd McShay

DT Jordan Davis, Georgia

This Bulldog bulldozer projects to be the top defensive tackle selected in the draft, but the positional value could slide him towards the end of the first round. The Cowboys have plenty of 3-tech DT bodies under contract but lack a true bruising 1-tech block absorber.

What to look for: Davis will impress many at the bench press and entertain many more with how well a guy of his size moves. But because he was a rotational player on a stacked Georgia defense, how his stamina holds up as these drills accumulate will be something worth monitoring.

DT DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M

When first watching tape of this explosive utility knife defensive lineman, I was immediately impressed because he moved really well for his size and I couldn’t help thinking - could he be one of those unicorn players? But it’s not all unicorns and rainbows as his physicality and lack of anchor has been his biggest weakness, but just how much will that hold him back? This Aggie attacker might be one of the biggest wildcard players in the draft.

What to look for: It would be nice to see him test well in the agility drills such as the 20-yard shuttle and 3-cone, but what is even more important is the jumping drills where he can have some showing of lower-body explosiveness and demonstrate he can deliver power from the ground up.

Vertical jump measurables, courtesy of Todd McShay

LB Nakobe Dean, Georgia

The Cowboys have undergone a linebacker overhaul recently and the remodeling hasn’t stopped as they could lose Leighton Vander Esch and/or Keanu Neal in free agency. Landing a player of Dean’s caliber would immediately add strength to the position group. While he’s sure to dazzle in all drills showcasing speed, there are still questions that need to be answered.

What to look for: Dean not only needs to excel in the 40-yard dash and 20-yards split, but he needs to have a respectable showing in the bench press. He’s a little lacking in size so if he can just do okay in strength and the jumping drills it should solidify his draft stock.

LB Chad Muma, Wyoming

If the Cowboys miss out on a linebacker on Day 1, that’s okay as there are some really good options on Day 2. The playmaking ability of Muma will generate plenty of interest from teams, but squads will be very curious to see how he tests out athletically.

What to look for: Muma has a lanky frame and change of direction can be tricky for him. He also is a little light on strength at times when he’s attacking blocks. It will be important for Muma to test modestly in strength and agility drills to set minds at ease that he can hang at the next level.

Bench press measurables, courtesy of Todd McShay

CB Roger McCreary, Auburn

The Cowboys will probably miss out on the elite three of corners in this draft (Derek Stingley Jr., “Sauce” Gardner, and Trent McDuffie), which means they should look to later rounds for a CB. Auburn’s McCreary is one of the most underrated players because he just doesn’t splash like the others. Don’t let the lack of splashiness fool you though as he still possesses many strong traits to carry over to the next level.

What to look for: McCreary is a little undersized, but that hasn’t haunted him on tape. What could be a drawback is his inability to break and his lack of long speed. His 20-yard shuttle and 40 time will be of interest to several teams.

CB Kyler Gordon, Washington

Similar to how LB Channing Tindell offers a cheaper round discount than that of his Georgia teammate Dean, the same could be true for Gordon. Obviously, McDuffie is the more talented corner, but his Huskie teammate Gordon is not too shabby in his own right.

What to look for: Similar to McCreary, his 40-yard dash and short shuttle times will be very telling. He’s not as fundamentally sound as McCreary, but he has more athletic upside and could catapult up the CB rankings with a good showing at the combine.

20-yard shuttle measurables, courtesy of Todd McShay

S Daxton Hill, Michigan

Will the Cowboys select a safety in the first round of the draft? That seems blasphemous, but if it did happen, it would probably be Hill from Michigan. He’s a little undersized but doesn’t play like it as he demonstrates good coverage skills as well as being an aggressive tackler.

What to look for: He’ll need to show good balance with a respectable 60-yard shuttle time.

S Jalen Pitre, Baylor

While there isn’t a long list of safeties in this draft class who project to NFL starters, there is a cluster of players who fit the bill. Pitre is one of them as he’s a very smart player who can do a lot of different things. The instincts are there and he has good hands, but his movement is something that provides a bit of a grey area.

What to look for: He’ll need to demonstrate good footwork in the agility drills as he can be a little stiff. His overall speed is also an area of concern so a good testing from the 40-yard dash will be helpful.

40 yard dash measurables, courtesy of Todd McShay

For more defensive prospects the Cowboys should be watching, make sure to check out David Howman’s list from last week.