The Dallas Cowboys pre-draft meetings have finally concluded and the team now has their draft board together. But who exactly are they most interested in?
The Dallas Cowboys have been doing their research on plenty of NFL prospects and with the 2018 NFL draft only days away a few players have stood out as suspected favorites for the Cowboys. Many have predicted that a wide receiver will be the selection come Thursday but is there a bigger need most fans are not seeing?
While there is no official list of the prospects the Dallas Cowboys are interested in meeting in, all meetings have been reported by the media in some form or another. The most interesting facts that are garnered from that information are not just who the Cowboys are meeting with but how many times that player has met with the team.
The more meetings typically indicate a higher probability of getting selected. Now, of course, the draft is fickle, no one knows just how things will play out on Thursday but the Dallas Cowboys do seem prepared to focus on at least three positions in the first round.
If you dig even deeper, you can see what positions mean the most and to most fans this is obvious. Wide receiver, linebacker, and defensive linemen are the positions the Cowboys clearly intend to do the most research on. The Dallas Cowboys have met with just about every first and second-round wide receiver prospect plus a bunch of prospects that should be available in the later rounds.
Another telling aspect of the Cowboys targeting at the wide receiver position is that they have met with D.J. Moore, Courtland Sutton, James Washington, and Christian Kirk multiple times. This either means they believe Calvin Ridley will be gone by the time they are on the clock or were satisfied with their knowledge about him after their official pre-draft visit.
Dallas is likely targeting one of the four players above with the 19th overall selection however with the draft being incredibly unpredictable, flexibility is key. The amount of highly rated linebackers the team met with is also telling. Rashaan Evans, Malik Jefferson, Terrell Edmunds, and Leighton Vander Esch have all met with the Cowboys.
This tells us that linebacker is a significant need however they have met with one linebacker in particular quite a bit. Darius Leonard from South Carolina State is the one player who has met with Dallas several times and will is projected to be a second or third round selection.
One could infer that the Cowboys see linebacker as a major need but not one to use a first-round pick on. Defensive lineman seems to be a bigger need than previously thought even with the offseason addition of Kony Ealy. The Dallas Cowboys have met with a ton of defensive line prospects and for the most part, they will only be available in the first three rounds.
The most interesting names have been Taven Bryan, Vita Vea, and Nathan Shepherd. Both Bryan and Vea could be available when the Cowboys are on the clock and out of the two Bryan seems to be the favorite. Shepherd seems to be a safety valve if the Cowboys are unable (or choose not) to select Bryan or Vea as he should be available in rounds 2-3.
Offensive linemen and the running back position are also other areas of need that saw more than the average amount of visits. This makes sense given the Cowboys reliance on a dominant line and the use of running backs to control the time of possession.
Will Hernandez has been the most talked about offensive lineman in draft circles who could be available when the Cowboys are on the clock. The team seems to be more interested in Kolton Miller and if he were to fall, Dallas could shock everyone and take the productive offensive lineman.
It also has been announced that Travis Frederick will announce the Cowboys third-round pick, so in reality that will likely be an offensive lineman right? I mean why else bring Frederick up there if he was not going to announce the next addition to the Dallas Cowboys offensive line.
As far as the running back position goes, the Dallas Cowboys have appeared interested in one name above all the rest, Nyheim Hines out of North Carolina State. Hines is versatile running back who has shown an ability to not only be a capable back on the field but in the passing game as well.
He is also the only running back the Dallas Cowboys have met with multiple times. Finding a player to compliment Ezekiel Elliott seems to be on the minds of decision-makers in Big D and that makes sense as Alfred Morris is still a free agent and Darren McFadden is no longer with the team.
That basically leaves Rod Smith as the primary backup, and while Smith is an incredible back he may not have the explosiveness in the passing game that the Cowboys are looking for.
Hines is pretty much as close to Alvin Kamara as you can get in this draft class, so the intrigue is there. Other than Hines the Dallas Cowboys seem poised to wait for the right player at the position whether or not they select one during the draft or wait until after.
Cornerback, safety, quarterback, fullback, and tight end were the positions that saw the least amount of visits per prospect and that is not all that shocking. There are a couple of interesting names in that group (quarterbacks Kyle Lauletta and Mason Randolph/safeties Jessie Bates and DeShon Elliott/and cornerback Isaiah Oliver) however it is unlikely the Dallas Cowboys will invest a high pick in any of those positions.
Clearly the team is toying around with finding a capable backup for Dak Prescott or just a high-level developmental player, however, this does not seem like a high priority in 2018. At safety, the Cowboys are relatively deep and that lack of interest in the safety position during the scouting process could mean that the team will look to acquire one by other means (cough, cough, Earl Thomas, cough).
Whether or not the team trades for a safety there are still some interesting names that they have met with but typically these players are projected to be selected in the third round or higher.
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This means the Cowboys could have faith that they will be able to find a quality player at the position in the middle rounds of the draft. Lastly, at cornerback, the team has a nice young nucleus of players already in place. It seems unlikely that the team will select a cornerback with a top three pick.
Isaiah Oliver is a bit of a wild card however he will likely be selected late in the first round/early second. So what have we learned from going through the Dallas Cowboys pre-draft meetings?
The Cowboys feel as if multiple players at different positions could be worthy of a first-round selection with the focal point being at the wide receiver position. If the right linebacker falls to the 19th spot then they could be the selection, however, there will be enough talent in the second round for them to focus on.
In the third round, the Cowboys should find a quality offensive lineman to come in as a backup to Tyron Smith or a starting guard. In the fourth, we could see a running back taken especially if Nyheim Hines is there but I would not be surprised to see the team trade up to land either Hines or back into the third round to select Nathan Shepherd.
One thing is certain with plenty of roster holes to fill, the Cowboys will be looking to add some of the most talented prospects available in the coming days.