The biggest news around Valley Ranch this week is some high-profile visits by possible draft picks like Aaron Donald, Anthony Barr and Timmy Jernigan.
It could be that the Dallas Cowboys spend a pick on one or two of their best-known visitors. It could be that they draft none of them. History has been a mixed bag when it comes to visits–Travis Frederick came by last year, but Morris Claiborne the year before did not.
Pre-draft visits are often a good time to firm up the back end of the roster rather than audition potential first-rounders. Guys with potential character issues can explain themselves in person, and players on the fringe of being drafted can make their case. Invitees will usually meet with their position coaches and maybe even the boss, Jerry Jones, as Barr did the other day.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he told the Dallas Morning News. “I couldn’t even talk at first, like, ‘This is Jerry Jones.'”
Glad to know Jerry’s still got it.
Today, Jones is likely attending the team’s annual camp for local prospects, usually referred to as “Dallas Day.” While the Cowboys are only allowed to bring in 30 college prospects from around the country, there is no such restriction for local college players or guys who played their high school ball in DFW.
This gives the green light to prospects from SMU, TCU and North Texas, as well as players like Texas wide receiver Mike Davis, A&M running back Ben Molina and Kansas halfback James Sims. All three attended local high schools.
The biggest names at Dallas Day are TCU quarterback Casey Pachall and SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert, the Texas transfer. Both are long shots to have a professional career, and if they do it will probably be with the Cowboys. It’s totally possible that Dallas will draft a quarterback, but unlikely that Gilbert will be the one. Aaron Murray looks like a serious mid-round option.
Despite the long odds, Dallas Day attendees shouldn’t give up hope. The Cowboys have a long history of drafting local guys like Cole Beasley, Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner. Even former Cowboys receiver Patrick Crayton was a Dallas Day standout.
And of course, Tony Romo and Miles Austin are living proof that anyone can make an impact, first-rounder or not.
So while it’s easy to focus on the big names at Valley Ranch this week, Dallas is much more likely to actually draft a Dallas Day attendee or small-college standout than Donald, Barr or Jernigan.
The Cowboys have six seventh-round picks this year. If one of those picks makes the 53-man roster, the team will have been successful. If two of them make it, the team will be overjoyed.
Sure, they’ll probably trade one or two of those picks to move up in an earlier round, but after hitting on guys like Beasley in the past, the Cowboys know the value of a late-round option.
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