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Top 10: Top Notch Safeties Lead The Way At Combine

Posted Feb 21, 2014


Photo Gallery: Top 10 Players To Watch At The Combine >>

IRVING, Texas – The NFL Scouting Combine is three days old at this point, but we’ve yet to see the event that draws viewers in year after year – the workouts.

Player workouts begin in earnest on Saturday morning and continue for four days. It’s hard to project ahead of time who will participate in drills, as players don’t announce that until just prior to the start of the session. That said, here are 10 names we’re hopeful to see at Lucas Oil Stadium in the coming days, and why they might be of interest to the Cowboys.

10. Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame – Tight end isn’t a position that’s on many radars after the Cowboys spent a second round pick on Gavin Escobar last spring. Niklas currently projects as a mid-round pick, though, and it’s something the Cowboys could be interested in if they’re seriously committed to more 12 personnel schemes. Niklas is 6-6, 270 pounds, and he had a 500-yard season for the Fighting Irish last year.

9. Chris Smith, DE, Arkansas – Smith is one of a few guys on this list who also participated in the Senior Bowl. His status as a Razorback gives him an obvious link to Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones, but Smith is one of many intriguing pass rushers in this draft. He’s a bit undersized at 6-1, but he displayed ability in Senior Bowl practices. He could be a quality pick in the middle rounds of the draft.

8. DeMarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State – Lawrence is one of what feels like a dozen “tweener” players, which is to say it’s unclear if he fits better as a 3-4 outside linebacker of a 4-3 defensive end. Like Auburn defensive end Dee Ford, Lawrence lacks ideal size at 6-3, 244 pounds. He might make up for it with his athleticism, though, and his workout numbers could say a lot about where he’s best-suited to play.

7. DaQuan Jones, DT, Penn State –Another Senior Bowl player, Jones isn’t typically mentioned in the same breath as elite defensive tackles like Aaron Donald or Timmy Jernigan. His 6-3, 323-pound frame is certainly intriguing for a team that could be without starting three-technique Jason Hatcher next season. In a draft this deep, the Cowboys will certainly need to do homework on prospects like Jones, who should be attainable as late as the third or fourth rounds.

6. Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois – The last of the Senior Bowl guys. Ward impressed down in Mobile, Ala., and showcased his abilities in pass coverage – something the Cowboys notably struggled with. Ward lacks the size to make him a top prospect, as he’s just 5-10, 191 pounds, but he tackles well and his awareness in coverage stands out. It will be interesting to see if some good workout numbers can boost his stock beyond his size limitations.

5. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU – It’s hard to justify wide receiver as a pressing need, given the presence of Pro Bowler Dez Bryant and a strong rookie season from Terrance Williams. The depth behind those two isn’t great, though – especially if Miles Austin doesn’t return for 2014. Draft analysts are calling this year’s group of wide receivers one of the deepest in recent memory, and Beckham is definitely one of the standouts. The LSU standout measured out with 10-inch hands on Friday, and he’s sure to display some impressive speed if he works out in the coming days.

Photos of the Top 10 Players To Watch At The Combine >>

4. Xavier Su’a-Filo, G, UCLA – We already saw some offensive line prospects get a look at the Senior Bowl, like Notre Dame’s Zack Martin and Baylor’s Cyril Richardson. Su’a-Filo is an intriguing prospect who has yet to showcase his skills, mainly in the sense that he has experience playing both guard and tackle. At 6-6, 315 pounds, he’s definitely got the size, and his impending workouts could help determine where he fits – not to mention how high his stock climbs.

3. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama – Moving more into the Cowboys’ first-round possibilities, Clinton-Dix is one of the most oft-mentioned choices for the team’s No. 16 overall picks. The 6-1, 209-pound prospect is widely considered as this draft’s either best or second-best safety. The appeal for the Cowboys is that the Alabama product seems to be more of a true free safety, which many don’t believe the Cowboys have on the roster right now. Clinton-Dix is lauded more for his tackling and hitting than his pass coverage, and his workouts could either justify or undermine that notion.

2. C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama – The Crimson Tide lead the Combine with 12 invitees taking place in the proceedings, so it makes sense to have Clinton-Dix’s college teammate with him near the top of the list. He’s widely considered the best inside linebacker in the draft, and it might even be a stretch to hope he’ll still be on the board when the Cowboys come up on the clock at No. 16. Given his impressive resume and the Cowboys needs at the position, though, it should be fun to see what Mosley has to offer. 

1. Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville – Pryor and Clinton-Dix are rated head and shoulders above the rest of the safeties in this draft, but their workouts and meetings in the next few months are probably going to do a lot to determine which will go off the board first in May. Pryor might have the better reputation as a pass defender and ballhawk. He nabbed seven interceptions and forced nine fumbles during his Louisville career. He could provide the difference that’s been missing in the Dallas secondary.

Photos of the Top 10 Players To Watch At The Combine >>

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