FRISCO, Texas – Preparing for the NFL draft is a year-round process, but there's a sizable shift when the month of April arrives.
With a handful of exceptions, the road tripping is winding to a close. Most schools in the country have already held their pro day, and the private workouts have been held.
From here on out, the focus of NFL teams turns inward. Starting this week, the Cowboys will begin their annual draft meetings, in which the coaching staff and the personnel department come together to sort out their pecking order for this year's draft.
Much more interesting than the meetings at The Star will be the visits – 30 of them, to be exact. In the month prior to the draft, all 32 NFL clubs are permitted to bring 30 prospects to their facility in order to get better acquainted with them.
Anyone who has followed the Cowboys' draft process should understand the significance of that. Going back over the last decade, all but one of this team's first-round picks has been a 30 visitor. The one who wasn't – Morris Claiborne, who unfortunately has been one of the Cowboys' more disappointing draft picks in recent memory.
Everyone else, from Zack Martin to Byron Jones to Ezekiel Elliott, stopped by the Cowboys' facility in the weeks leading up to the draft. Even some later round prospects – Dak Prescott, for instance – have been on the 30 visit list.
With names like Calvin Ridley, Rashaan Evans, Leighton Vander Esch and D.J. Moore on this year's list, it's interesting to see the Cowboys' thought process as they prepare to set their draft board.
The 30 national visits will take center stage, and for good reason. Again, it's a good bet that the Cowboys' first-round pick will be among those visitors. But the Cowboys will be the beneficiaries of a lesser-known NFL rule in the coming month, as well.
NFL teams are allowed to visit with local prospects – players who either grew up or played college football in the nearby metropolitan area – throughout the lead-up to the draft. Unlike the 30 visits, there's no limit on who all can visit with a team, so long as they're local.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett alluded to as much last week at the NFL owners' meetings, when he was asked about SMU wide receiver Courtland Sutton.
"We'll have a Dallas day for the local guys around our 30 visits, when we start our draft meetings and it's fun to get those guys to come out," Garrett said. "Again, we're fortunate cause there's a lot of guys who played high school football or college football in our area who are real prospects."
That's worth keeping in mind as the next month rolls along. The Cowboys will have 30 national visitors come through their doors in the coming weeks, but their sights are set much wider than that.
But starting this week, those sights will begin to narrow, as the process of zeroing in on this year's Cowboys draft class truly begins.