GAINESVILLE, Fla.– With the 2017 NFL Draft quickly approaching on April 27, the Dallas Cowboys are running out of time to decide which college prospects they want to be the newest members of their franchise.
On Tuesday morning, however, the organization came one step closer to figuring out who those players might be.
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli traveled to Gainesville along with several other Cowboy representatives to scout 21 NFL hopefuls at the Florida Gators' official pro day.
The 21 players participating in the showcase put their talents on display in a variety of exercises and drills with the hopes of improving their draft stock and making a good impression on the coaches and executives in attendance.
Linebacker Jarrad Davis, who chose to sit out of the NFL Combine, wowed scouts with his athletic ability by posting an unofficial 4.56 40-yard dash time and a whopping 38.5-inch vertical jump.
Safety Marcus Maye competed in drills for the first time as well on Tuesday, running an unofficial 4.48 and jumping 32.5 inches.
One prospect who slightly disappointed, on the other hand, was cornerback Teez Tabor. After back-to-back seasons as one of the best shutdown corners in the SEC, Tabor surprised teams at the Combine with a relatively slow 4.62 40-yard dash.
Not only was Tabor unable to improve that time at Florida's Pro Day, it actually got worse. Tabor ran an unofficial 4.77, a significantly slow time for a player at his position.
Tabor, however, was unfazed by the poor showing, stating that his performances on the field over the past three years should be enough to show NFL teams that he's a capable of playing corner at a high level.
"I'm a good football player," Tabor said. "I might not beat you in a race, but reading routes and all that stuff, it's no question… If you watch the film, it really speaks for itself."
Top Florida picks:LB Jarrad Davis, CB Teez Tabor, CB Quincy Wilson, DT Caleb Brantley, S Marcus Maye, OT David Sharpe, LB Alex Anzalone
Possible Cowboys Fits:
Jarrad Davis (LB) – Davis is as talented a defensive prospect as anybody on Florida's roster as long as he can stay healthy. The inside linebacker notched 60 tackles, six tackles for loss, five quarterback hurries and two sacks in limited time for the Gators last season. A pair of injuries to both of his ankles forced Davis to miss four of the Gators' final five games, including the Outback Bowl on Jan. 2. However, when not on the mend, the Kingsland, Ga., native would be a perfect fit in the Cowboys' linebacking corps alongside Sean Lee, Anthony Hitchens and Jaylon Smith.
Teez Tabor (CB) – Despite a rough outing at Tuesday's Pro Day, Tabor is still worthy of a high draft selection. The cornerback was instrumental in making Florida one of the best pass defenses in the country, a unit that allowed only 148.5 receiving yards per game last season. Tabor is also slightly more experienced than fellow All-SEC cornerback Quincy Wilson and has a knack for forcing turnovers with nine career interceptions. The Cowboys were one of only six NFL teams to record fewer than 10 picks in 2016, a number Tabor would definitely help increase if drafted by Dallas.
Caleb Brantley (DT) – While Brantley's size won't overwhelm you on the interior defensive line, the Crescent City, Fla., native makes up for it in self-confidence. Before the season began, Brantley decreed himself as "the best defensive tackle in the country" and added he didn't even "think it was close." He followed up those strong words with a superb junior campaign, recording a team-high 9.5 tackles for loss as well as 2.5 sacks. Brantley might not be as talented as Alabama's Jonathan Allen or Michigan State's Malik McDowell, but his poise and relentless effort down in the trenches could make him a solid pickup in the early rounds of the draft.
Marcus Maye (S) – With the free agency losses of Barry Church to the Jacksonville Jaguars and J.J. Wilcox to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas needs some help at the safety position. Selecting Marcus Maye could be the first step to resolving that issue. The redshirt senior was lights out for Florida last season, recording 50 tackles, one interception, one sack and six pass breakups. Maye is viewed as a player with decent speed, strong instincts and exceptional field vision in the secondary. As long as he continues to stay in good health, grabbing Maye on the second day of the draft and pairing him with Byron Jones could be a recipe for success moving forward.
David Sharpe (OT) – It's no secret that the Cowboys' offensive line has been one of their strongest position groups over the past few seasons. However, with the departure of Ronald Leary to the Denver Broncos and the retirement of Doug Free, adding some depth at the line of scrimmage wouldn't be a bad move for Dallas. Sharpe is no pushover at 6-foot-6, 343 pounds, and would provide another option at right tackle if Byron Bell or Chaz Green struggle to command the position.
Bryan Cox Jr. (DE) – Bryan Cox Sr. spent 12 seasons in the NFL from 1991-2002 as a linebacker with the Dolphins, Bears, Jets, Patriots and Saints. Now, his son, Bryan Jr., is ready to follow in his footsteps. Injuries limited Cox to only 2.5 tackles for loss and 0.5 sacks in 2016, but the intangibles are there for him to potentially be productive in the pros. Natural upper body strength combined with a solid spin move could make him a quality late round pick as an edge rusher.
Top Performer:Jarrad Davis was hands down Florida's most impressive player at Tuesday's Pro Day. The inside linebacker displayed pure athletic ability in all of his drills and showed scouts he's completely healed from the ankle injuries he suffered in 2016. His mark of 38.5 inches in the vertical jump was better than every linebacker who participated in the Combine earlier this month, and his 4.56 40-yard dash was topped only by Michigan's Jabrill Peppers. Davis is a player who began the year projected as a top-20 pick before health issues lowered his draft stock. It would not be surprising to see his projections rise once again over the next couple weeks following Tuesday's numbers.
Who Else Stood Out:Just like Jarrad Davis, Marcus Maye needed to have a strong Pro Day after sitting out of the NFL Combine earlier this month. And just like Davis, Maye showed up and put together a solid performance in all of his drills. The safety ran a 4.48 in the 40-yard dash and leapt 32.5 inches in the vertical jump, solidifying his status as an early-to-mid round pick. Quincy Wilson didn't participate in any athletic drills but showed off his ball skills in an on-field session with a beautiful one-handed grab over his shoulder. Defensive lineman Caleb Brantley, Bryan Cox Jr. and Joey Ivie also ran through some pass rushing drills with Rod Marinelli, while Alex Anzalone looked sharp at the linebacker position.
What They Said:
Jarrad Davis on his pro day performance
"I came out here today and I just wanted to show guys that I'm going to compete. I'm going to compete at the top level, and I'm going to execute every time I get a chance to. I feel like I did that today."
Jarrad Davis on the draft
"It's a new experience and it's something that's very exciting. I never really would've thought that I'd have been in this place at this point… I'm really excited for this new chapter in my life and I just hope that I can be a good example for everyone."
Teez Tabor on his mantra "Just Press Play"
"If you watch the film, it speaks for itself. Just press play. I already did everything I can do. Just press play… They say I'm slow, but I'm not getting beat that way and I'm beating people this way."
Teez Tabor on his draft stock
"In my heart, I'm a first-round pick. I know I'm a first round pick. But guys slide sometimes. Tom Brady went in the sixth round. Josh Norman in the fourth. Richard Sherman in the fifth. They're first-round picks, though."
"I feel like I have the best combination of fluid hips, agility, speed, all put together in one. There's guys that run faster at 4.3 or 4.4, but they don't move how I move and do what I did on film this past year. So I feel like I'm the best."
Caleb Brantley on working with Bill Belichik during Pro Day drills
"That's the greatest, man. You see Bill Belichik come running drills with you, it's like a dream come true. It's pressure too, but we've been doing this our whole lives so we've just got to go out there and do what we do."
David Sharpe on what he can bring to an NFL team
"I can move for my size, and I'm losing weight. The more weight I lose, the faster I'll be. I'm smart in the classroom. I'll know every play in my playbook. I'm a hard worker. I'm just dedicated to the game and a competitor."
Alex Anzalone on what position he thinks he'll play in the NFL
"A lot of teams said they can see me as an inside or outside guy. It really just depends on the system they run, whether it's a 4-3 or 3-4. It just depends. The draft can go either way, no matter how high they view you, so we'll just see what happens."
Dylan Dixon (@dylanrdixon) covers University of Florida athletics for the Independent Florida Alligator.