(Throughout the spring, DallasCowboys.com will be providing live reports from NFL Pro Days at college campuses around the country. Ryan Ginn, associate editor of Buckeye Sports Bulletin, was on hand at Ohio State as nearly two dozen players took part in workouts in front of representatives from all 32 NFL teams.)
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Dallas Cowboys had multiple representatives at Ohio State's Pro Day on Friday, but they certainly weren't alone in that regard.
More than 100 scouts from all 32 NFL teams descended on Columbus to watch 22 former Buckeyes work out, as did five head coaches – Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis, Tennessee's Mike Mularkey, New Orleans' Sean Payton, Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin and Minnesota's Mike Zimmer. With 14 players who had participated in the NFL Combine, there was certainly reason for each franchise to take a look.
It was a limited day for many of the players who fared best at the Combine, including running back Ezekiel Elliott, linebacker Darron Lee and cornerback Eli Apple. For others, though, Pro Day offered a chance to improve on a disappointing showing in Indianapolis.
After running a 4.50 40-yard dash in Indianapolis, wide receiver Braxton Miller was clocked in the 4.35 range by scouts in Columbus. Wide receiver Michael Thomas also bettered his 4.57 showing by running around a 4.45, according to scouts. The player everyone was most curious about, however, might have been quarterback Cardale Jones, who didn't throw at the NFL Combine because of a hamstring injury. With a chance to work out with the receivers he knows best, he put on a show in front of scouts and NFL personnel and showed off improved touch on his shorter passes along with an accurate deep ball.
Top picks: DE Joey Bosa, RB Ezekiel Elliott, CB Eli Apple, OT Taylor Decker, OLB Darron Lee, FS Vonn Bell, WR Braxton Miller, WR Michael Thomas
Possible Cowboys Fits:
Joey Bosa (DE) – Bosa's father and uncle were both drafted No. 16 overall, but it's a safe bet that he doesn't last that long. The two-time consensus All-American finished his three-year college career with 26 sacks and 50.5 tackles for loss along with five forced fumbles. He made his living by getting into the backfield but improved as a run stopper over the past two years and even played some defensive tackle in 2015 in Ohio State's "Rushmen" package.
Ezekiel Elliott (RB) – Viewed by many as the most complete running back in this draft class, Elliott was described by Ohio State coach Urban Meyer as the best player he's ever coached without the ball in his hands. OSU quarterback J.T. Barrett likened Elliott's blocks on the perimeter to "chopping guys like a cherry tree." He's just as good with the ball in his hands, however. The St. Louis native rushed for 1,878 yards in 2014 and 1,821 yards in 2015, totaling 41 touchdowns in that span and averaging more than 6.0 yards per carry both seasons.
Eli Apple (CB) – His mid-first round projection makes him unlikely to be a Cowboy barring a trade or a tumble down the board, but Apple would give Dallas an NFL-ready corner. He ran a 4.44-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine and he's built like a pro cornerback. He's great in press coverage and run support. He made four interceptions in his two years in the lineup but drew seven pass interference flags because of a tendency to get too aggressive on the back end of plays.
Cardale Jones (QB) – Jones would probably best be served by ending up with a team that doesn't need him to step in right away, and Dallas obviously has that covered. He finished 11-0 as a starter at Ohio State but experienced his share of highs and lows. He completed more than 60 percent of his passes in 2014 and 2015 but never got to a 65 percent completion rate. He struggled at times in 2015 behind a less cohesive offensive line and didn't replicate his deep-ball success of 2014.
Michael Thomas (WR) – The nephew of Keyshawn Johnson, Thomas is arguably the most undervalued Ohio State draft prospect because of OSU's underwhelming passing game during his time in Columbus. He's a precise route runner who fared well against All-American cornerback Kendall Fuller in OSU's win against Virginia Tech and led the Buckeyes in catches each of the last two years. He's a good possession receiver who would be a good value as a second-round pick.
Joshua Perry (OLB) –The lone senior on this list, Perry was Ohio State's leading tackler in 2014 with 124 and finished with 105 in 2015. He showed an ability to get into the backfield over the last two years, making 16 tackles for loss during that span. He was the surest tackler in a linebacker unit that also included projected first-rounder Darron Lee and star Raekwon McMillan. He'll probably fall as a second- or third-round pick and seems like he has a solid NFL career ahead of him.
Top Performer: Miller needed to put up a better time than he did in Indianapolis and accomplished that by shaving off more than a tenth of a second. It was hand-timed and on his home turf, but those 4.35 marks could make Miller some money next month. He also had a good showing as a receiver when Jones was throwing and continues to look more and more like a true receiver than a converted quarterback.
Who Else Stood Out: Bosa looked really smooth for much of his drill work, and Jones only had a handful of incompletions among the 82 passes he threw under the direction of QB guru George Whitfield. Offensive tackle Taylor Decker was also impressive in the drills portion, and Thomas might have improved his stock with his faster 40 time and his work during Jones' throwing session. That's also an area where Elliott shined, as he was able to showcase his receiving ability out of the backfield.
What They Said:
Elliott on if he feels he's worth a top-15 pick:
"I think I show versatility at the running back position and I'm a guy you can leave on the field all three downs. But I wouldn't say I deserve to be a top-15 pick – that's not my decision. All I can do is go out there and show my ability and I think I did a great job of that."
Elliott on the possibility of playing for the Cowboys:
"It would be an honor to be drafted so high to such a great organization. I just tend to focus on the things that I can control and that's how hard I train and how I look when I come out here for these workouts. That's what I want to work on, and I'll let the rest handle itself."
Miller on if teams are questioning his limited experience at wide receiver:
"No, I don't think so. I think I answered them at the Senior Bowl, the Combine and here."
Jones on his throwing session:
"That was one of my main focus points of today, showing touch and accuracy. I don't think anyone in their right mind would question my arm strength."
Jones on not being able to throw at the Combine:
"I've never been hurt and had to sit out before. It was a terrible feeling seeing guys you want to compete against – and want to build relationships with, but you want to compete at the highest level – and not being able to go through the drills, it sucked. I'm glad for my (physical therapy) guy. I got PT right when I got back, and he got right on top of it."
Thomas on his performance:
"I thought I did decent, some things I could still improve on. But I'm going to keep improving and take the coaching I get and work on it."
Perry on his Pro Day showing:
"I think the big thing is making sure I'm on top of my workouts and taking care of my body and having all that stuff together. I think I had a pretty good day. I got some good feedback and my workouts looked pretty good."
Safety Tyvis Powell on Cardale Jones:
"A kid that can make all the throws and a winner. He's a winner. I mean at the end of the day Cardale's the only quarterback in this class that's 11-0 and has not lost a game. You can't beat that with a bat."
What Others Said:
Bosa's father John on the difference in Joey's Combine and Pro Day performances:
"When I watched him at the Combine I could see in his face a lot of stress and he looked tired. I think he looked great today. Obviously he's in his home so he's very comfortable here, but he looked different. He looked great in the drills. I don't know the times as far as the 40s but I think he looked a lot better. He's just happy because he's the toughest critic of himself and he wanted to come out and redo everything."
Elliott's father Stacy on the possibility of Ezekiel being drafted by Dallas:
"Dallas is called America's Team, you know, and The Ohio State is kind of like that brand on the college level. It would be a wonderful opportunity for Zeke to play for any team, but definitely Dallas is a nice place. I think with that offensive line he could really showcase his talent."
Meyer on Jones' throwing session:
"I was worried about him because the hamstring is a big part of throwing the ball. But he has been getting treatment and he has handled himself like a pro and I am proud of him. I thought he had a good day."
Jones' high school coach Ted Ginn Sr. on watching him throw at Pro Day:
"Just to see him doing his thing and being in command and aware of everything around him… he was so polished. I just felt really good. I think about where we've come from ever since he was 9 years old, and just to see him perform and take command, it was just amazing for me."
Ryan Ginn (@RyanGinnBSB) covers Ohio State athletics for Buckeye Sports Bulletin.