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Prospects to watch at 12 positions during 2024 scouting combine


INDIANAPOLIS — The on-field drills officially get underway on Thursday at the NFL Combine, as the league's annual scouting event is set to put the draft process into full speed with a little more than eight weeks until the first selection is on the clock in Detroit.

Over 300 prospects will flood into Lucas Oil Stadium — the home of the Indianapolis Colts — throughout the weekend to put their skillset on display for scouts and media in attendance.

Here are players to watch at each position as it pertains to potential Cowboys draft selections.

QUARTERBACK: Michael Pratt (Tulane) — While drafting a quarterback is as unlikely for the Cowboys as drafting a specialist this year, more surprising things have happened in recent memory. The case could be made to add competition into the depth of the quarterback room with Cooper Rush and Trey Lance next season, and a handful of guys could fit that mold on day three. Michael Pratt out of Tulane stands out with a 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame that fits the position mold along with an efficiency in his three and a half years as a starter with the Green Wave that saw him throw for over 9,000 yards and 90 touchdowns.

Others to Watch: Spencer Rattler (South Carolina), Sam Hartman (Notre Dame), Devin Leary (Kentucky)

RUNNING BACK: Braelon Allen (Wisconsin) — Regardless of how free agency shakes out, grabbing a bruiser at running back seems like a likely draft possibility for the Cowboys, and Braelon Allen's 6-foot-2, 245-pound frame and downhill ability could be a perfect complement to either Tony Pollard or any smaller back in free agency. Allen also enters the draft after just turning 20 in January and can provide more longevity than what is expected at the position. His three years as a starter for the Badgers saw him rush for 35 touchdowns and 3,494 yards on 5.9 yards per carry.

Others to Watch: Bucky Irving (Oregon), Trey Benson (Florida State), Isaiah Davis (South Dakota State)

WIDE RECEIVER: Brenden Rice (USC) — It's expected that Dallas takes a wide receiver in the draft, but how early the Cowboys take one off the board remains to be seen. If they decide to take one on day two, taking a big body like Brenden Rice — the son of Jerry Rice — makes sense to put on the outside to provide a reliable complement to CeeDee Lamb and Brandin Cooks. Free agency will be a big determining factor towards the Cowboys' flexibility on when they can draft a receiver threat.

Others to Watch: Ricky Pearsall (Florida), Jamari Thrash (Louisville), Jalen McMillan (Washington), Jordan Whittington (Texas)

TIGHT END: Tanner McLachlan (Arizona) — While Jake Ferguson emerged as a clear TE1 in 2023, Luke Schoonmaker continues to develop, and John Stephens Jr. awaits his return from an ACL tear, adding a playmaking receiving threat like Tanner McLachlan to the tight end room could be an option in the draft. McLachlan's speed is expected to chart at the top of his position group, but it's his receiving drills that will rise his stock going into the week.

Others to Watch: Jared Wiley (TCU), Brevyn Spann-Ford (Minnesota), Ben Sinnott (Kansas State)

OFFENSIVE TACKLE: Jordan Morgan (Arizona) — Just about every reputable mock draft out there has Dallas taking an offensive tackle in the first round to either replace Tyron Smith or to add reliable young depth behind him, and Jordan Morgan is one of the more intriguing options. A handful of quality tackles are expected to be on the board when No. 24 is on the clock, and Morgan's experience at Arizona playing left tackle paired with his elite play sealing the edge has his name high on various boards. Showcasing his mobility this week could be a big determining factor in his future projection potentially sliding inside to guard, but regardless he will have that positional flexibility when he arrives at training camp for whatever team chooses him in April.

Others to Watch: Amarius Mims (Georgia) Tyler Guyton (Oklahoma), Troy Fautanu (Washington)

OFFENSIVE GUARD: Christian Haynes (UConn) — Grabbing an interior offensive lineman with a high pick is a reasonable scenario for the Cowboys, and Christian Haynes is an option that could also provide versatility if chosen. While he starred at guard for the Huskies, his potential to play center is arguably just as high. If the Cowboys decide to move on from Tyler Biadasz, Haynes is a plug and play option in the middle of the offensive line. If he is retained, Haynes could serve as a reliable depth option early in his career behind both guard positions and at center.

Others to Watch: Cooper Beebe (Kansas State), Christian Mahogany (Boston College)

CENTER: Graham Barton (Duke) — Speaking of positional versatility, it's hard to argue that any player in the draft has as much flexibility as Graham Barton. While he is probably projected best at center at the next level, his extended experience at tackle and guard at Duke gives him the ability to play all five positions up front. As a center, he can pave running lanes by bringing the nastiness that Dallas could be looking for at the position if the front office decides to pull the trigger on drafting a center with a high pick. Dealing with a torn labrum, Barton will be limited this week but his interview process could offer some clarity on his best position fit at the next level.

Others to Watch: Jackson Powers-Johnson (Oregon), Tanor Bortolini (Wisconsin), Sedrick Van Pran-Granger (Georgia)

EDGE: Jalyx Hunt (Houston Christian) — With Dante Fowler Jr. and Dorance Armstrong hitting free agency, adding an extra edge body in the draft could be a priority on day three. Jalyx Hunt bursted into the scene in 2023 with a huge season for the Huskies after transferring from Cornell and converting from cornerback by adding over 30 pounds of weight to his long frame. His lengthy wingspan and defensive back-type agility makes him a weapon off the edge, and he could be the perfect project for Mike Zimmer and Jeff Zgonina in Hunt's first couple of seasons to maximize the value out of a day three selection. Expect that speed to be on display this week after shining in that area at the Senior Bowl.

Others to Watch: David Ugwoegbu (Houston), Marshawn Kneeland (Western Michigan), Darius Robinson (Missouri)

DEFENSIVE TACKLE: T'Vondre Sweat (Texas) — The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year is a popular second round choice on social media for the Cowboys, as his wide frame could be the solution in the interior defensive line for consistently stopping the run. Arguably no prospect will have as much attention as Sweat when he hits the scales this week, as he was unofficially listed at 363 pounds his senior year at Texas and opted out of weighing in at the Senior Bowl. His bench press and power display could also impress those in attendance this week.

Others to Watch: Gabe Hall (Baylor), Michael Hall Jr. (Ohio State), Leonard Taylor III (Miami)

LINEBACKER: Payton Wilson (NC State) — Few prospects have as much weighing on the medical reports this week than Payton Wilson as he enters the draft with two major knee injuries and a major shoulder injury on his resumé, but the Dick Butkus Award winner from 2023 will hope to ease those concerns after a strong Senior Bowl. His sideline-to-sideline cover ability and his versatility in coverage has him as a legitimate day two linebacker that could be available at No. 56 for the Cowboys if they decide to target the position that early. Expect him to lay down an impressive 40-yard dash time this week as well.

Others to Watch: Edgerrin Cooper (Texas A&M), Junior Colson (Michigan), Curtis Jacobs (Penn State)

CORNERBACK: Khyree Jackson (Oregon) — Taking a cornerback in the draft stands out as a potential day three need for the Cowboys, whether they decide to bring back Stephon Gilmore and/or Jourdan Lewis or not. Mike Zimmer's history of developing tall press corners has Khyree Jackson fitting the mold as a potential fit with his 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame that saw him lock down the outside in his time at Oregon. Having an option like Jackson behind Gilmore and/or Trevon Diggs and DaRon Bland could be the depth that Dallas is seeking at the position this offseason.

Others to Watch: Kamari Lassiter (Georgia), T.J. Tampa (Iowa State), Malik Mustapha (Wake Forest)

SAFETY: Tyler Nubin (Minnesota) — While taking a safety isn't necessarily a draft need for the Cowboys, a successful free agency could open the door towards taking a player for the future at the position, and Tyler Nubin shines as one of the top safeties in the class. His run defense stands out on tape from his time playing in the Big Ten, but it's his range in the secondary and his elite pre-snap and post-snap instincts that make him a unique prospect. His verified speed will be something to watch this week as well as his change of direction coverage drills.

Others to Watch: Jaden Hicks (Washington State), Beau Brade (Maryland), Evan Williams (Oregon)

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