Recent History Shows Importance Of This Week's NFL Scouting Combine

Over the next few days, more than 330 draft prospects will make the journey up to Indianapolis for the annual scouting combine, where they will meet with NFL scouts, coaches and medical personnel.

For all of them, it's one of the biggest two to three days of their lives, whether they're aware of it or not.

This year, the Cowboys have seemingly even higher interest than ever before, considering all of the players invited are within reach for the team and its No. 4 overall pick.

But it's not like the focus is night-and-day different than last year when the Cowboys' brass went to Indianapolis, sitting with the 27th overall pick and then No. 60 in the second round.

Teams in the later rounds still do their homework on all players because as last season reminded us, anything can happen leading up to and on draft day.

So as we think we know who the top picks might be for the late-April draft this year, a lot can happen, and likely will happen in the next few days.

Just look at the Cowboys' three high-profiled rookies from last season. All of them went to Indianapolis with different expectations and/or outside perceptions than how it turned out in the draft.

Let's start with first-round pick Byron Jones, who was already projected to get drafted in the first three rounds, probably closer to the second. But after his workout, Jones put his athletic ability on display. His broad jump of 12 feet, 3 inches set a world record. And he also produced a rather impressive vertical jump of 44.5 inches.

"He was a guy we already liked from what we saw on film," said Cowboys' senior director of college/pro scouting Will McClay not long after the team drafted Jones with the 27th overall pick. "Then after his workout, it just showed us even more what kind of athlete he was. But you can't just have a good workout. You have to show it on film and he did that."

Jones' workout showed teams that he had the range and ability to play more than cornerback. This past year, Jones was used in a variety of positions, including safety. As he enters his second year, it sounds like the Cowboys will at least start Jones off at safety.

The Cowboys' second pick – defensive end Randy Gregory – saw his draft stock change after events that occurred at the combine. A failed drug test scared off several teams, dropping the once-projected top-10 pick down to No. 60, where the Cowboys grabbed him. Still, those issues obviously weren't behind Gregory, who was recently suspended by the NFL for the first four games of next year after continued violations of the league's substance abuse policy.

And then there's offensive lineman La'el Collins, who went to Indy last year thinking he could be a top-10 pick and perhaps the first O-lineman off the board. And he probably would've been had it not been for an unfortunate circumstance that put him temporarily and wrongfully linked to the murder of an ex-girlfriend. The questioning occurred just days before the draft, forcing Collins to leave Chicago and return to Louisiana. By the time his name was cleared, the draft was over and he was able to pick the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent.[embeddedad0]

It obviously worked out for the Cowboys, but not for Collins, who lost millions in the process.

So this week, names such as Ohio State's Joey Bosa, Florida State's Jalen Ramsey, Ole Miss standouts Laremy Tunsil and Laquon Treadwell and then quarterbacks Jared Goff and Paxton Lynch are hot commodities heading to Indy. While that isn't likely to change, don't be surprised if a few names both enter and exit the equation here in the next two months. 

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