The Cowboys aren’t the most tight-lipped organization in the NFL, so it should be no surprise that, in standard Cowboys fashion, their entire list of pre-draft visitors has hit the internet. That leaves us to comb through the names in an attempt to figure out what’s coming on draft day.
First things first: what is a “30 visit” or “top-30 visit,” and why does it matter? Every NFL team in the weeks leading up to the draft is allowed to invite up to 30 different prospects to come in for what amounts to a job interview. Players go through meetings with coaches and other members of the organization and take physicals. The purpose is for the teams to try to learn the most they can about each prospect.
The reasons can vary. Sometimes, a team already loves a player, and they just want to get to know what more about makes him tick, his love of the sport, work ethic, and so on. Other times, there will be guys with off-the-field concerns on which the organization wants to get a better handle before risking one of its picks.
How often these visits correlate with a player getting picked depends on the team. Dallas tends to end up picking guys who come in for these 30 visits at a pretty high clip. (My friend KD Drummond from The Cowboys Wire recently documented just how extensive it is.)
So, this is essential stuff to know if you are trying to predict what Dallas will do on draft day. Credit The Athletic’s Jon Machota for producing the following list of 28 names (teams don’t have to use all 30 slots), which I’ve gone ahead and grouped by position:
Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan
Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
Joshua Ezeudu, OT, North Carolina
Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M
Zion Johnson, OG, Boston College
Devin Harper, LB, Oklahoma State
James Houston, LB, Jackson State
Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
Quay Walker, LB, Georgia
Dawson Deaton, C, Texas Tech
Cam Jurgens, C, Nebraska
Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M
Perrion Winfrey, DT, Oklahoma
Drake London, WR, USC
Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
David Anenih, DE, Houston
Myjai Sanders, DE, Cincinnati
Luiji Vilain, DE, Wake Forest
Sam Williams, DE, Ole Miss
Cade Otton, TE, Washington
Jelani Woods, TE, Virginia
Jalen Wydermyer, TE, Texas A&M
Jeremy Ruckert, TE, Ohio State
Markquese Bell, S, Florida A&M
Malik Davis, RB, Florida
Daron Bland, CB, Fresno State
That list tells us five important things:
1. The Cowboys are most heavily interested in using their first-round pick on a starting left guard to replace Connor Williams or a starting wide receiver to pair with CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup.
If you read my piece back in March, you know I feel Zion Johnson (Boston College) and Kenyon Green (Texas A&M) are the two best guard prospects in this class, and either one would absolutely be worth taking with 24th overall pick. Both would step in and start from day one, with the potential to develop into Pro Bowl-caliber players.
Treylon Burks (Arkansas), Drake London (USC), and Chris Olave (Ohio State) are also all likely to be picked in the first round. Burks would give the Cowboys a big-bodied option whose game at Arkansas was Deebo Samuel-ish. They’ll hand him the ball, throw him screens to let him run through and around tacklers, and push the ball down the field to let him go get it. London is another big receiver who had great production before getting hurt this year. He can go up and get it, and he’s niftier than you’d expect a 6-foot-4 guy to be. Olave is the small guy of the group, and he could stand to improve both against press coverage and as an after-the-catch threat. But when it comes to the nuance of route running, getting open, and winning on deep routes, he’s outstanding.
2. They are hunting Dalton Schultz’s heir apparent in this draft in the middle rounds. I haven’t heard a peep about the team trying to work out a long-term deal with Schultz since they placed the franchise tag on him, and the tight ends on their visitor list are all guys who will likely be picked in the third round or later.
Jelani Woods (Virginia) is a giant, uber-athletic prospect who may need some development but comes with a very high ceiling. Jeremy Ruckert (Ohio State) lacks the college stats to wow you, but he played in an offense with three incredible wide receivers and has the traits of a starting NFL tight end. I’ve got both of those guys graded as third-rounders. Cade Otton (Washington) is in the fourth to fifth-round range. Texas A&M’s Jalen Wydermyer is the wild card. He was well thought of entering this college season, and his tape is pretty solid, but his testing (5.04 40 yard dash, 25-inch vertical jump) says he’s just not an NFL athlete. I’d be wary of drafting him before the last couple of rounds.
3. Dallas is wary of Tyron Smith’s future. Offensive tackle Charles Cross is a potential top-10 pick yet he’s on Dallas’ visitor list. For me, Cross is the third-best prospect at that spot in this class, so either the Cowboys are either doing their due diligence in case he slides, or they’re open to the idea of moving to go get him (as Jerry Jones hinted, they’re not opposed to trading up in this draft). Bernard Raimann (Central Michigan) is another potential first-rounder. He’s a converted tight end who will need some time to develop, but he should be a starting left tackle in the next couple of years.
4. They’re still short a linebacker. The Cowboys are expecting some combination of Micah Parsons, Leighton Vander Esch, and Jabril Cox to take the majority of their linebacker snaps this season, but the cupboard is pretty bare behind them. Luke Gifford and Devante Bond aren’t names anyone would be excited to see take snaps in an NFL game, and the Cowboys’ visitor list includes four linebackers whose draft positions will be all over the place. Devin Lloyd (Utah) is likely a first-round player, while I expect Quay Walker to go in the first 60 picks. Devin Harper and James Houston, on the other hand, will be further down the line.
5. They’d like to bolster their defensive line if they find the right pick for it. Twenty-five percent of the predraft visitors are defensive linemen, ranging from a potential top-15 pick in Georgia’s Jordan Davis all the way down through Day Three types.
There will be surprises on draft weekend—there always are. But every year, the Cowboys are kind enough to leave us a trail for what three days of drafting are going to look like. Just follow the bread crumbs (or leaks), and you’ll be better prepared than most to learn who the next crop of Cowboys will be.