Cowboys 1st & 10: Time for NFL Scouting Combine - Top 10 Stories
In this edition of First and 10, I take you inside what’s REALLY important at next week’s NFL Scouting Combine and update you on my latest Cowboys 7-Round mock draft
1) IT’S COMBINE TIME
As someone who has covered the NFL Scouting Combine in Indy before, I can tell you that covering the event is a lot of hurry-up-and-waiting. However, it’s also a treasure trove of information gathering, if you know the ropes.
For instance, the players interviews are well before the actual combine testing. During those interviews, just about every player is asked, ‘Who have you met with and/or who are you meeting with?’ because teams only get 25 official meetings and reporters are trying to track down which 25 players their team is meeting with. It can be an indicator of draft interest.
Or, not. But it’s news, especially that week.
The next-best thing, frankly, is the coach/general manager interviews. Every team has representatives there, and at least one coach or GM from each team does a formal interview with the media at the combine. So, each day you’re toggling between players, coaches and general managers because you’re looking for information, any information, that can add context to the team you’re covering.
Outside the cocoon of the interview area are scores of agents who are willing to talk with the media, and not just about the rookies they represent. Free agency starts shortly after that and they’re ready to talk about their veteran clients and their interests too. You can bet Dak Prescott’s agent, Todd France, will be around the combine and will be happy to talk with any Cowboys reporter to move the needle forward on a new deal for Prescott.
None of this takes into account what goes on AROUND the city. You can bet early in combine week that Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones will have the DFW-based media on the ‘Jerry Bus’ to talk about Cowboys-related issues. It’s invitation-only.
While every team is only allotted 25, 30-minute meetings with players, they do manage to “bump into” players and their agents around the city. It’s like how diplomats for countries that don’t have relations just “bump into each other” at the United Nations.
If you want to see who’s talking to who outside of Lucas Oil Stadium, find a place at the bar at St. Elmo’s Steakhouse (which has nothing to do with "St. Elmo’s Fire,'' 1980s movie buffs), get a drink, turn your back to the bar and just watch. Amazing stuff happens. Like the night in 2010 when Saints head coach Sean Payton stole Jones’ favorite wine at St. Elmo’s and left him a note. Dom Cosentino of DeadSpin wrote this great piece of the after-hours atmosphere at the Combine back in 2018. It’s worth a read.
The testing that goes on, well, honestly, it’s not always worth your time. Here’s why. Most college teams will break down four games’ worth of film to prepare for their next opponent. At the pro level scouts are devoted to breaking down every game film of every potential draft pick they’re scouting. Once, I toured the entire Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ facility and saw their ‘film’ room. Film is in quotes because everything is digital now. Scouts edit tape and can provide complete scouting packages for every viable draft selection that year (think of those YouTube clips you see of potential draft picks, but add in the ‘bad’ plays that happen and you get the idea). These scouts and these teams can deliver that footage to coaches and general managers in seconds.
At this point, teams have just about every tool they need to assess a player’s ability for the NFL. Whether they don’t run quite the time you hope they do in the 40, or if they top their personal-best in the 40, really doesn’t matter that much in the long run.
In reality, what matters is what goes on AROUND the combine. THAT’S the stuff they should put on TV. It’s one of the best reality shows you’ll never get to watch.
2) MY FOURTH COWBOYS SI 7-ROUND MOCK DRAFT
Earlier this week I published my four Cowboys SI 7-Round Mock Draft. In this mock draft I went back to the secondary, which is where I started my first mock draft a month ago. I also ended up with a safety from the SEC. But was it the same safety from a month ago? Check it out, along with the other five selections.
Click here to view the fourth Mock Draft. And keep an eye out for my fifth mock draft come March.
And, don’t forget, my previous 7-round mocks are below:
We will take next week off in terms of mock drafts due to the Combine. But I’ll write a piece about what I’ve learned from the first month of mock drafts in its place. So look for that mid-week.
3) POSITION-BY-POSITION BREAKDOWNS
Our position-by-position breakdowns for the Cowboys, and how it could impact the Cowboys in free agency, are now complete. We’ll explore the draft needs further once free agency is relatively complete. But, for now, here are our current assessments:
4) YOU WANT CAP SPACE? WE’VE GOT YOUR CAP SPACE RIGHT HERE…
Early this week our Mike Fisher shed some light on exactly how much ‘cap space’ the Dallas Cowboys really have. This followed an article by overthecap.com, a solid place to get info on player salaries and cap space, in which it explored a way for the Cowboys to MAXIMIZE their cap space for 2020 through the restructuring of several contracts. But there’s fantasy, and then there’s reality. And the reality is that the Cowboys DO have plenty of cap space, but that much of that is set aside to satisfy the contract demands of a handful of players.
5) EMMITT AND DAK AND THE HOMETOWN DISCOUNT
I remember back in 1993 when Emmitt Smith held out to get a new contract out of the Cowboys. I felt he was completely justified in doing so. At the time he had led the league in rushing and had helped the Cowboys win a Super Bowl. He would validate the renegotation later that season by leading the Cowboys to a second straight Super Bowl title in which he was named Most Valuable Player.
So it made me all the more curious when Smith, of all people, invoked the ‘hometown discount’ argument when it came to Cowboys free agent quarterback Dak Prescott.
That SOUNDS a little rich coming from Smith, who missed two games in 1993 holding out for a new deal. But he offers some context to his opinion, saying that while he didn’t take a “hometown discount,” he did leave some money on the table.
If you ask me, Prescott should go and get whatever he can get. Let the market bring him the best deal possible.
And, if you’ve been following the negotiations on the NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement with the players, there could be more urgency to get a deal done with both Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper, if the deal is agreed upon by both parties in the next few days or weeks. Fish weighed in on that too, and relayed that the Cowboys are making double-checking their arrangements to re-sign Cooper.
6) CELEBRATING THE COWBOYS’ 60TH
The Dallas Cowboys are celebrating their 60th season in the NFL in 2020 and our guy Richie Whitt, is counting down the 60 biggest moments in franchise history. Here’s the link to the full list.
7) BILL BATES NEEDS YOUR THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS
When I was growing up Bill Bates was one of my favorite Cowboys. He was as tough as they came and he did whatever was asked to help the team win. I was so happy to see him share in the three Super Bowl wins the Cowboys had in the 1990s. There were few players from the Tom Landry era who bled into the Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer eras, and he truly deserved those rings. Also, if you’re wondering why there is a special teams player in the Pro Bowl every year it’s because of Bates. His play FORCED the NFL to create the category.
Well, as our Richie Whitt reported earlier this week, Bates appears to be suffering from the beginning of dementia. Per Whitt, ‘Those close to his family tell me the 58-year-old is beginning to suffer debilitating effects of concussion-related dementia. Slowed, slurred speech. Headaches. Even trouble consistently rattling off the names of his five children.’
It's sobering for those of us that loved to see Bates play. Concussion protocols weren’t in place when he played. The man launched himself like a missile for years to keep his job. We still have no idea why repeated head injuries harm some people and not others, which is why it is so important to continue that research. That way, younger generations of players can make informed decisions about whether they want to continue to keep playing.
My best to Bates and his family.
8) WELCOME, BRI
Bri Amaranthus joined the CowboysSI family this week as a reporter for the Cowboys, the Mavericks and the Rangers. Amaranthus, an Oregon native and graduate of the University of Oregon, was previously a reporter and social media correspondent for NBC Sports Northwest, contributing multimedia content to Northwest’s coverage of the Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers and Portland Trail Blazers. Amaranthus also hosted Sports Talk Live and DuckSquad, while also managing NBC Sports Northwest’s social media platforms.
She recently played Two Truths and a Lie with Fish and, well, it’s Fish, so Fish won.
9) TWEET OF THE WEEK
Gil Brandt is a national treasure and accosting him in grocery stores is unacceptable, people. Even if you do disagree with his list. But he did explain his Top 5 a bit later. But still, no Gil Brandt slander on my timeline, people.
10) THE FINAL WORD