Cowboys Get Their 'Eyes' on Houston DE Payton Turner at Cougars Pro Day

The 6-foot-6, 270-pound DE is considered a Day 2 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and could be a great fit for the Cowboys' pass rush
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Are the Dallas Cowboys kicking the tires on Houston defensive end Payton Turner? If so, they got an eyeful on Friday of a player that could be had on Day 2 of the NFL Draft.

Per ESPN Draft analyst Jim Nagy — who also serves as the executive director of the Senior Bowl — eight different defensive line coaches were in attendance.

That means that second-year defensive line coach Aden Durde was, most likely, there. It also means that longtime assistant defensive line coach Leon Lett could have been there, too.

Turner’s workout was part of Houston’s pro day, so these scouts got a look at several Cougars. But Turner drew the most attention, a 6-foot-6, 270-pound end who seems suited to play in a Cover 3 scheme like the one defensive coordinator Dan Quinn should use in 2021.

He only played in five games during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. But, even at that, he STILL led the Cougars with 10.5 tackles for loss and five sacks.

If you’re trying to get a sense of where Turner fits into this draft, you’re looking at him coming off the board no later than Day 2. NFL.com grades him as a 6.27 on an 8.0 scale, meaning their scouts believe he can be a starter within two years. ESPN.com grades him as the No. 59 overall prospect and the No. 9 defensive end in the draft. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler grades Turner as a second- or third-round prospect, noting in his analysis that while Turner “… needs to cultivate his pass rush sequence, he has outstanding length, foot quickness and competitive energy.”

So, Durde, and any other Cowboys coaches that were at Houston’s pro day got a look at a player that could be had on Day 2 of the NFL Draft and can do things like this.

Where might a player with Turner’s ability fit in with the Cowboys? At this point, wherever he wants. A look at where the Cowboys are at the defensive end position reveals a group that needs some reliable depth beyond DeMarcus Lawrence. Yes, Dorance Armstrong showed some flashes at the end of last season. So did Randy Gregory, but given his long history of suspensions you can’t rely on him. From there it’s free-agent signings like Tarell Basham and development projects like Bradlee Anae and Ladarius Hamilton. Little is certain about this group right now.

If the Cowboys opt to go with a player like Florida tight end Kyle Pitts or Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr. in the first round, they’ll have a day to contemplate what to do on Day 2. The Cowboys have done little work to upgrade their pass rush since free agency began. Given that, Turner should be an option on Day 2 for the Cowboys. As one AFC scout told NFL.com, "I wanted to keep him a secret after I saw him last year and that didn't happen. He's going to become a force."

It would be nice if he became a ‘force’ for the Cowboys.

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You can follow Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.