With so many holes to fill and a potential top-10 pick, this could be the most important draft for the Cowboys in years. Here are some players worth watching in the bowl games over the next week.
Tulsa vs. Hawaii, 7 p.m. Friday, ESPN
TULSA FB CHARLES CLAY – Clay (6-3, 232) isn’t the typical short, squatty fullback. He’s an effective short-yardage runner with some shiftiness and decent hands. He has potential as a blocker but needs to improve his technique. Scouts Inc. ranks Clay as the No. 3 fullback, a position the Cowboys could look to upgrade after using undrafted rookie Chris Gronkowski this season.
HAWAII WR GREGORY SALAS – Scouts Inc.’s No. 15 receiver has been tremendously productive, catching 212 passes for 3,265 yards and 20 touchdowns the last two seasons. He has outstanding ball skills but lacks exceptional speed and burst.
Air Force vs. Georgia Tech, 4 p.m. Monday, ESPN2
Georgia Tech RB Anthony Allen – With Marion Barber likely to get released, the Cowboys might be in the market for a third running back. The 6-foot, 230-pound Allen, Scouts Inc.’s No. 15 back, should be available in the latter half of the draft. He’s a physical blocker in Georgia Tech’s triple-option attack, a sign that he might be a good special teams player.
CHAMPS SPORTS BOWL
West Virginia vs. North Carolina State, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, ESPN
West Virginia S Robert Sands – He’s huge for a safety (6-foot-5, 221 pounds), delivers big hits and is a force against the run, has good instincts and possesses playmaking ability. The coverage skills of Scouts Inc.’s No. 3 safety are a concern, particularly if he’s matched up in man, but he excels in zone schemes where he can see the quarterback and react
West Virginia RB Noel Devine – He’s a small back (5-foot-8, 177) with character concerns. But he’s a dynamic enough playmaker for Scouts Inc. to rank him No. 9 among backs in the class, projecting him to be a third- or fourth-round pick.
West Virginia CB Brandon Hogan – He’s a physical, ultracompetitive cornerback ranked as the No. 18 player at his position by Scouts Inc. His suspension for most of the spring is a red flag.
North Carolina State ILB Nate Irving – Can the Cowboys gamble on another inside linebacker with a scary injury history? Irving, Scouts Inc.’s No. 4 inside linebacker, missed all of 2009 after suffering a broken leg, collapsed lung and separated shoulder in a car accident. He missed three games in 2008 with an ankle injury. Durability is a concern for the 6-foot-1, 231-pound Irving, but he’s an instinctive, tough run-stopper who has shown playmaking ability in the passing game.
North Carolina State TE George Bryan – Tight end ranks far down the Cowboys’ list of needs, so Scouts Inc’s fifth-ranked player at the position probably won’t be a fit here.
Missouri vs. Iowa, 9 p.m. Tuesday, ESPN
Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn – He could be the top player on the board when the Cowboys go on the clock in the first round. Scouts Inc. ranks Clayborn as the No. 3 defensive end and No. 9 overall. At 6-foot-3, 285 pounds, it’s believed that Clayborn has the bulk and power to play in a 3-4 scheme, perhaps lining up inside in the nickel and dime packages.
Iowa DT Christian Ballard – Scouts Inc. ranks him as the No. 13 defensive tackle in the class, but Ballard (6-4, 296) probably isn’t a fit for the Cowboys unless he can move to end in the 3-4. If they draft a defensive tackle, it’s likely to be a traditional 3-4 fire hydrant.
Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert – The Cowboys won’t draft a quarterback in the first round, which is where Gabbert is projected to go.
East Carolina vs. Maryland, 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, ESPN
East Carolina WR Dwayne Harris – A slot receiver who Scouts Inc. ranks No. 13 at his position. Harris, who had 93 catches for 1,055 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, does most of his damage on underneath routes. His three kickoff returns for touchdowns last season could boost his value in the Cowboys’ eyes.
Maryland ILB Alex Wujciak – He’s a 6-foot-2, 245-pound plugger who wouldn’t be able to play on third downs. He has great strength, instincts and discipline, but he’s limited athletically. Scouts Inc. ranks him as the No. 6 inside linebacker, projecting him to be a mid-round pick.
Illinois vs. Baylor, 5 p.m. Wednesday, ESPN
Illinois DT Corey Liuget – He’s a junior, but Scouts Inc. ranks him as the No. 5 tackle and No. 30 player in this class. He has the frame and athleticism to be able to play defensive end in a 3-4 scheme. Liuget (6-foot-3, 300) had 8.5 tackles for losses this season.
Baylor DT Phil Taylor – The Penn State transfer is a massive anchor against the run. At 6-foot-3, 351 pounds, he’s a powerful man who is hard to move. He’s not much of a pass-rushing threat and will have his character investigated due to his dismissal from Penn State. Scouts Inc. ranks him as the No. 14 defensive tackle, projecting him as a mid-round pick.
Oklahoma State vs. Arizona, 8:15 p.m. Wednesday, ESPN
Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon – The redshirt sophomore, who broke a lot of Dez Bryant’s school records, is a projected first-round pick. Not a match for the Cowboys.
Oklahoma State RB Kendall Hunter – He’s the fifth-ranked running back in the class by Scouts Inc., which projects him to a be a third-round pick. That’s too early for the Cowboys to draft a third running back.
Arizona DE Brooks Reed – He’s the No. 11 defensive end prospect and has the potential to develop into a rush linebacker. That’s not a need position for the Cowboys with young backups Victor Butler and Brandon Williams flashing some promise.
Kansas State vs. Syracuse, 2:20 p.m. Thursday, ESPN
Kansas State RB Daniel Thomas – Scouts Inc.’s No. 3 running back is projected as a second-round pick.
Syracuse RB Delone Carter – Ranked as the No. 12 running back by Scouts Inc. He’ll turn 24 next summer.
MUSIC CITY BOWL
North Carolina vs. Tennessee, 5:40 p.m. Thursday, ESPN
North Carolina ILB Quan Sturdivant – He’s the No. 1 inside linebacker on Scouts Inc.’s board, which projects him as a late-second or early-third-round pick. At 6-foot-2, 227 pounds, his ability to fight off blocks in a 3-4 scheme is a concern. But Sturdivant is a potential impact player on special teams and in the nickel and dime packages.
North Carolina S Deunta Williams – The No. 5 safety and 73rd overall player on Scouts Inc’s board. He’s a smart player with the speed and quickness to match up with tight ends and many slot receivers in man coverage. He has 12 career interceptions, showing the kind of playmaking ability the Cowboys need in the secondary. He’s an effective tackler but not a big hitter.
North Carolina CB Kendric Burney – He’s small (5-9, 180), but has excellent speed, savvy and swagger. He’s the No. 12 corner and No. 85 player on Scouts Inc.’s board.
Tennessee tight end Luke Stocker – He’s the Volunteers’ best tight end since Jason Witten, ranked second at his position by Scouts Inc. But the Cowboys don’t need to spend a third-round pick on a tight end.
Nebraska vs. Washington, 9 p.m. Thursday, ESPN
Washington QB Jake Locker – He’s still projected to be a first-round pick, but his stock has slipped. He was once considered a candidate to go first overall.
Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara – He’d be tough to pass on if he’s available when the Cowboys are on the clock. He’s Scouts Inc.’s No. 2 cornerback and No. 7 overall player. He has good size for a cornerback (6-0, 203) and excellent speed, instincts and anticipation. He’s a shutdown cornerback who doesn’t shy away from getting involved in run support.
Nebraska DT Jared Crick – At 6-foot-5, 288 pounds, he has the frame to play defensive end in the 3-4. Scouts Inc., which ranks him as the No. 9 defensive tackle, projects Crick as a fourth-round pick. There were questions about whether he could be disruptive without Ndamakong Suh drawing double-teams. Crick has answered those by racking up 16 tackles for losses and 9.5 sacks this season.
Nebraska K Alex Henery – If the Cowboys decide to try to upgrade over David Buehler, this is the best option in the draft. Henery, who is also the Cornhuskers’ punter, made 18 of 19 field goal attempts this season, including all 16 inside 50 yards.