Cowboys Draft Preview: Combine Trio

The NFL Draft starts on Thursday and while there aren't any Cowboys going in the first round, the rest of the NFL Draft could be landing areas for some of the Cowboys in the annual "Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder" football pageant.

During my radio show on Wednesday on Triple Play Sports Network, I was asked by one listener where I would fall on his line. He had set a line of 2.5 over/under on the number of Oklahoma State Cowboys that would be selected in the 2017 NFL Draft, which gets underway in Philadelphia on Thursday night on both ESPN and the NFL Network. Thursday is the first round only and I'm convinced you won't hear the names of any Cowboys that night, but Friday has the second and third rounds and I think it is possible you could hear an Oklahoma State guy called. Saturday the remainder of the seven rounds will be completed and then right after the last selection, really a hour or two before, the free agent signings will start being discussed. My answer to my listener was give me the over. I think that three or four Cowboys will hear their name called.

I'm not sure which three, but I am positive about two of them and they both made it to Indianapolis in February for the NFL Combine. I'm certain that running back Chris Carson and defensive tackle Vincent Taylor, who declared for the Draft as an underclassman the day after the Pokes win in the Alamo Bowl, will both be selected. Where, I'm not sure. Carson and Taylor were at the Combine along with cornerback Ashton Lampkin and I believe Lampkin could be selected as well, but I also see possibilities for safety Jordan Sterns, tight end Blake Jarwin, and possibly wide receiver Jhajuan Seales. Sterns and Jarwin weren't at the NFL Combine, but they were seen by every NFL team at the Pro Bowl in January in Mobile, Ala., as they not only played in the game but practiced for an NFL coaching staff and in front of the rest of the teams all week.

For this NFL Draft preview we are going to focus on the three attendees to the NFL Combine.

Defensive tackle Vincent Taylor, who posted 51 tackles, a whopping 13.0 tackles for loss, 7.0 sacks, and a nation-leading four blocked kicks last season, is the Cowboy that I found the highest in any mock draft as the latest Fox Sports mock draft had him going in the third round with the 93rd pick overall to the Green Bay Packers. Now, that would be fun as he could get an education and some competition in practice with the Packers from fellow former Cowboy and now starting guard on the Pack offensive line in Lane Taylor. Taylor vs. Taylor during training camp at Lambeau Field.

Taylor has been around to see several teams and said he has talked to a bunch this week as the Draft nears.

"Anywhere will be okay with me, Dallas would be okay. Any team that is willing to give me an opportunity would be good with me," Taylor said of the Draft later this week. "It is going good and my last visit with a team was last Friday and I didn't have a workout. This week it has been mainly talking to teams and making sure they have any information they need and they know my number and where I'm going to be (with his family in San Antonio) on draft day. I would say teams like Washington, the Patriots, Tennessee, and Miami are the teams that I've heard from the most."

The NFL has Taylor at 6-3, 304 pounds, good size for an inside technique defensive lineman. He ran a 5.07 in the forty at the Combine, had 26 reps on the bench press test, a 28.5-inch vertical jump, a 108-inch broad jump, 7.58 on the L drill, and a very good 4.72 on the 5-10-5 shuttle. He also measured a 34 3/8ths on the arm length, the better to block kicks.

After reading six different draft reports on Taylor, some public and some not; the consensus is he comes out of his stance well and is quick off the snap. He has good strength and fights hard for his gap. He can create push against either run blocking and especially against pass blocking, but he lacks the ability to finish the pass rush against the better offensive linemen. He has long arms and quick hands that make him effective at batting and deflecting passes and blocking kicks. He uses his hands well at times, but can be inconsistent with that.

The report lists his major weakness as being top heavy (most linemen are) and he is stiff in the ankles and that costs him flexibility. Other reports praised his "motor" and said he was quick, if not fast and could cover some ground in pass rush situations.

One report said he played too upright and gave offensive linemen too much target. Another said he had good pad level and played with a decent amount of leverage.

Lateral movement was mentioned in several reports as a weakness and one said he was a liability in certain stunts on the line because of the limited lateral movement.

Taylor said he is used to being scrutinized and understands that it is part of it.

"Me being an interior guy with seven, seven and a half sacks, I think for an interior guy that stands out a lot," Taylor said of what he is proud of the most. "I know they are going to tear my game apart, that is at any level of football, but I know that I got double teamed a lot and I had over seven sacks."

Another mock draft I saw had Taylor going to the Kansas City Chiefs with the 170th pick in the fourth round and yet another had him going in the fifth round to the Tennessee Titans.

Honestly, I think that Chris Carson may be a steal in this Draft for a team with a featured running back looking for a second back that can run it some, protect the passer, and be a very good receiver out of the backfield. Carson can do all of that and proved at Oklahoma State he was a different person than the one that arrived from Butler County Community College with a chip on his shoulder. Carson has been around visiting Denver, Dallas, and Arizona. He really liked what he saw in Denver, but knows anything can happen in the Draft.

"I also went up to Denver and New England and those two visits I really enjoyed it," Carson said. "I think I liked Denver best. I just liked everything about it up there, but I know that I could end up being drafted by a team that I hardly talked to and didn't visit. You never know."

He'll watch the Draft in Atlanta with his family just like Vincent Taylor will do with his family in San Antonio.

"I told my mom not to make a big deal about it, but I know she has a couple of people flying in for it," Carson said."

The mock drafts have Carson going consistently in the sixth round with one (Fox Sports) I saw having him going to Dallas with the 211th pick and another (Walter Football) having him going to the Kansas City Chiefs with the 216th selection.

At the Combine he ran a 4.58 with 23 reps on the bench test, a 37-inch vertical on Pro Day in Stillwater and a 130-inch broad jump. He measured 6-0, 218 pounds with 33 1/4-inch arms.

The draft analysis all agree that Carson is built, a weight-lifting fanatic, as he presents a big chest, six-pack abs, and a muscular build from head to toe. He has a powerful lead shoulder when he runs and bow legs for extra balance. He will drop his pad level and has become more of a polished power runner rather than the more finesse runner he showed up in Stillwater as. He is excellent as a receiver and has good hands. He is a solid pass protector and seems to understand college protection schemes.

One report said he was tight in the hips and has low knee action rather than the preferred high knee action. He is cited for being a long strider, meaning he might not be as agile and have as good a change of direction as some NFL teams would want. The NFL.comanalysis called his burst average and cited his record of injuries that included a thumb injury early in his senior season.

I'm going to tell you why Carson will be selected and why he might beat the mock draft projection of the sixth round. When his name comes up during the Draft in a war room, some scout, coach, or analyst is going to say, "did you know in his two seasons at Oklahoma State on either carries or receptions that he never fumbled the ball, not one fumble!" That comment will get you drafted. Coaches like players that don't fumble.

Ashton Lampkin is a wildcard. The cornerback has talent and size to match up with NFL requirements. He did not show up on mock drafts, but the report projects him as a 6th or 7th round selection. Lampkin not only went to the Combine but he also played in the East-West Shrine Game in January. At the Combine he measured 6-0, 189 pounds with a 4.52 in the forty. He had 19 reps on the bench press test, a 34.5-inch vertical, a 120-inch broad jump.

Scouting reports are a mixture of good and negative. He gets credit for being effective in a variety or coverages and being solid and experienced with press coverage, which one report cited the Big 12 as seeing little of. He obviously, doesn't watch Oklahoma State much. He gets credit for having good hips and the ability to flip his hips quickly and come out of a back pedal into a dead run in covering the long ball. He also is complimented for taking good recovery and pursuit angles.

The biggest knock and it is knocked big is his physicality. He is reported as a below average tackler and not overly physical. One scout said he was not effective enough in run support to play for most NFL defensive coordinators. He also is said to have poor man-to-zone coverage discipline and that he peeks into the backfield at the quarterback too much. He is not the quickest at closing on a receiver when the ball is delivered.

That is the NFL Draft process, be prepared to hear compliments, but at the same time understand they will pick you apart and find faults that you never imagined you have.

With Taylor, Carson, and Lampkin at the Combine, you have to think at least initially in the eyes of the NFL that these were the top three Draft candidates among the Cowboys.  

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