Pro days are underway across the country. For many college players who were unable to get an invite to the National Scouting Combine, it's a chance to get noticed. Periodically CowboysHQ.com will take a look at players who have distinguished themselves during the pro day process and what that might mean to the Dallas Cowboys, and the rest of the NFL, on Draft weekend.
Matt Judon, DE, Grand Valley State
Judon is the top Division II pass rusher in this draft. No qualifier there. The NFL thought so much of the guy that he actually received an invitation to the Scouting Combine in February. With 20 sacks last season, the 6-foot-3, 275-pound end led not just Division II but every NCAA division in sacks. He wrapped up his career with 34 sacks. So he has the production you're looking for. He's also a great fit physically, as he's the perfect size to be a 4-3 end. Even at the Division II level, some scouts consider him to be a Top 20 defensive end prospect and a potential fourth-round pick, and I think that's indicative of his size and skill set. And if you think that because he's a Division II player teams aren't paying attention, then you're mistaken. Twenty-six NFL teams had representation at his pro day at GVSU, and it's rare for a Division II school to have its own pro day. In fact, Judon was the only Laker on hand for the event. Judon didn't do any sprints and he didn't need to as his 4.73 40 time at the Combine was the fifth-best among defensive ends. Instead, he went through a 45-minute workout in which one scout told him privately that Judon "only helped himself." Judon overwhelmed offensive tackles in Division II. That won't happen in the NFL. He is still considered raw in terms of using his hands against tackles. But a defensive coach like Rod Marinelli can help him improve. If you're the Cowboys, there is enough potential to take a flier on him in the fourth round, especially if they're able to address the position in the first or second round with a player that can help the pass rush immediately.
Darius Jackson, RB, Eastern Michigan
You'll take pure athleticism late in the NFL draft and that's what the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Jackson has in abundance. He came out of high school a two-sport start in football and baseball and ultimately gravitated toward football. Last year Jackson rushed for 1,078 yards and 14 touchdowns for an Eagles team that won just a couple of games. I actually caught him in a game against Old Dominion on opening weekend and I was impressed with Jackson's overall instincts for running the football. He appeared to know how to set up blocks and showed some patience on slow-developing plays. The size is right, if you're thinking about handling the punishment of the NFL. Plus, he has the speed to keep from getting hit. During his pro day Jackson ran a 4.35 and 4.38 40-yard dash, a 4.27 short shuttle and a 6.82 three-cone drill. With a 41-inch vertical leap, plus his length, he's a potential target in the passing game, too. If you're thinking about what might make Jackson attractive to Dallas, think about his speed and the future at the position, where no back is under contract after 2017. He's a developmental guy, but you can develop him for two years until you need him. And, while he's developing, he can help you on special teams.
LaQuan McGowan, TE, Baylor
McGowan is a conundrum, if you ask me. His height and weight stick out — 6-foot-7 and 405 pounds — but he's athletic. He ran a 5.55 and a 5.41 40-yard dash at his pro day, along with times of 5.47 in the 20-yard shuttle and 8.25 seconds in the three-cone drill. Baylor used him as a tight end last year, and while he caught a handful of passes he was really there to serve as an extra blocker on goal line packages. I caught McGowan up close a couple of times last year and I think that analysis reflects how Baylor primarily used him. He only caught two passes, yet he still make Big 12 Honorable Mention. Was that a nod to his blocking ability or a nod to his novelty? Scouts were impressed with McGowan's athleticism during his pro day, but what exactly will he be in the NFL? Tight end? Offensive lineman? Specialty blocker? I'm not sure anyone knows, and I'm not sure a team like the Cowboys has room for a fourth tight end. McGowan will probably go earlier than you might expect because of his size and athleticism, but teams would be wise to wait until there's value because there is so much unknown about how McGowan projects in the NFL. Right now scouts see McGowan as a seventh-round pick.
Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
Not only did Cook have a pro day workout, but he's also gone through a private workout with the Dallas Cowboys. The 6-foot-4, 217-pound senior has the physical and mental maturity that some other prospects lack because he's a senior and he's been in school for five years (including his redshirt year). He made 39 starts at Michigan State in a pro-style system that closely emulates what the Dallas Cowboys run. I saw him play twice last year — once at full strength against Western Michigan and once not at 100 percent against Iowa in the Big Ten Championship game. Against WMU I was impressed with his accuracy and arm strength. Against Iowa I was impressed with his leadership, including during that final, epic, game-winning drive in the fourth quarter that saw Cook pull all the right strings to get the Spartans in the College Football Playoff. At his pro day Cook actually threw longer than most quarterbacks are expected to throw because teams wanted to see if Cook's arm strength had recovered to the point where he could accurately throw the deep ball. He could. So with that question answered Cook is now a solid late-first or early-second round pick, the latter of which would fit perfectly for a Cowboys team that might want to select a quarterback to groom behind Tony Romo. I like Cook for that reason and the scheme fit. He might be the Cowboys' best scheme fit in this draft at quarterback.
Kavon Frazier, S, Central Michigan
Late-round picks are about value and ceiling. What will a player project to if you take him in, say, the sixth round? These are not throwaway picks, which is why scouts crisscross the country throughout the year in search of players worth late-round risks. Frazier might be that sort of player, and the Cowboys could use some additional depth at safety. He has solid measureables all the way around, from height and weight (6-foot, 215 pounds) to 40 time (4.52 and 4.55 during his pro day). But solid doesn't cut it. What else does Frazier have? Well, he showed off good hands at his pro day, so you hope that means he can be counted on to pick off passes when the opportunity presents itself. Plus, NFL.com compares him to Barry Church. Scouts love his ability to hit and play high or low in most formations. But they're not wild about his coverage skills … yet. Any team that takes him will have to develop that, and that decreases his value. But, if you can project him down the road two or three years from now as a functional combo safety, then he's worth a third-day pick.
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