'Boys VP of Scouting Talks Combine

What are the Cowboys looking for this week at the NFL Combine? What one aspect of a prospect takes priority over everything else? TheRanchReport.com sat down with the Cowboys VP of College and Pro Scouting, Jeff Ireland, to get his thoughts on the next few days.

February, March and April are the three months of the year where scouting departments around the National Football League have a chance to shine.

Usually in the background during the regular season, these three months showcase just how good ... or how bad an organization has the potential to be in coming years.

For the Dallas Cowboys, since the addition of Jeff Ireland as the team's Vice President of College and Pro Scouting, the news has been mostly good.

Coming off a strong draft last year, a draft in which the Cowboys made the most of their two first round picks and also their later round selections, Ireland has helped build a strong sense of accomplishment and hope for the future for the organization.

However now, as the Cowboys ascend to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, the focus has squarely shifted to upcoming 2006 NFL Draft.

What will the Cowboys do with their No. 18 overall pick? What are they looking for at Combine?

We went straight to the man himself to get answers to those questions.

So, just what will Ireland, Bill Parcells and the rest of the Cowboys be looking for this week in Indy?

"The most important question we ask and evaluate is: How do they play?" responded Ireland. "All the factors: physical attributes, grade point averages, Wonderlic scores and character references all feed the profile, but if the kid can't play football, we don't want him," said Ireland.

"That being said, we cannot discount or diminish the Combine results. Sometimes a decision comes down to a Combine factor. The faster you are, the better the chance of being drafted. This is the cream of the crop competing for one league. The slightest of margins can separate a kid and become a Draft determinant."

In other words, speed is always an important attribute of any prospect under consideration for the draft. Also, do not discount familiarity with a particular school.

Ireland says the Cowboys are well aware of which colleges produce prospects with a positive attitude and good work ethic.

"Some institutions are of the country club atmosphere," said Ireland. "There are several schools we favor due to the player development aspect. The kids are on strict schedules; the surrounding atmosphere is competitive; the player is prepared mentally; and you know they've been tested - mentally heated up and cooled down on several occasions.

That familiarity has provided Ireland with a strong working knowledge of many collegiate programs around the country, and that knowledge can be critical when it comes to the war room.

"We've enjoyed good success over the years, and specific schools produce for me. Familiarity and trust cut out the margin of error, and when you get to this level, the slightest of margins can suggest this kid over another," he said.

One of the other key factors in becoming a Dallas Cowboy is character. Ireland added that the Senior Bowl last month, and the Combine this week, give him and his staff the ability to find out everything they need to know about the prospects at the top of their draft board.

"It's our chance to ask those closest to a kid how things like money, women and an agent will influence behavior," he said. "We want to know how the spotlight is going to affect the player's ability to perform. We need to know reactions to pressure and how a kid's personality will relate to Parcells and his staff."

Stay tuned to TheRanchReport.com for more from Jeff Ireland in the coming weeks and months leading up to the 2006 NFL Draft.

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