The 2010 NFL Draft is almost exactly two months away. To most NFL fans, this will feel like an eternity.
However, the official job interview process for the potential draftees is this Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010. They like to call this event, the NFL Combine.
The combine will bring together 300+ NFL prospects who are competing to impress teams in a multitude of tests. Whether it is aptitude tests, the bench press, or the 40-yard dash, players will give all they have to try and increase their draft chances.
All Dallas Cowboys' fans realize how pivotal this draft is. The Boys' are considered one of the top teams next season to play in the Super Bowl.
Jerry Jones and his staff will need to search through these young guys and find the best to fit his team's system.
I have compiled a list of five prospects that Jerry, Wade, and the coaching staff need to keep their eyes on. Let's start this off with a highly touted guard from the northwest.
Mike Iupati - Idaho - Guard
Mr. Iupati is a 6'5'' 325lb beast. He was one of the highlights from the Senior Bowl, and continues to move up everyone's draft boards despite his recent shoulder injury and holding issues.
The Cowboys are alright at the guard position with Kyle Kosier and Leonard Davis. However, it's safe to say the Cowboys brass would love to field an interior line of Iupati (6'5'' 325 lb), Gurode (6'4'' 320lb), and Davis (6'6'' 355lb). That's a defensive run stoppers nightmare.
Iupati has great size and power for an interior lineman. There is no doubt about that. However, his pass blocking skills seem to be an issue. Iupati must work on his footwork and quickness, as well as eliminating his "grabbing" issues.
He must overcome the holding problems and work on punching the defensive lineman instead. I don't see this as a big problem that can't be overcome in the off season.
If the Cowboys aren't sold on the health of last year's draft pick, Robert Brewster, this pick is a good possibility.
Iupati seems to be projected in the mid-late first round. Let's keep an eye out to see if Iupati can impress during the combine like did in the Senior Bowl.
Earl Thomas - Texas - Free Safety
The Cowboys need help at the safety position. If you watched Ken Hamlin play last year you would understand why the Boys' need a ball-hawk at the free safety position.
If the Cowboys choose to go safety in the first round, they have a realistic shot at former Longhorn Earl Thomas.
Thomas is fast, and has that big play ability. Although some criticize his smaller size, Thomas has a knack for not fearing away from contact. He'll need to bulk up a bit to take the pounding in the NFL, but I don't see this as a big problem at all.
In many mock drafts Thomas is projected to go anywhere from the early to late stages of the first round. It's pretty much up in the air. However, if Thomas slips to pick 27 where Dallas will be choosing, you can't let him get past you. It's a pretty good bet however, Thomas won't be there at pick 27.
If Jerry wants him, he'll have to make a trade up into an earlier pick to snatch up the former Longhorn.
Thomas' combine showing will tell whether he'll move to a potential top 10 pick, or if he'll slide down to a spot feasible for Dallas to acquire in a trade.
Jordan Shipley - Texas - Wide Receiver
Although the Cowboys are pretty much set at the wide-out position for next year (Williams, Austin, Crayton, Hurd, Ogletree, Johnson), the Cowboys might need to grab a WR to mold into Austin's sidekick barring a miraculous season from Roy E. Williams.
There is a chance Jerry won't even think of drafting a wide-out until the fifth-seventh rounds. He's been quoted as saying he'd sleep like a baby if he went into next season with the same wide-outs currently on the roster.
But once Jerry gets a good look at Jordan Shipley in the combine, I think he'll fall in love and make it a priority to give him a chance.
Shipley is a terrific route runner, a la Marvin Harrison. He doesn't have the top end speed to be a consistent deep ball threat, but he's quick, has good hands, and isn't afraid to make the tough catch over the middle. Something the Cowboys severely lack right now.
Shipley is projected to go anywhere from the second-third rounds. A great combine could move him up into a for sure second round pick.
Nate Allen - South Florida - Free Safety
If Jerry decides to wait to select a safety in the second or third rounds, a strong possibility to be there is South Florida's Nate Allen.
Allen has the tools to become a great free safety. He's got great size and athleticism. Also, he's got great awareness when playing in man or zone coverage. Pair that with his willingness to step up and make contact, he's got a great upside.
However, the knack on Allen is the poor angles he takes in pursuit. He will need to work on this a great deal to keep from looking silly and becoming a liability in the secondary. Yet, this is something very fixable when under the watchful eye and guidance of NFL level coaches.
Although your chances of Allen being ready to produce more than Hamlin could next season is slim, Allen would be great on special teams. With a year under his belt and guidance from Hamlin and the other defensive leaders, Allen could step into the starters' role by his second season.
Barring a horrendous combine showing, Allen will maintain his second-third round projections.
Bruce Campbell - Maryland - OT
The Cowboys desperately need to find a replacement for the aging Flozell Adams.
Offensive tackle Bruce Campbell is the type of strong and massive lineman the Cowboys covet. Campbell is listed at 6'7'' 310 lbs. It'll be interesting to see how he measures and tests at the combine.
Campbell has exceptional quickness for someone of his size. Has a great burst in the run game, and can handle the speedy pass rushers on the outside. He is raw and will need to work on his skills and instincts before taking over for Flozell.
The major concern with Campbell however is his health. The Cowboys will need to get heavily detailed reports from doctors making sure Campbell is capable of a long career with his history of injuries related to his knees and brain.
Jerry and his staff won't be alone in the evaluation of this highly touted offensive tackle. If things work out in Campbell's favor at the combine, he could see himself drafted anywhere in the mid-late first round.
With his tremendous upside, watching Campbell at the combine will be extremely intriguing. There is a great chance this could very well be the player Jerry selects with his 27th pick.
Point blank, the Cowboys need to worry about this upcoming season with their first couple of picks. If it means trading up at any opportunity you see to draft that player you know can make a difference this year, you've got to make it.
At the combine, Jerry needs to focus his attention on players who can make a difference this season in a positive way to contribute to a Super Bowl contending team. In my opinion, the five players I've mentioned above meet that requirement based on our early positions in the draft.