Aaron Donald speaks at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NFL Draft: Dallas Cowboys hosting five high-profile prospects

The Dallas Cowboys know that all of their biggest holes are on the defensive side of the ball, as they need some big help on the defensive line and in the secondary in the 2014 NFL Draft. Henry Melton was an excellent value signing and Jeremy Mincey was a decent addition earlier in free agency, but the Cowboys also lost DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, and Jason Hatcher. Both defensive line and safety seem to be their biggest needs, and they could also use an impact linebacker after the first round.

Per sources close to ESPN Dallas’s Todd Archer, five of the Dallas Cowboys pre-draft visitors next week are UCLA Bruins star edge rusher Anthony Barr, Northern Illinois standout safety Jimmie Ward, Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald, rising Boise State edge rusher Demarcus Lawrence, and Ohio State’s top coverage linebacker Ryan Shazier.

Donald is the most-mocked player to the Cowboys of those five, and he was the best defensive player in college football last season. His ability to put pressure on the quarterback is just ridiculous, and comparing him to star Cincinnati Bengals tackle Geno Atkins makes plenty of sense. He and Melton would immediately form one of the league’s best interior pass rushing duos, and that would ease the load on defensive ends George Selvie and Mincey.

If the Cowboys want to go after an edge rusher, then Barr and Lawrence have the speed to make a big impact there. Both have their own question marks, and Lawrence is more of a second-round prospect than mid first-round guy. I think Lawrence has a solid chance of being picked in the late first due to his physical tools, but I wouldn’t take him 16th overall if I were the Cowboys.

The Cowboys have shown that they are willing to bypass what we believe is “value”, as last year’s “reach” Travis Frederick turned out to be a stud center and a ridiculously big upgrade over Phil Costa. That said, the Cowboys don’t have a need big enough at outside linebacker to take Shazier, and I couldn’t see him falling to the Cowboys in the second. I don’t think Jimmie Ward will fall to the Cowboys in the 2nd, but they could net a better prospect at 16. I think Ward is vastly underrated and is a physical safety who can play at either free or strong due to his excellent ball skills and work in man or zone coverage, but Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is a better option if a team like the St. Louis Rams or Chicago Bears doesn’t take him first.

All five of these prospects could be picked in the first-round and are among the best at their respective positions, so these workouts are definitely notable.

Tags: Aaron Donald Anthony Barr Boise State Broncos Dallas Cowboys Demarcus Lawrence Football Jimmie Ward NFL Draft Northern Illinois Huskies Ohio State Buckeyes Pittsburgh Panthers Ryan Shazier Ucla Bruins

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