With all the general managers, coaches and scouts in attendance for the Senior Bowl, there is a lot of chatter going around. Here are some of the highlights from the rumor mill on Day 4.
The Dallas Cowboys figure to have an interesting offseason with how they approach their defensive line. Defensive tackle Terrell McClain is entering free agency, and the Cowboys want to bring him back. However, they plan to let McClain test the market and see what offers he gets before bidding on his contact. The Cowboys like McClain's steady and hard-working presence in their defensive line room. With some problem children already in there, they like McClain's grounded approach. Sources say to keep an eye on the Seahawks as a suitor that could target McClain. The Seahawks would like an interior disruptor.
Dallas is also faced with breakout defensive end David Irving as an exclusive rights free agent. The Cowboys would like to sign him to a cheap multi-year contract, but sources say that Irving will reject that and play under the 1-year tag to work his way to unrestricted free agency with the hopes of securing a lucrative market-value contract extension.
With the suspension issues of Randy Gregory and Demarcus Lawrence, the Cowboys also could target a defensive end late in the first round. Irving will return to Dallas, but bringing back McClain would help give them more flexibility in the draft.
One prospect that is creating a buzz is UConn safety Obi Melifonwu. He was one of the stars of the weigh-in, as he checked in at 6-foot-4, 219 pounds and obviously is a dedicated patron of the weight room. During the fall, scouting sources told WalterFootball.com that Melifonwu would rise in the lead up to the draft because he is a workout warrior and was putting together a quality senior season. He totaled 118 tackles, three passes broken up, and four interceptions on the year.
Some sources believe Melifonwu could be a versatile safety with the size and speed to cover tight ends in man coverage. They also feel he can walk down into the box like Deone Bucannon and be an enforcer like Kam Chancellor. While it is very early in the process, here are five teams that are showing a lot of interest in Melifonwu: Seattle Seahawks, Houston Texans, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, and Carolina Panthers.
One of the on-field stars at the Senior Bowl has been Alabama tight end O.J. Howard. Behind the scenes, sources say that Howard also was very impressive in the team interviews. They said he was great in the meeting room, and they came away very impressed with him as a person. Howard is taking full advantage of the Senior Bowl to solidify his standing as a first-round pick with a real shot to go in the top 20.
Two other receiving tight end prospects that did well in practice are South Alabama tight end Gerald Everett and Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram. Team sources say both of them did a pretty good job in the interviews as well.
After a few years without a first-rounder, the running back positions has made a come back as a position to target in the first round, and this year's running back class is very deep. Some sources say that will cause some teams to wait until the second day of the draft, but LSU's Leonard Fournette and Florida State's Dalvin Cook are near locks for the top 20 (more on Cook below). Team contacts say that Fournette won't get out of the top 10, as he is too talented a player and too rare of a prospect to fall into the teens. Cook may not crack the top 10, but he could go in the teens.
The combine interviews and pre-draft visits are going to be very important for Dalvin Cook. There are some minor off-the-field concerns regarding Cook; not so much with his character, but the company he keeps. Cook is said to have an entourage that has some real thugs. These friends have teams worried that it could be dangerous for Cook to continue hanging around them. Teams are concerned that Cook drinks a heavy amount and could have some challenges with his focus from having multiple kids with multiple women. They think that leaving the state of Florida would be good for Cook's long-term career and could help him to focus on becoming a professional.
However, some team sources are worried the entourage will follow Cook wherever he goes, as that was the case at Florida State. Thus, it would help Cook to go to a team with established leadership in the locker room that can help steer him in the right direction.