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April 14, 2014

Dallas Cowboys' pre-draft national visits headlined by top defenders as expected

Irving _ To get a clearer understanding who the Cowboys might take with their 16th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, keep an eye on who their bring in for pre-draft visits, starting today and running through Wednesday.

The Cowboys are allowed to bring in 30 top prospects for national visits and considering the names reportedly already here or on the invite list for the up close and personal meet and greet, targeting the defense line is the obvious focal point.

Many of the prospects came in Sunday night.

The expected visitors include Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald, Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy, UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr, Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, Boise State defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, Arizona State defensive end Davon Coleman, Southeast Louisiana State defensive tackle Jerrod Black, Northwest Missouri cornerback Brandon Dixon, Northern Illinois strong safety Jimmie Ward, North Dakota State offensive tackle Billy Turner and Notre Dame tackle Zach Martin.

Again, the Cowboys are allowed up to the 30 visitors and more names are expected to trickle in. The Cowboys are bringing the prospects in for visits in groups of 10. One group on Monday. One on Tuesday and one on Wednesday.

While Ward is a definitely safety prospect who could go in the second round, it should be noted that the top two safeties in the draft and first round prospects _ HaHa Clinton-Dix of Alabama and Calvin Pryor of Louisville _ are not on the list for visits. That speaks volumes about the Cowboys focus for the first round as is the presence of presence of Donald, Ealy, Barr, Jernigan, Lawrence and Coleman.

Donald is the top tackle in the draft could go in the top 10 as could Barr, the best pass rusher after South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney.

The Cowboys made no secret of their intention to target a defensive line that lost the Pro Bowl likes of Jason Hatcher, DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff over the last year and is in limbo with injured former Pro Bowler Anthony Spencer.

The Cowboys made a splash of sorts in free agency with the addition of former Bears Pro Bowl-tackle Henry Melton but he is coming off a knee injury and was signed to a prove-it contract.

These visits are an important window into the Cowboys’ draft-day war room, considering that DeMarcus Ware in 2005 and Morris Claiborne in 2012 were the only top picks taking by the Cowboys in the past nine drafts who didn't make pre-draft visits to the team's Valley Ranch headquarters.

Travis Frederick in 2013, Tyron Smith in 2011, Dez Bryant in 2010, Jason Williams in 2009, Felix Jones in 2008, Anthony Spencer in 2007 and Bobby Carpenter in 2006 were among the pre-draft visitors the year they were taken first by the Cowboys.

Clarence E. Hill Jr.

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