In his first two mocks, he offered up Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round. In his third, he went with Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan. In his Grade A mock, he went with Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
In Kiper's Mock draft 4.0 , he has gone away from the defensive side of the ball.
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"It's kind of like a dream come true," Mauro said. "Playing Pee Wee football and high school, you see the Cowboys and it's like a dream to think you could play for them. This isn't a sign-up for the Cowboys, but to even have the opportunity to work out for them is something special."
Mauro, 6-foot-6, 280 pounds, played defensive end, defensive tackle and even some nose tackle for Stanford. He had 51 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, six quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and an interception for one of the best defenses in college football in 2013.
He knows the Cowboys have defensive line needs, too. He knows DeMarcus Ware is now with the Denver Broncos, Jason Hatcher is with the Washington Redskins and Anthony Spencer remains unsigned. He is aware they signed Henry Melton.
"You're talking two, possibly three starters up front in that defense that aren't there anymore," Mauro said.
Mauro met with Cowboys assistant defensive line coach Leon Lett and other coaches at the NFL scouting combine in February. He played in the East-West Shrine Game and worked out in California, with former Stanford players like Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener and other current NFL players.
"It's a great work environment, just getting to be with guys that are like minded and in the NFL," Mauro said. "I've been able to learn a lot from them."
ESPN Insiders have him as the 21st ranked defensive end, but his versatility puts him on the radar of 4-3 and 3-4 teams. Having played in a multiple defenses used at Stanford also helps. When he arrived at Stanford, Vic Fangio was his coordinator. Fangio now runs the San Francisco 49ers defense. Josh Tarver took over for Fangio, and he now runs the Oakland Raiders defense. Derek Mason took over for Tarver and he is now the head coach at Vanderbilt.
"Say a team runs a 3-4, the guys they'll have aren't just the typical big, block squares just two-gapping," Mauro said. "It's a passing league. You've got to be able to play different personnel. Look at a team like New England. They might have one down lineman and standing up the other 10 guys. The game is so different. It's not the traditional tight end, two backs, two wide receivers. It could be three, four, five wide receivers. The name of the game is to get to the quarterback. I've been able to do that at Stanford from a lot of different positions. Nowadays getting to the quarterback whether it be from the nine technique or nose guard, you've got to be able to create mismatches for people in different positions."
He worked out for the Atlanta Falcons and will work out for the New York Giants next week, followed by visits with the 49ers and Raiders.
"I still remember we wrote our goal letters at every training period at Stanford," Mauro said. "My first goal was to eventually become a starter at Stanford, an All-American defensive end and be a future first-round pick. Now coming out of high school that was a very, very ambitious goal and I wasn't heavily recruited. I had a few offers, but I always set the bar high so even if I fall short of my expectations I'd still end up in a good place. I always believed in it. Three years in the program I hadn't played very much. The fourth year I came in off the bench and was the energy guy … . My fifth year I ended up starting 11 games and was productive and helped one of the best defenses in the nation. Everything is kind of surreal. You couldn't plan it out. You just always have to believe in yourself if no one is believing in you."
If you want our thoughts on the 2009-11 drafts, click here for 2009, here for 2010 and here for 2011.
First-round pick: Morris Claiborne (No. 6 overall)
How they did: The Cowboys made a bold move by trading up from No. 14 to No. 6 to take Claiborne, whom they had given the highest grade for a cornerback since Deion Sanders. Two years later, the Cowboys are still waiting for Claiborne to pay off.
In fact, most of the draft class has yet to pay off. Third-round pick Tyrone Crawford (No. 81 overall) did not play last season because of a torn Achiiles. One fourth-round pick, Matt Johnson (No. 135 overall) has yet to play in a game in his two seasons because of injuries. It took the other fourth rounder, Kyle Wilber (No. 113 overall), almost two seasons to find his role. Danny Coale (knee, foot) and Caleb McSurdy (Achilles) never made the team. Sixth-round pick James Hanna was the No. 2 tight end a year ago.
Pivotal pick: It’s hard to say anybody other than Claiborne because of the price the Cowboys paid to get him, giving up their second-round pick. He came in with a surgically-repaired wrist that kept him out of offseason work as a rookie. He suffered through a hamstring injury that kept him out of six games last season. He has two interceptions in two seasons and has not displayed the confidence he played with at LSU. He must turn it around in 2014 or the Cowboys’ decision to move up to get him will haunt the team for a long time.
Worst pick: The Cowboys have kept Johnson around because of his potential, but the patience has to be running thin. He did not play as a rookie because of recurring hamstring injuries, as well as an aching back. He did not play in 2013 because of ankle surgery. He is out of time to make something happen, which he knows. Considering the Cowboys’ need at safety, however, there is still a chance for Johnson to make an impact.
Some of the confirmed names are as follows: Tackle Zack Martin (Notre Dame), wide receiver Josh Huff (Oregon), defensive ends Scott Crichton (Oregon State) and Will Clarke (West Virginia).
In the past three days, the Cowboys have focused a bulk of their college visits on the defensive line.
Kony Ealy, Demarcus Lawrence, Timmy Jernigan and Aaron Donald are among some of the players who visited the Valley Ranch complex.
In free agency, the Cowboys signed three defensive linemen, headlined by defensive tackle Henry Melton.
The Cowboys lost two players in free agency: DeMarcus Ware, who was released and signed a deal with the Denver Broncos, and Jason Hatcher, who inked a deal with NFC East rival Washington.
Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said what the franchise has done in free agency wouldn't preclude the team from drafting a lineman next month. Jones said the team wants to get the best player available regardless of position with the No. 16 overall selection.
Two-time Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph visited with the club earlier in the week, and wide receiver LaRon Byrd will work out for the team on Thursday, according to sources.
Joseph was cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before free agency began, saving the team $6 million in cap space. A first-round pick in 2006 out of Oklahoma, Joseph started 89 games for the Buccaneers and made the Pro Bowl in 2008 and ’11. He missed the 2012 season with a knee injury and struggled last season.
The Cowboys have little depth behind starters Travis Frederick, Mackenzy Bernadeau and Ronald Leary. Joseph, 30, could push for a starting spot or serve as a backup at both guard spots. If the Cowboys sign Joseph, then it would seem to end the chances of Brian Waters returning. Waters has not decided whether he wants to play or have surgery on a torn triceps injury that ended his 2013 season.
Byrd, 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, spent last year on injured reserve with the Arizona Cardinals because of a concussion. He was released earlier in the month and worked out recently for the New York Giants.
The Cowboys will host local draft prospects at Valley Ranch on Thursday as part of their Dallas Day workouts. Texas wide receiver Mike Davis (Skyline), SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert and TCU quarterback Casey Pachall are among the players scheduled to work out. Texas outside linebacker/defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat is not among the group despite attending Plano West. Because his family moved to Colorado with his dad, Jim, coaching in Boulder, he is not allowed, per league rules.
We'll continue with 2011:
Players signed: Kenyon Coleman
Starts earned: 15
Analysis: When defensive coordinator Rob Ryan wanted a new defensive end, he thought of Coleman, who played for him with the Cleveland Browns. The Cowboys were looking for depth along the defensive line when they lost Stephen Bowen in free agency. Coleman signed a three-year contract with the Cowboys to become a stop gap until some younger players emerged as starters. It was an excellent signing for the Cowboys because they picked up a veteran player who could teach Sean Lissemore, Clifton Geathers and Josh Brent about playing the defensive line. While Lissemore and Geathers were ends, Coleman's veteran presence was a welcome to the Cowboys' locker room. In 15 starts, Coleman, a run-stopping end, finished with 44 tackles, 10th on the team. He also had five tackles for loss, fifth on the squad. His best game occurred on Nov. 24 against Miami, where he had four tackles, one quarterback pressure, a tackle for loss and a sack.
He was a defensive coordinator for five Arena Football League teams, including the Dallas Desperados, and served as the Desperados head coach from 2004-08.
At the NFL scouting combine in February, coach Jason Garrett said McClay’s background as a coach is helpful, but noted a number of the scouts have a coaching background.
The Cowboys have a number of personnel on their scouting staff. Director of Scouting Tom Ciskowski was a college assistant coach from 1979-91 before joining the Cowboys’ scouting department in 1992. National Scout Drew Fabianich was the defensive coordinator at Tennessee from 1993-96 and had a number of coaching stops before moving into scouting.
“The communication in our building is critical and Will’s been a big part of that,” Garrett said. “Coaches, scouting, the executive branch of our organization, we want to make sure everybody’s talking, everybody’s on the same page, and Will’s done a great job with that. I think philosophy’s are all the same, that’s a good thing. It’s given Tom Ciskowski an opportunity to really focus on the college stuff, so he’s obviously a big part of this whole dynamic that we have and has been for a number of years. Bringing players into your organization is a really important piece to having success, and if everyone’s on the same page about what kind of players and what kind of people you want to bring it, it gives you a great chance of doing what you want to do.”
As a pro scout, McClay was a quasi-assistant with the Cowboys, working in the offseason with defensive backs at different times.
“I think it’s a huge benefit not only in evaluating talent, but evaluating what’s behind the talent,” said Terry Gray, a scouting consultant and former assistant coach to McClay. “Who is the guy? What’s important to him? How does he compete? What is his daily work ethic? What is he thinking? What’s his reaction time? Can he process what he sees in a timely fashion to compete in the NFL? Will’s not just been a coach, but being a head coach gives him a deeper perspective on evaluating players and how they play on the field, but what they are built on and who they are and what their core principles are.”
However, it doesn’t mean the Cowboys won’t look at some quarterbacks.
Team officials are in Athens, Ga., on Wednesday looking at University of Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray. Among the officials in attendance is Cowboys’ quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson.
When Weeden was entering the draft from Oklahoma State, Cowboys officials met with him and kept watch from afar. After Weeden was released by the Cleveland Browns this spring, the Cowboys jumped at the chance to sign him because they had done the research necessary to make a move.
With the amount of money invested in starting quarterback Tony Romo and backup Kyle Orton, the team isn't trying to draft a quarterback in the first two rounds. Finding a future replacement for Romo isn't a high priority, but they are looking for a quality young backup. Though Weeden is 30, he has only two years of NFL experience, so that justifies the Cowboys signing him.
Also, the Cowboys are expected to void out the last few years of Orton's contract, making him a free agent after the 2014 season.
Murray is projected as a middle-round draft selection, but ESPN’s Jon Gruden was impressed with him.
Gruden said Murray, who is fully recovered after tearing his ACL in his left knee last November, has deep-ball accuracy, good touch on the ball and will be “the steal for somebody” in the draft. Cowboys' officials aren't in love with Murray's height, 6-1, but they believe he's got a strong enough arm to make the necessary throws in the NFL.
Murray is the all-time leading passer in SEC history and holds the school record with 121 career touchdowns.
The Cowboys haven’t met with any of the top quarterbacks at Valley Ranch during their 30 pre-draft visits. It could be a smoke screen, or the simple fact the team isn’t drafting a quarterback.
Team officials are quite familiar with all the top quarterbacks, and their closer look at Murray might not mean anything now, but could be something for the future.
If you want our thoughts on the 2009 and 2010 drafts, click here and here.
First-round pick: Tyron Smith (No. 9 overall)
Number of picks: 8
Landing wide receiver Dwayne Harris (No. 176 overall) in the sixth round is also something of a coup. He needed time to develop, but he is a valuable return man, special teamer and is a quality receiver with some big-play ability. Bill Nagy (No. 252 overall) started as a rookie at guard, but that might have said more about the state of the line in 2010 than his ability.
Pivotal pick: Like Sean Lee in 2010, the Cowboys took an injured linebacker in Bruce Carter (No. 40 overall) with the idea of being patient for a payoff in 2012 and beyond. Carter started the year on PUP and played mostly on special teams as a rookie, but appeared to blossom in 11 games in 2012 before an elbow injury ended his season. He has the athletic ability to be one of the better weakside linebackers in a 4-3, but he had a poor showing in 2013. If he can find the form the Cowboys thought he had, then this draft goes from good to great.
Best pick: The Cowboys passed on a chance to pick up first- and second-round picks from the Jacksonville Jaguars to select Smith. He played right tackle as a rookie and moved to left tackle in 2012. It took some time, but the payoff came in 2013. When Smith arrived he said his goal was to make the Hall of Fame. That is a lofty standard, but if he can string together more seasons like last year, then he could end up in Canton, Ohio, one day. The best part is that Smith does not turn 24 until December.
Worst pick: The Cowboys thought they were getting a small-school gem in offensive lineman David Arkin when they took him in the fourth round (No. 119 overall) out of Missouri State. He was a starter on the first day of training camp in part because of the end of the lockout, but he never made a dent before he was cut last season. He was one of the harder workers and was willing to play center as well, but he never showed the strength and power needed to play on the interior.
The Dallas Cowboys, with the No. 16 pick in the draft, are in need of several upgrades on defense. PFF believes the Cowboys should find a pass-rusher at defensive end.
"Edge rushers for the Cowboys ranked 22nd in pass-rush productivity last year, and that was with DeMarcus Ware on the team," writes Neil Hornsby for PFF. "There is no question this group will need major bolstering."
For the complete report, check it out here .
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Over the past two days, the Cowboys have conducted pre-draft interviews with several defensive linemen: Aaron Donald, Demarcus Lawrence, Kony Ealy and Timmy Jernigan.
We'll continue with 2010.
Players signed: None
Starts earned: 0
Analysis: This was the first time the Cowboys didn't sign anybody in free agency since 2008. However, the Cowboys who lost six players the previous season in free agency, including two former draft picks (Kevin Burnett and Chris Canty), allowed safety Ken Hamlin and guard Cory Procter to leave. The Cowboys maintained the playing status of Keith Brooking (16 starts), Igor Olshansky (14 games) and Gerald Sensabaugh (15 games) from the previous free agency class. What is interesting about this class was the draft. The Cowboys snagged future starter Sean Lee in the second round and a quality backup defensive lineman in Sean Lissemore in the seventh round. The Cowboys also used their supplemental draft pick on defensive end Josh Brent. Dallas finished this season at 6-10 and coach Wade Phillips was fired after a 45-7 loss at Green Bay. Jason Garrett took over and the Cowboys had a strong finish, 5-3. It's the only time Garrett ended a season above .500 mark.
The Cowboys doled out an average yearly salary of $1.875 million in 2013, which ranked 156th among 294 teams in 15 leagues in seven sports across the globe, according to the survey done by ESPN The Magazine/SportingIntelligence Global Salary Survey.
The Cowboys were 21st among NFL teams in average yearly salary. The Seattle Seahawks were No. 1 at $2.303 million, which was 116th in the overall survey. The Cowboys ranked just below Southampton ($1.893 million) of the English Premier League and just ahead of the NHL's Florida Panthers ($1.850 million).
For the NFL teams, large rosters combined with many players making the league minimum (based on years accrued) led to the lower average annual salaries. Manchester City of the EPL checked in at No. 1 overall at $8.109 million, ahead of the New York Yankees ($8.031 million).
Of the top 25 highest-paid athletes in the world, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo checked in at No. 14 at $26.5 million thanks to the six-year, $108 million extension he signed last offseason that included a $25 million signing bonus.
Romo fit between Formula One drivers Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton ($27.5 million each) and Manchester United's Wayne Rooney ($26 million).
The story is from more than 10 years ago, when Edwards was coach of the New York Jets. As a boy, Edwards' father made him sweep the back patio of their house. When Edwards was done, his father went out back, saw the pile his son made and immediately went to the corners. They were untouched.
The message that stuck with McClay when he first heard the story was simple: Details matter.
In his current job as the Dallas Cowboys' assistant director of player personnel, McClay is sweeping the corners.
In this case, sweeping the corners is looking anywhere and everywhere for a player to help the Cowboys in next month's draft. This is McClay's first as the Cowboys' highest-ranked personnel chief not named Jones.
"He's there night and day," said McClay's former Arena Football League assistant and confidante Terry Gray. "He's got a relentless passion to provide Mr. [Jerry] Jones and Stephen [Jones] the very best product available within the means and the parameters of what he's able to work with. He's nonstop. Nonstop. He doesn't sleep a whole lot."
There will be time to sleep after the draft. Maybe McClay, 47, can sneak in a little bit in June after the minicamp ends but before training camp in Oxnard, Calif., begins in late July.
For now, sleep can wait. McClay, whom the Cowboys declined to make available for this story, is in charge of putting the Cowboys' draft room together. It is a painstaking process that takes months to go through but picks up its pace in the final few weeks before the Cowboys pick No. 16 overall in the first round on May 8.
This week, nearly 30 players from across the country will visit Valley Ranch, wrapping up on Wednesday. On Thursday, the club will host its Dallas Day workouts for the local draft prospects. When it is all over, McClay and the scouting department will be back in the office grinding away, sweeping the corners.
McClay's rise to this current position has taken him through the Arena Football League as a player and coach, the defunct XFL and the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he was the assistant director of pro scouting. He joined the Cowboys organization in 2002 as defensive coordinator of the AFL's Dallas Desperados and became the head coach in 2004. He also served as a pro scout for the Cowboys, and in 2012 he was named the director of football research. Last spring he was promoted to his current title.
"Everything equates in looking at talent," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "He found some really unique guys in the arena league and then of course when he was back in scouting. He has had a passion for it, and it just seems like every step of the way he's done a good job for us. I commend him on the job he did finding guys like [George] Selvie and [Nick] Hayden, people like that. People that everybody had a shot at, but he brought them in."
Over the past few years, the Cowboys have found several prizes in street free agency in Laurent Robinson, Tony Fiammetta, Eric Frampton, Ernie Sims and Selvie, who had seven sacks last season. The Cowboys dressed 20 different defensive linemen in 2013.
McClay spent most of the season sweeping the corners for defensive linemen. And he was doing it long before he ever heard Edwards' tale. He did it at Houston Marian Christian, playing wide receiver as a freshman and quarterback as a senior to win Class 3A state titles in the Texas Christian Interscholastic League in 1981 and ‘84.
His high school coach, Mike Treybig, remembers walking into his office only to see McClay feeding the 16-millimeter film into the projector.
""William liked watching tape," Treybig said. "I would imagine he would've loved it if we let him call his own plays. I know there were times we allowed him to do that. He was definitely a student of the game. We didn't have to worry about a lot of stuff when it came to William. We knew he did his homework and would take care of things to give us the best chance to win on that Friday."
He found some really unique guys in the arena league and then of course when he was back in scouting. He has had a passion for it, and it just seems like every step of the way he's done a good job for us." -- Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones on assistant director of player personnel William McClay
McClay could have gone to Nebraska, but he chose Rice instead to stay close to home and played defensive back. He was recruited there by Mike Nolan, the current defensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons. Tyrone Willingham, the former head coach at Notre Dame and Stanford, was the receivers coach at the time.
He remembers questions from McClay about what receivers looked for, searching for ways to get better as a defender even if the wins did not come as much as the Owls would have liked. Willingham and McClay remain close to this day.
"I'm personally excited for the individual, but I'm more excited for the organization because they did not let talent, for one reason or another, slip through the cracks," Willingham said. "That, to me, is so important because when you have talent you want to let it rise to the top to better everyone else in the organization."
Clint Dolezel played two years at East Texas State, throwing for 3,152 yards and 22 touchdown passes. McClay was defensive coordinator with a hand in personnel for the Milwaukee Mustangs in 1995 when Dolezel was recommended and eventually signed.
By the time Dolezel retired in 2008 with the Desperados with McClay as his head coach, he threw for 44,563 yards and 931 touchdowns.
"So many scouts get caught up in the fact, ‘Well, we want him because he went to this big school,'" said Dolezel, now the head coach of the AFL's Philadelphia Soul. "And a lot of times they're right, but those are the no-brainers that no one is pointing a finger at if he doesn't pan out. Hey, he had the pedigree because he went to Texas or Oklahoma or Florida State or Alabama. The good ones find the ones at East Texas State and schools like that."
In his interview with the Jaguars, Tom Coughlin had McClay research a particular free-agent cornerback the team was high on and wanted to sign. McClay watched the tape and concluded that the player would not be worth the money or fit in the system. Coughlin briefly objected, but McClay held firm. He got the job, and the Jaguars did not sign the player.
"There is not a magic formula," Gray said. "It's just good, old-fashioned bust-your-ass hard work and lots and lots of tape. Lots of calls. Lots of research. Just looking at thousands of players until you find one you think fits for you. He's just got a very unique way knowing a football player when he sees one. That's commonly described by a lot of people, but he just knows it at a different level. It's more than just everybody saying, ‘He can't play.' It's Will finding guys that can play that no one considered.
"Will McClay is a machine. He's a film-watching, evaluating, researching machine. He just never stops and he will never stop."
There always will be corners to sweep.
They can bring in up to 30 players for national visits.
Among the confirmed players who have made the trip to Valley Ranch: Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald, UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr, Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier, Florida State cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, Boise State Demarcus Lawrence, Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward, Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy, Florida State defensive end Timmy Jernigan and North Dakota State tackle Billy Turner.
The Cowboys are planning more visits on Wednesday.
Donald has been projected to the Cowboys in several mock drafts, and in an interview with the Cowboys' website he said he would like to play for defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
"I had the opportunity to talk to him a couple times at the combine; I talked to him [Sunday] and I talked to him [Monday]," Donald told the website. "He's a great coach, and just talking to him and looking in his eyes -- the way he talks, he's got a passion for the game of football and he loves the game of football."