The title pretty much sums up the entire focus of this post. J.J. Wilcox, the riveting safety prospect out of Georgia Southern, has truly taken a lot of Cowboys' fans hearts in the last couple of weeks since he was drafted at number 80 overall. It's amazing to think that he was the number 5 safety on the board according to Scouts, Inc., WalterSports, NFL.com, and every draftnik from here to Timbuktu. When compared to the likes of Kenny Vaccaro, Shamarko Thomas, Eric Reid, and Jonathan Cyprien, he compares quite nicely. Factor in his high-motor, athletic ability and his willingness to learn and do whatever it takes to succeed - it would appear that the 'Boys have found another 'RKG' for this Dallas-2 defense.
Starting out with J.J.'s overall combine measurables - he checked in at 6' tall, 213 lbs, with 31" arms, and 9" hands. These measurables match up almost exactly with last years number one rated safety prospect in Mark Barron, as well as this year's number one safety prospect in Kenny Vaccaro. When you factor in J.J.'s actual combine performance (4.57 40-yard dash, 17 reps on bench @ 225 lbs, 35" vertical, 10'4" broad jump, 7.02 sec 3-cone drill, and a 4.09 sec 20-yd shuttle), he immediately jumps out on paper.
His 40 yard dash time was faster than Mark Barron, as well as Kenny Vaccaro. His broad jump and his 3-cone time were modest, but still rank him with solid reaction speed. His 20 yard shuttle time was NUMBER ONE out of all prospects in the draft - for any position. The 20 yard shuttle is used to showcase explosiveness, and J.J. certainly showed he lacks none of that with his workout at that drill. He was graded a 77.0 overall on NFL.com, and that translates to a high 3rd round pick (a little before we picked him). One other thing of note, is that his size and performance at the combine are also comparable to the likes of Troy Polamalu (aside from 40-yard dash time), and the late Sean Taylor.
A huge argument against J.J. is that he has only played one season at safety in college against meager competition at best in his time at Georgia Southern. However, when you look at his overall athletic ability - it's easy to see how he was able to succeed at the position. In his freshman year, a season in which he sat out 3 games, he played WR and compiled only 16 receptions for 179 yards.
As a sophomore, he played WR and RB and compiled 85 carries for 484 yards with 6 TD's, along with 22 receptions for 551 yards and 3 TD's. His Junior year he was solely a RB and put together 52 carries, for 480 yards and 7 TD's, as well as 7 receptions for 168 yards and a TD. Switching to FS for his Senior year required a lot of faith on his coaches part - but they stuck with him and whadya know - he had 88 tackles, 3 pass breakups, and 2 interceptions. He also returned kicks and punts 31 times for 780 total yards and a return for a TD.
When you factor in all of the facts laid out above, you see a safety that is off the charts athletically. You see a safety that has had time on the offensive side of the ball, and was relatively successful at it. He has knowledge of what it takes to play WR in a competitive manner, and has knowledge of what a WR is truly thinking while out on the field. You see a safety that is willing to do whatever it takes to put his team in the best possible position to win - and did so by switching positions not once, but twice (and succeeding at it, might I add). You see a safety who knows how to hit, and isn't afraid to come flying down to the ball and mix it up.
Now, I might be biased on J.J. because I really like him as a player and he is one of my pet-cats for the season - but in all reality, his measurables, combine performance and his film highlights don't lie. J.J. Wilcox is a player, and he is ready to take Cowboys Nation by storm. Watch out for him to take the starting Strong Safety spot late in Training Camp and push Barry Church to a nickel-back/dime-back spot. I'm calling it now, J.J. will be starting at Strong Safety next to Matt Johnson at Free Safety for the start of the season.