In this series, we’re going to go through all the needs the Cowboys currently have and find the candidates in the 2018 NFL Draft that fit the bill. Making our way through the defense, we have already looked at defensive tackles, edge rushers, linebackers, and now we’re looking at safeties.
There is talk of moving Byron Jones to cornerback and if the rumors are true, the Cowboys could be in the market for a safety. Here are five guys that might be able to fill that role in this year’s draft.
Derwin James, 6’2, 211 lbs, Florida State (Brugler: 13th, 1st SS)
James is perhaps the most versatile defender in this draft and one of those players that may end up being a multi-time Pro Bowler. He just can’t be pigeon-holed into one position because he can do a lot for a teams that need playmakers. He’s got the right combination of size, speed, and instincts that you need in the safety position. James has exceptional awareness and closing speed to make the tackle.
He’s the prototype you want in today’s NFL but it’s concerning that his best season was three years ago and he missed all of 2016 with a torn meniscus. It’s not that he’s not a top prospect but he does have room for improvement and tends to drop as many interceptions as he catches. James is one of the best overall players in the draft and projects to be a star in the NFL rather quickly.
Where you get him: There is likely no chance he falls to 19, better trade up if you want James.
Ronnie Harrison, 6’2, 214 lbs, Alabama (Brugler: 27th, 2nd SS)
With great length and a filled out frame, Harrison has tremendous ball skills and is one of the more reliable tacklers in the class. He’s surprisingly good in coverage to where he could even line up as a cornerback if asked. Harrison has the physicality that you need and though he can lay the wood, he’s not reckless. Harrison’s combination of range, athleticism, and playmaking ability make him a dream for any secondary. He’s got all the gifts and traits to become the NFL’s next household name in the safety position.
Where you get him: First round, maybe a good trade-back option
Justin Reid, 6’1, 204 lbs, Stanford (Brugler: 58th, 1st FS)
Reid is the brother of standout safety for the 49ers, Eric Reid, but he’s not quite the finished product his brother was. He is, however, every bit of the athlete as his bother. Reid is a smooth, fluid, player that effortlessly turns and mirrors his man. He’s not the fastest guy but his speed isn’t an issue as he’s able to quickly turn his hips and go. He will have to work on not being so grabby as it has been troublesome for him in the past. He’s still not the sum of all his parts but the athleticism, versatility, coverage and awareness are all there. He’s best served in single high duties while he hones his craft and improves his technique.
Where you get him: Second round
Jordan Whitehead, 5’10, 195 lbs, Pittsburgh (Brugler: 123rd, 5th FS)
He’s a very rangy player that can cover a lot of ground without much effort needed. He’s a smooth athlete with great footwork and backpedal. He’s got great acceleration and shows burst as he closes in on the ball carrier. He’s a playmaker that even scored touchdowns for Pitt on offense when asked to. Whitehead is the cousin of Derrelle Revis and has played both safety positions as well as cornerback. He’s getting favorable comparisons to Budda Baker as he’s a bit undersized and could work on shoring up his tackling. Still, Whitehead is a pet cat who’s one of the only safeties that truly fits the free safety role Dallas is looking for.
Where you get him: Third or fourth round but he’s likely to creep into the second round discussion soon enough.
Jessie Bates III, 6’1, 195 lbs, Wake Forest (Brugler: 137th, 6th FS)
Bates is one of those guys that doesn’t have any standout athletic traits but is well-rounded and gets the job done. He was super productive with 179 tackles and six interceptions. He possesses some of the best instincts of any safety prospect in the class and is sneaky good at reading the quarterback’s eyes. Bates is a very disciplined player that consistently takes the best angles to the ball carrier.
He is a bit lean and could add some muscle mass to his lower half. He doesn’t have that bulk he needs but he doesn’t have durability concerns as he’s only missed two games. Bates is a natural leader and teammates really take to him plus he’s often mentioned a career in coaching after his playing career is over. Bates is a tough player that has off the charts awareness which will serve him well at the next level.
Where you get him: Fourth round