Monday’s combine was for the defensive backs. As we’ve previously discussed, the Cowboys went all-out in the secondary in the 2017 draft, taking four defensive backs. It’s unlikely they will repeat that in 2018, but with Dallas moving Byron Jones to corner, there is some concern at the safety spot. It’s doubtful the Cowboys will pick a corner early in the draft, but if the right safety falls to them, they might pull the trigger.
One safety everyone is talking about for the Cowboys is Derwin James. The problem is - will he last until #19, or would the Cowboys consider jumping up a few spots to get him? He did well at the combine, maybe keeping him out of the Cowboys reach.
4. Derwin James, DB, Florida State
It’s kind of crazy that the top two safeties (James, Minkah Fitzpatrick) are such similar players, and that both may be better as strong safeties and man-coverage defenders than a typical back-end, single-high type. James ran a 4.47 and jumped 40 inches, showing the explosiveness and range teams wanted to see. James will erase bigger slots in the NFL, provide terrific run defense, and has the ability to sit back and play in deep coverage as well.
Derwin James, FSU (No. 18 to Seahawks): A two-time first-team All-ACC defender, James earned some high praise from Mayock. “I look at Derwin James and thought a little of (Chiefs All-Pro) Eric Berry. ... Physically tough, all over the field.” James played up to the acclaim, running a 4.47 second 40-yard dash.
Derwin James, S, Florida State: James could experience a resurgence in draft buzz, given the final copy of measurements and athletic numbers the second-team AP All-American gave scouts at the combine. The versatile defender blazed a 4.47-second 40-yard dash to go along with a 40-inch vertical leap and an 11-foot broad jump. Although evaluators expected him to be one of the athletic freaks at the position, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound hybrid safety exceeded expectations by showing quick feet and smooth movement skills in positional drills. With some teams reportedly considering James as a “big” cornerback, this spectacular showing could elevate him back into top-15 consideration.
The other major player at safety, Minkah Fitzpatrick, had a pretty good day, too.
3. Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
Fitzpatrick didn’t jump at an elite level, but he was fine there and ran a blistering 4.46 in the 40 at 6-0, 204 pounds, matching the tape to the testing. He looked terrific in on-field drills and has the range to play all over a defensive front, as well as the blitzing ability and run defense to align near the line of scrimmage.
Another safety who is raising his stock is Justin Reid, who might have jumped into the conversation in the second round.
Justin Reid, S, Stanford: The Cardinal standout has quietly been climbing up the charts in the pre-draft process, and that ascension will only accelerate following his strong workout on the turf at Lucas Oil Stadium. Reid ran an impressive 4.40-second 40-yard dash and exhibited outstanding explosiveness with a solid jet of jumps (36.5-inch vert, 10-foot-8 broad). He followed it up with a solid positional workout that showcased his quick feet and superb body control. Although his ball skills are suspect, based on his pass-catching struggles, Reid looks like an intriguing option as a top-40 pick.
If the Cowboys are looking for a corner later in the draft...
Tony Brown, CB, Alabama: The former high school track standout and five-star recruit showcased his exceptional athleticism in a workout that included a blistering 4.35-second 40-yard dash. Brown not only lit up the track with his straight-line speed, but he showed better-than-anticipated footwork and movement skills in positional drills. As one of the most explosive athletes in this CB class, Brown has a chance to come off the board on Day 2 as a special teams demon/developmental prospect with an intriguing set of physical tools.