If you’re a Cowboys fan following the draft (which you probably are if you’re reading this article), your guess is as good as anyone’s in terms of what the Dallas Cowboys will do with the 19th overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft. From trading up or trading back to staying put, it seems like everybody has an opinion on what Jerry Jones, Jason Garrett, and company should do come April.
One of the positions of need for America’s Team is the safety position.
The Cowboys have decided to move 2015 first-round pick Byron Jones from the safety positon to cornerback, which seems like a more natural fit for the 6-foot, 199-pound athletic freak. In addition to Jones, the Cowboys boast second-year studs Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis at corner. The second- and third-round picks showed potential of becoming stars in the secondary as rookies. With former Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard now in charge of the defensive backfield, those two are set to improve even more — especially with the team expected to part ways with veteran Orlando Scandrick.
The two safety spots have question marks.Second-year defensive back Xavier Woods also showed signs of growing into a solid defender in the Cowboys secondary, as evidenced by his acrobatic diving interception against the Falcons. Do Garrett and Rod Marinelli trust the 22-year old enough to make him a permanent starter? Jeff Heath is also in the secondary, but can the Cowboys afford him being the team’s best safety? Kavon Frazier is also turning up his play, but the safety position can definitely use an influx of talent.
Among the draft’s top safety prospects is Florida State Seminole star Derwin James. At one point, there was wishful thinking that James would still be available when pick 19 comes around; however those thoughts are likely dead following his impressive combine.
Derwin James will naturally draw comparisons to Ramsey—he’s a Seminole and he’s viewed as having similar positional flexibility, though he will probably play safety or slot cornerback in the pros, while Ramsey has spent most of his time at outside cornerback. James is also, like Ramsey, one hell of an athlete. He posted an 11-foot broad jump and 40-inch vertical on Monday, which means that any team that wants to take him in the top 10, where he personally projects he’ll go, should feel great about doing so.
So if James is off the board, where do the Cowboys go? Here are five safety prospects, other than the Derwin James, to know (note: not necessarily the top five).
Ronnie Harrison, Alabama (SS)
Ronnie Harrison is among the best safety prospects in this draft class. Harrison was a two-year starter for Nick Saban down in Tuscaloosa, and he played a lot of snaps during his true freshman season as well. The former four-star prospect grew into one of the nation’s top defensive backs while wearing Crimson.
Harrison is a safety that plays in the box, similarly to former Tide product and now current New York Giants safety, Landon Collins. Like Collins, Harrison isn’t the best in coverage, but he makes up for it by playing the run and making tackles in space.
Harrison totaled 174 total tackles during his three-season career for Saban’s defense, 110 of which were solo. The Alabama safety also had seven tackles-for-loss and 3.5 sacks to go along with seven career interceptions, one pick-six, and one forced fumble.
Draft Projection: 1st-round
Justin Reid, Stanford (FS)
Justin Reid was one of the winners of the combine on Monday, according to Bucky Brooks:
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.
In addition to his impressive combine, Reid has NFL bloodlines as well. His brother, Eric Reid, was a star for the LSU Tigers and is now a solid safety on the NFL level. After spending his rookie contract on the Bay with the 49ers, the elder Reid is set to hit free agency.
Justin Reid actually offers a lot of the same traits that Harrison Smith does. Doesn't have a lot of flaws. pic.twitter.com/0zeelFeGNR— Purple Post (@Purple_Post) March 3, 2018
Despite being from Louisiana, Justin Reid decided to spend his collegiate life on the west coast. At Stanford, Reid totaled 170 total tackles (104 solo), 10.5 TFLs, one sack, and six interceptions (five in 2017 alone).
Draft projection: 2nd-round
Quin Blanding, Virginia (FS)
Quin Blanding entered his collegiate career as one of the most-hyped players in Virginia Cavaliers history. The former five-star prospect spurned the likes of Alabama, Clemson, and Florida State to play for his home-state school.
At UVA, Blanding developed into a solid defensive back. The first team All-ACC selection recorded some impressive stats during his career: 492 total tackles (259 solo), nine TFLs, ten interceptions (four in 2017), one pick-six, and a forced fumble in his four-years in Charlottesville.
The 6-foot-2, 209-pounder ranks as Dane Brugler’s fourth best FS in this class. He ran a 4.63, but had a 31 1/2” vertical jump. Blanding is Virginia’s all-time leading tackler and possesses a high football IQ. He may not be the fastest defensive back in the draft, but he possesses tools to grow into a quality safety in the league.
Draft projection: 3rd/4th-round
Kyzir White, West Virginia (SS/OLB)
One of my favorite safety prospects in this class is West Virginia defensive back Kyzir White. The brother of the seventh overall selection of the 2015 NFL Draft and current Bears receiver Kevin White, the younger White grew into a big time collegiate safety during his career in Morgantown.
White, 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds, possesses great length and a good-sized frame for a defensive back in the NFL. The former WVU star began his career on the JUCO level, but quickly emerged as one of the Moutaineers better players as soon as he stepped foot onto campus for his junior season in 2016. White recorded 152 tackles (113 solo), 14.5 TFLs, four sacks, three interceptions (all in 2017), and an impressive four forced fumbles during his two seasons on the division-one level.
Brugler’s third best strong safety did 21 reps of 225 pounds and jumped a 35 1/2” vertical. White has the frame to play OLB in the league, but also has the insticts to be a solid player in the secondary, especially in a zone-defensive scheme.
Kyzir White will thrive in a zone coverage scheme. He is a very physical player and has an NFL ready body with a linebacker’s mentality. In coverage his uses more of a shuffle concept instead of a backpedal.— NFL Draft and 49ers (@JL_Chapman) March 4, 2018
Player comparison- Deone Buchannon
Draft position- Anywhere day 2#NFL pic.twitter.com/LKaTay5TVt
Draft projection: 2nd/3rd-round
Troy Apke (SS)
There aren’t many people in this draft that saw their stock increase higher than Apke. The Penn State safety was one of the big winners of the 2018 NFL Combine, as he surprised many — including Deion Sanders — with his speed and athleticism.
If you blink, you might miss Troy Apke’s 4.35-second 40-yard dash that made Deion Sanders the happiest person on earth. pic.twitter.com/d8VwjPxqAu— Roar Lions Roar (@RLRblog) March 5, 2018
Apke clocked in an impressive 4.35 40 to go along with a 41” vertical and 16 bench reps. The former three-star safety signed on at Penn State as a wide receiver, but made the move to safety for his his junior season before finally moving there permanently in 2017.
I was pleasantly surprised how much I liked Troy Apke's tape. He doesn't play like a 4.35 athlete, but he has draftable tape. Signed with Penn State as a WR, finally got his chance at safety as a senior.— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) March 5, 2018
Apke also had a respectable senior season at the safety position to go along with his combine performance. Apke recorded 54 total tackles (37 solo), three TFLs. one interception, and four passes defended. Not too bad. He was also an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection in 2017.
Troy Apke has speed, athleticism, and can play against the run. He is still growing and learning at the position, possibly giving him a higher ceiling than usual as well. The PSU defensive back also has experince on special teams, something that can’t hurt in the eyes of the Cowboys’ staff. Can he be a late pick for America’s Team?