As we wind down the final days before the 2018 NFL Draft, we’ve been weighing the pros and cons of prospects at each position of need for the Cowboys. With some mixing of our scouting reports compared to those of respected draftniks’ Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, and Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com, we’ve learned quite a bit. We’ve already completed these works for receivers, linebackers, offensive linemen, and defensive tackles.
That brings us to the safety position. Whether it’s finding a starter or just some quality depth behind Xavier Woods, Jeff Heath, and Kavon Frazier, we’ve got you covered here in this post. Let’s first look at a chart comprised of the usual suspects in this draft:
|Name||School||Tackles||TFL's||Sacks||Ints||PDs||Fumbles||40 time||Pos. Ranking||Proj. Round||Pro Comp.|
|Derwin James (6'2, 215 lbs)||Florida State||186||15||5.5||3||15||2||4.47||1||1 (Top-10)||Eric Berry|
|Minkah Fitzpatrick (6'0, 204 lbs)||Alabama||171||16||4.5||9||35||2||4.46||2||1 (Top-10)||Antrell Rolle|
|Ronnie Harrison (6'2, 207 lbs)||Alabama||177||7||3.5||7||24||1||4.63||3||1-2||Adrian Wilson|
|Justin Reid (6'0, 207 lbs)||Stanford||179||10.5||1||6||20||0||4.4||4||1-2||Michael Griffin|
|Rashaan Gaulden (6'1, 197 lbs)||Tennessee||140||9.5||0||1||10||4||4.61||5||2||Morgan Burnett|
|Jessie Bates III (6'1, 200 lbs)||Wake Forest||172||9||0||6||9||2||4.5||6||2-3||Justin Evans|
|Tarvarius Moore (6'2, 190 lbs)||Southern Miss||104||3||0||5||12||1||4.32||7||3||Michael Huff|
|Marcus Allen (6'2, 215 lbs)||Penn State||321||17||3||1||10||5||4.63||8||3||Clayton Geathers|
|Terrell Edmunds (6'0, 217 lbs)||Virginia Tech||196||8.5||1.5||6||14||1||4.47||9||3-4||Delano Hill|
|Kyzir White (6'2, 218 lbs)||West Virginia||152||14.5||4||3||9||4||4.69||10||3-4||Michael Boley|
|Tracy Walker (6'1, 206 lbs)||Louisiana-Lafayette||269||11||0.5||8||19||2||4.51||11||5||J.J. Wilcox|
|DeShon Elliott (6'1, 210 lbs)||Texas||105||11.5||2.5||9||13||3||4.58||12||5||Darian Thompson|
|Joshua Kalu (6'0, 203 lbs)||Nebraska||215||9||2||7||27||3||4.58||--||7-FA||N/A|
|Nick Orr (5'11, 179 lbs)||TCU||205||7||1||9||20||2||4.58||--||7-FA||N/A|
|Jason Hall (6'2, 219 lbs)||Texas||162||7||5||3||10||2||4.61||--||FA||N/A|
Derwin James, FSU
|Alpha-type personality, leader||Needs to anticipate better|
|Reliable tackler, amazing athlete||Focuses on receiver, needs to watch QB|
|Can be used like a weapon, rangy||Limited experience (26 games)|
|Great pursuit speed||Cautious in run defense at times, needs to hit|
|Film junkie, solid in run & pass coverages||Slow reactions, step late sometimes|
Cowboys fit: He’s not likely to be an option unless Dallas wants to trade up into the Top 10. However, it’s widely known that he’s the next awesome Seminoles defensive back to come out of DBU. James is a better athlete than he is a football player but he certainly plays with passion and love for the game. He’s one of the most versatile players in this draft and can find a role in any defense in the league. Whoever is able to draft Derwin James will be able to use him as a certified weapon, which will be bad news for the opponent.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
|Extremely competitive/ loves the game||Allows too much separation on occasion|
|Nice chess piece with experience everywhere||A little tight in the hips|
|Hits top speed quickly, very rangy||Comes in too hot, takes himself out of play|
|Great awareness in zone or press||More quick than explosive|
|Production, 9 picks, 4 for TDs, playmaker||Needs more patience, dial it back|
Cowboys fit: The first of two awesome defensive backs on this list from the Crimson Tide, Fitzpatrick is another incredibly talented and versatile player. He can play either safety spots admirably but also has corner and slot experience. Fitzpatrick is a slam-dunk Top 10 selection that may fall a little due to the trade ups for quarterbacks. If he falls past 10, the Cowboys should think about giving Kris Richard the best gift ever. Fitzpatrick was super opportunistic and productive in his collegiate career.
Ronnie Harrison, Alabama
|Outstanding combo of size/speed||Too ansy, overreacts willingly|
|Experience/comfort at playing high/low||Allows backs to beat him back inside at times|
|Reads QB's eyes well, reactionary speed great||Leads with shoulder way too much|
|Rangy player, punishing tackler, blitzer||Complex routes give him trouble|
|Great route anticipation & easy transitions||Needs to wrap up more on tackles|
Cowboys fit: Harrison is more of your strong safety type that is best played near the line of scrimmage. He’s extremely physical but also has the speed and size you look for in the guy you want bringing the wood. Harrison could fill the Cowboys starting strong safety position from day one as he’s a punishing tackler against the run with good vision to keep a watchful eye on the quarterback. He’s not a sure first-round selection but he’s certainly deserving of consideration.
Justin Reid, Stanford
|Great versatility, high football IQ||Backpedal is a little rigid and slow|
|Rarely out of position, can cover TE's & slots||Gets behind on crossing routes|
|Single-high master, impressive ball skills||Gambles a lot, can be baited & beat by quicker WRs|
|Has NFL-caliber recognition, very speedy||Needs to trust technique, can be a little grabby|
|Physical at all catch points, reliable wrap-up tackler||Downhill angles need improvement|
Cowboys fit: If Dallas is looking for a single-high safety but don’t want to go up for one in the first round, Reid is a more than serviceable consolation prize. He’s ready-made to play centerfield for a team in need. He’s got some technique things to iron out plus he sometimes has a reputation of a gambler. However, Reid has a ton of upside and is still learning how to master the position. The Cowboys will like that Reid rarely finds himself truly exposed because his football acumen is very good.
Rashaan Gaulden, Tennessee
|Finely tuned athlete, great top-end speed||A little leaner than desired|
|Very decisive reactor, loves contact, physical||Arrives hot and overruns the ball carrier|
|Good blitzer, more juice in his game, strong||Unbalanced jamming/ needs refinement in technique|
|Dependable tackler, great lower body burst||Underwhelming production with only one INT|
|Versatile player, QBs have to plan for him||Immature discipline, needs to control emotions|
Cowboys fit: Gaulden is a pet cat of the Mothership’s Draft Show hosts Dane Brugler and Bryan Broaddus. He’s certainly got the range and top end speed to be your last line of defense. He’s another very versatile defensive back that reacts quickly and makes decisions. He’s not afraid of contact and will take guys on plus he’s also a very dependable tackler. There are questions about his production as tackles aren’t his issue but he has 20 passes defensed in college with only one interception.
Jessie Bates III, Wake Forest
|Fluid mover, loose hips, sudden feet||Only two years experience|
|Great in coverage transitions/recognition||Needs to add some muscle/ could left vulnerable|
|Processes well at speed of QB, good instincts||Must improve discipline when playing single-high|
|Volume tackler, will take ball away and house it||Overpursues and allows cutback lanes|
|No stalled movements, finisher, instant trigger||Doesn't have a second gear in closing speed|
Cowboys fit: Bates is definitely a fit in single high duties. He’s got great instincts and can see plays developing to know where to be. He’s a finisher in the tackling department with little wasted movement. Bates plays very loose and quick in coverage, seems like a natural cover guy. There are some questions about him needing a little bit more muscle for the punishment of the NFL. He also has just two years of experience and can take a few wonky angles. For the Cowboys, Bates could man the job but it depends on how much they like Xavier Woods.
Tarvarius Moore, Southern Miss
|Genetically/athletically superior, explosive athlete||One season as full-time starter in FBS|
|Great length (33 in. arms), 4.32 speed verified||Hands are average despite ball skills|
|Can cover man, zone, slot/ smooth backpedal||Needs to high point the ball, tendency to sit & wait|
|Speed & ball skills show up on tape||Could use more muscle mass|
|Reliable tackler, physical/ willing hitter||Ducks head too often when tackling|
Cowboys fit: He’s becoming the favorite safety option of this community after he caught fire late in the process. Blazing is the correct word for Moore, he clocked in at 4.32 not just once but twice at his pro day. Though many missed on him early, he sent folks back to the tape where shockingly his performance there matched up with his athletic profile. He’s got that position flex too being comfortable in all types of coverage duties. He’s a little lean and inexperienced but he’s an explosive playmaker. It doesn’t hurt that he also has the physicality for the job and showed to be quite the reliable tackler.
Marcus Allen, Penn State
|Forceful striker with NFL-ready aggression||Instincts are average, needs work on anticipation|
|Triggers downhill and commits to stopping run||Must improve footwork and burst to challenge throws|
|Controlled athlete with good mirror skills||Only one interception and 10 PD's|
|Improved route reading with DaeSean Hamilton||Takes false steps in coverage, runs past the tackle|
|Can match up with TE's, Team Captain, leader||Change of direction is limited, lacks fluidity|
Cowboys fit: Not too many folks are that high on Allen, myself included. He’s an aggressive player and forceful tackler that could fit as a box safety. To his credit, he was aware of many of his flaws, even working route concepts with teammate and route-running extraordinaire, DaeSean Hamilton. The improvement certainly showed this season and he does match up well with tight ends (a position Dallas has struggled to cover lately). Still, he doesn’t make many plays on the ball and has so much technical mechanics to work on that suggest he’s not ready just yet to compete for a starting spot.
Terrell Edmunds, Virginia Tech
|Impressive size/speed combo, quick-twitch athlete||Tendency to take worst of collisions|
|Former CB, quick change of direction, sudden burst||Inconsistent angles at times|
|Can carry TE's, multiple types of athletes||Lacks instincts for deep coverage duties|
|Reliable hands for INTs, plays with energy, smart||Bites on fakes, becomes too aggressive|
|Looks for tackles and makes them||Fails to find the ball when his back is turned|
Cowboys fit: Now, here’s someone the Cowboys brought in for a 30 visit that could be a solid fit at strong safety. Edmunds was a lead dog in the Hokie defense and his combination of size, speed, and physicality are great fits for a Richard coached secondary. The Cowboys don’t have a clear-cut leader in the role that Barry Church once filled. Edmunds can set that tone on game days, he looks to make statements to the opponent.
He’s also got more agility and fluidity than Church played with. He can carry multiple receiver types with no stiffness from this former cornerback. He desperately needs to protect himself better as he’s an overload in the aggression department and plays a bruising style. Something tells me that Richard could see a little Kam Chancellor in Edmunds and will like that profile on this defense.
Kyzir White, West Virginia
|Looks the part of an NFL safety, very physical||Average play speed, better for downhill role|
|Comes from lineage of athletes/ true leader||Needs strength in hands, only average athleticism|
|Quick to diagnose, plays every down with intensity||Inconsistent open-field tackler|
|Vigorous run defender, forceful hitter||Lacks fluidity and explosiveness|
|Will make plays on the ball when targeted||Can be sluggish, limited in man coverage|
Cowboys fit: White is a hard guy to figure out because he’s so quick to diagnose the play and plays with unmatched intensity. White is also a really good run defender and makes the most of opportunities that come his way. All of those things make you like him but in the Cowboys defense, he doesn’t have the desirable athleticism or explosiveness to be that guy consistently. He can lay the hit down on somebody but he doesn’t tackle consistently enough with play speed also being a huge concern.
Tracy Walker, Louisiana-Lafayette
|Good length and great range||Missing instincts to stay ahead at next level|
|Opportunistic playmaker, eight career picks||Build up speed a tick slower than desired|
|Great leaping ability to challenge catches||Hips are tight, lacks agility making recovery hard|
|Forceful hitter, loves to send a message||Needs additional strength added|
|Good feel for run defense, leverage, patient||Tendency to hit and slide, needs to wrap up|
Cowboys fit: Another late-riser that the Cowboys took some time with to see what he’s about. These coaches will love his length and range as it’s a prerequisite for the new secondary coach. Walker has a good feel for the game and likes to send messages to the opponent much like Edmunds does. Walker was very productive too having 19 passes defensed and eight interceptions. Though he likes to put a licking on somebody, he has to work on finishing the tackle. He also lacks the ideal instincts and play speed for a position in the Cowboys secondary. Safety prospects that have problems wrapping up tend to break your heart.
DeShon Elliott, Texas
|NFL-readymade frame for the position||Experience is lacking, tight in the hips|
|High football IQ, is QB of the secondary||Needs better knee bend, duck-footed|
|Quality trigger on hitch throws or running plays||Change of direction takes work, too passive|
|Finisher as tackler, welcomes contact||Interceptions came off easy pop ups, fell into lap|
|8.5 TFLs in 2017, 9 picks in only 26 games played||Struggles with pace in route breaks of man coverage|
Cowboys fit: Another hard to decipher prospect because he was super productive but most of those came off easy pop ups and just floated to him. Nobody is going to turn their nose up at a guy with 8.5 tackles for loss last season at safety or his nine picks in only 26 career games. Elliott just has so much work to do because he lacks the experience as a starter. To his credit, he’s raved about as easily coachable and most certainly has the upside to become a full-time starter in this league. Dallas would have to find a role for him to play while they develop him into the player he can become.