There has been plenty of talk around Cowboys Nation over the last year over about what the Cowboys are going to do at the safety position. There’s a few different directions the Cowboys can go thanks to the versatility of Xavier Woods. Woods is able to play both free and strong in the Cowboys scheme, so that gives them a wide variety of options on what players they can target in free agency or the draft.
There has been plenty of talk about Earl Thomas, Landon Collins, Eric Weddle, and Adrian Amos over the last few weeks as free agency approaches. But we must remember this front office does not like paying older players that they are unfamiliar with in their scheme, or that will cost them an arm and a leg in free agency. That could dampen their pursuit of Earl Thomas, Landon Collins, and Adrian Amos, unless their markets are far below what the players and their agents are expecting them to be. Which leads us to the NFL draft. Where the Cowboys could add a talented, young, and cheap safety with the 58th overall pick. Let’s take a look at three of the best options that could be available when the Cowboys are on the clock in the second round.
Darnell Savage - Maryland - 5’11” 198-lbs
If there’s one thing the Cowboys like in their defensive backs, it’s versatility. Darnell Savage Jr. is one of the more versatile safeties in the 2019 NFL draft, but that’s not the only thing Savage brings to the table. Along with his tremendous versatility to play either free, in the slot, or in the box, Darnell Savage also has one of the highest ceilings in this draft class due to his athletic ability and instincts.
Savage was a big winner of the combine after posting a 4.36 40-time, 39.5” vertical jump, 126.0” broad jump, and 7.03 three-cone drill. All of these numbers match the tape, as Savage consistently showed the ability to cover with range, change directions, and play the run. With his athletic ability, Savage is also a very consistent tackler using good technique to wrap up, but also has the ability to be an enforcer across the middle of the field as well. Savage’s ball production increased each year at the University of Maryland, recording zero interceptions in 2015, one interception in 2016, three interceptions in 2017, and four interceptions in 2018.
In Darnell Savage Jr., the Cowboys would be getting a guy that could play in a role similar to what Xavier Woods plays now, but with much more upside and athletic ability. Having two safeties that can be interchangeable, while also playing at a high level would be a huge upgrade for the Dallas secondary.
.@TerpsFootball @darnellsavage_ is a true “cover safety” with elite speed. Besides great measureables, Savage started 36 straight ; never shys from contact, looks like he has real passion for the game. Played some of his best games v big programs. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/cJT2KA1ivt— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) March 8, 2019
Deionte Thompson - Alabama - 6’2” 194-lbs
In Deionte Thompson, we have a guy that plays with a similar skill set to Earl Thomas. Now I’m sure you’re wondering why a player with a Earl Thomas like skill set would be available at the end of the second round? Well, unfortunately for Thompson the last few months of his football career hasn’t been the greatest. Thompson had his struggles at the end of the season for Alabama, and then he had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his wrist that held him out of the combine, and likely will hold him out of his pro day. Could the injury mixed with the lapses in play at the end of the season allow him to fall into Dallas’ lap?
While we touched on the negatives, there are plenty of positives with Deionte Thompson. Actually, far more positives than negatives. Thompson plays with tremendous range from the single-high position. Along with his range, Thompson plays with athletic ability and instincts which allow him to make plenty of plays on the ball in coverage. He showcased good pursuit and angles at Alabama to make plays against the run both sideline-to-sideline and coming downhill.
Statistically, Thompson didn’t have the turnover rate you’d like to see from a player with his range, athletic ability, and instincts, but he was very productive in college and was rarely tested in his four years at Alabama. With his athletic ability, range, centerfield ability, and the ability to play the run, Deionte Thompson would be an ideal option for the Cowboys at free safety. Will he make it to them at 58th overall is the only question.
It’s pretty simple: Don’t throw deep on Deionte Thompson pic.twitter.com/DNqCdX3BfX— The Draft Network (@DraftNetworkLLC) September 15, 2018
Johnathan Abram - Mississippi State - 5’11” 205-lbs
We talked about the versatile guy, we talked about the free safety ball hawk, now let’s talk about the hard-nosed box safety in Mississippi State Johnathan Abram. When evaluating Johnathan Abram you come away very excited. Abram is a dude who makes his presence felt in the box at and around the line of scrimmage, but when it comes to his deep coverage/ball skills they are practically nonexistent. But again, that’s not what you’re drafting him for.
It would be hard to find a safety who enforces the middle of the field at the level that Abram did at Mississippi State. Abram showcased adequate range, making plays sideline-to-sideline, but showed his best work when working downhill against the run. He brings an insane amount of energy to the playing field, a nasty attitude to a defense with his big hit ability, and competitive toughness. While asking Abram to play as a deep safety would be a huge mistake, he did show some ability to cover tight ends and running backs out of the backfield. Abram improved each year cleaning up his technique as a tackler, which is one reason he is being considered as an early day two option at strong safety.
If the Cowboys did draft Johnathan Abram at 58th overall, they would be committing to Xavier Woods as their free safety, but would now have a true strong safety to stop Jared Goff from picking up 10 yards on 3rd and 7 in the NFC Divisional Round game...
Rewatching the Egg Bowl, looking for Montez Sweat lined up against Greg Little... and that #38 (Jonathan Abram) keeps jumping off the screen pic.twitter.com/wIymF8MW46— Matt Wyatt (@RadioWyatt) March 6, 2019
Next week we’ll take a look at three cornerbacks the Cowboys could target with the 58th overall pick. Be sure to check back in as we go through these position groups for the Cowboys to target with the 58th overall pick in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft.