In one of the most unlikely turn of events, the Dallas Cowboys didn’t draft a safety with their second-round pick. We totally expected them to. With official visits of college safeties lined up at the door, it looked like a forgone conclusion that a safety was on the way. Johnathan Abram, Taylor Rapp, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, and Juan Thornhill were all projected late-first/second round type players. The chances one of them making it seemed high, and when the Cowboys were finally on the clock - a grand total of three of them were available. Hooray, safety at last! Right?
Nope, gotcher nose.
The Cowboys got our nose. It may have appeared like they worked some slight of hand to pull one over on us, but the gist of it is - they valued another player more. And that player is defensive tackle Trysten Hill.
Last year, the Cowboys had eight different wide receivers in for official pre-draft visits, the most of any other position. They also had eight additional receivers in for private workouts. The top dogs: Calvin Ridley, D.J. Moore, Courtland Sutton, and Christian Kirk - all met with the Cowboys on some level. While the team had a big need and took a serious look at the position, there was no way they were passing up on Leighton Vander Esch if he was available. And he was.
A similar plan was likely in place for safety this year, but the Cowboys weren’t going to pass up on a player like Trysten Hill. The term “best available” is thrown around a lot, but the word “best” is so subjective, it’s hard to say with any certainty if the team stayed true to that approach or not. Some suggest Hill was a “need” pick, but I’d profess that safety is a bigger need. Hill fits the “best” description perfectly if you have a defensive coordinator that puts a premium value on quick-burst under tackles that can rush the passer. Hill may have not been the best available of many, but he very well could be the best available for the Cowboys.
What’s done is done, but that won’t stop people from following the career of Juan Thornhill since he was the alternative choice at pick 58. Thornhill was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs so we’ll have to wait a while to see him play the Cowboys, however that is not the case with many of the top safeties from this draft class. Of the six safeties the team brought in for official 30 visits, half of them were drafted by teams the Cowboys will play against this year. Another of the top ones were also taken by an upcoming opponent, meaning we’ll get to see four of them in action this year.
Darnell Savage, Round 1 (21st overall) - drafted by the Green Bay Packers
The Packers have hit the reset button at the safety position after once fielding both Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Micah Hyde (both have been Pro Bowlers). This offseason, they’ve upgraded by not only taking the top safety selected in the draft in Savage, but also signing on of the top free agent safeties in Adrian Amos. Savage was gone before the Cowboys were on the clock, but they’ll still have to see him this season.
The Cowboys will play the Packers in Week 5.
Taylor Rapp, Round 2 (61st overall) - drafted by the Los Angeles Rams
After losing Lamarcus Joyner in free agency to the Oakland Raiders, the Rams added the Washington Huskies strong safety late in the second round. Rapp will join recently signed safety Eric Weddle in the Rams secondary. Rapp slid in the draft because of poor workout numbers, including a 4.7 forty-time. It will now be the Rams and not the Cowboys who have taken a chance on him and only time will tell if that pays off.
The Cowboys will play the Rams in Week 15.
Will Harris, Round 3 (81st overall) - drafted by the Detroit Lions
The Lions got one of my favorite value picks of the draft in cornerback Amani Oruwariye, who was snagged in the fifth round. The team also selected Boston College’s Will Harris in the third round. Initially, many of us thought Harris would’ve been the Cowboys pick if he slid to 90, but after hearing about how high of a grade they had on Connor McGovern, Harris to Dallas in the third round was never going to happen.
The Cowboys will play the Lions in Week 11.
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Round 4 (105th overall) - drafted by the New Orleans Saints
The Saints had hardly any draft picks this year thanks to trades for Marcus Davenport, Teddy Bridgewater, and Eli Apple. But they did a good job making what few picks they had count, including the top safety on my board in Florida’s Gardner-Johnson. It’s unclear what the deal is, but teams passed on CGJ as if he was Bo Callahan, allowing the unlikable safety to fall all out of the top 100. Based on talent alone, Gardner-Johnson looks like an absolute steal, but we’ll have to see if those red flags materialize into something unfavorable.
The Cowboys will play the Saints in Week 4 on Sunday Night.
Do regret passing up on a safety? If so, which one do you wish the Cowboy wouldn’t went after?