What will the Cowboys decide to do regarding Byron Jones in free agency? What about Anthony Brown? For a defense that struggled much of the 2019 season, upgrading in the secondary is a must for Dallas.
Upgrading the talent will be difficult if Dallas decides to let Jones walk, but there is no shortage of talented corners in this year’s draft class. DFW native Jeffrey Okudah is likely to be a top-5 pick, but there is a possibility that we could four or more corners hear their name called during the first night of the draft. Florida’s C.J. Henderson, LSU’s Kristian Fulton, and TCU’s Jeff Gladney are three other corners mocked in several first-rounds.
What if the Cowboys decide to pass on corner at pick 17? Defensive tackle, safety, and even wide receiver are possibilities. Maybe Dallas will want to add an EDGE rusher like K’Lavon Chaisson or A.J. Espinoza with Robert Quinn set to test the market. Not to fear, it appears to be a deep class at the corner position.
Cameron Dantzler, Mississippi State
One corner that is seeing his stock rapidly rise recently is Mississippi State corner Cam Danztler. Dantzler, a player that transitioned from wide receiver to defensive back upon arriving in Starkville, is a lengthy defensive back that is battle tested against some of the best talent at the wide receiver position across college football.
Dantzler benefited from playing behind arguably the best front-seven in college football during the 2018 season — a defense that included draft picks Jeffery Simmons, Montez Sweat, and Gerri Green in the trenches with Johnathan Abram roaming the secondary — but he held his own without that talent in 2019. The Louisiana native went up against some of the best receiver corps across the nation during his career at Mississippi State, but especially in 2019.
Alabama is expected to have two first-round selections at the wide receiver position in 2020 (Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs), while LSU featured the Bilentikoff winner, Ja’Marr Chase, and a likely top-50 pick in Justin Jefferson. Check out how Dantzler fared:
One of the biggest risers on my next 2020 rankings update will be Mississippi State CB Cam Dantzler. Length is a nightmare for WRs at the LOS and catch point. Very fluid as well with good mirror and match skills.— Jonah Tuls (@JonahTulsNFL) January 11, 2020
Followed Ja'Marr Chase the entire LSU game and was all over him. pic.twitter.com/5InfNV09lg
Cam Dantzler allowed a combined 3 catches vs Alabama & LSU. You can’t teach size (6’2). And I’ll bet on any corner coached by the great Terrell Buckley. pic.twitter.com/KcJRrthU1q— Maliik (@Obee1ne) January 30, 2020
Dantzler also picked off a Joe Burrow pass in the team’s 2018 contest in Baton Rouge. The Mississippi State corner battled injuries throughout the 2019 season, but was healthy for his two biggest challenges. He rose to the challenge in each of them.
Because of his rise, Dantzler is lot less likely to be there by the time that the Cowboys come on the clock at 51. Still though, a deep corner position may push him and others down the board for some teams.
The combine, specifically the 40, will be big for Dantzler. He has the length and the coverage ability to be a stud on the next level. How will he run in Indy?
Damon Arnette, Ohio State
Another corner that is rising up boards now that more and more people have gotten to his film is Damon Arnette. The Florida native arrived in Columbus as a three-star recruit and red-shirted his first season on campus. Over the next four seasons as a Buckeye, Arnette became a staple in the secondary alongside other very talented defensive backs.
For his career, Arnette totaled 140 total tackles, four tackles-for-loss, and five interceptions — including one that he returned for a touchdown this past season. He earned second team All-Big Ten honors after his 2019 campaign in which he made 35 stops and the aforementioned pick-six.
Ohio State star Jeffrey Okudah gets the hype from that secondary — and rightfully so, as Okudah is nearly a lock to be a top-five pick in the draft — but Arnette flashed big time as well. The 6-foot, 190-pound corner showed physicality and toughness when going up against bigger, talented wideouts. That was on display in his matchup against Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals.
Damon Arnette was at his best playing press-man when matching up with Clemson’s big WRs. He’s so damn physical. pic.twitter.com/5ni9OerGBR— Rob Paul (@RobPaulNFL) February 15, 2020
The Draft Network’s Jonah Tuls wrote on Arnette during the college football season. Tuls had his concerns about Arnette before the Ohio State defensive back returned for his final season of eligibility, but those concerns lessened as the season progressed.
Arnette has also become more efficient in zone coverage this year, playing smarter and more calculated, as opposed to often getting fooled by action in the backfield. I’ve seen a lot of analysts knock Arnette’s lack of athletic ability, but as you can see on plays like this, his click-and-close speed is second to none. He’s always had twitch and elite change of direction skills, but again, I think people are starting to just now realize that because his inconsistent technique in previous years masked his athletic gifts. It’s the old concept of play speed versus timed speed, and at long last, Arnette is starting to play as fast as he will run at the Combine next spring.
Arnette’s decision to return to Columbus has improved his stock dramatically. Okudah will be a top selection, but the “other” Buckeye defensive back will be a second-round pick in his own right.
Noah Igbinoghene, Auburn
Dantzler, Fulton, and Trevon Diggs are some of the elite corners out of the SEC in this year’s draft class, but Auburn’s Noah Igbinoghene is rising up boards as well. The former four-star receiver-turned-cornerback has used his track speed and 5-foot-11, 200-pound size to see his stock rise to a potential top-50 selection in this year’s draft.
Tuls also wrote an article that featured Igbinoghene, saying that he has a lot of “untapped potential”.
There is so much untapped potential with Igbinoghene ... Once he gets more confidence in his technique and footwork, he will start to be more aggressive. Igbinoghene already has the physical traits you look for in a starting corner — it’s just a matter of time before he puts it all together.
It is easy to see the raw traits that the Auburn corner possesses. He has a track background, played on the offensive side of the ball during his prep and early Auburn career, and contributes on special teams. While he doesn’t possess gaudy stats, Igbinoghene has the frame and the athletic profile to succeed on the next level.
I have zero idea why Igbinoghene isn’t getting talked about like a top five CB. pic.twitter.com/8hsZDZTFTN— Connor Livesay (@ConnorNFLDraft) January 28, 2020
ESPN’s Mel Kiper went ahead and put the Auburn defensive back in the first-round of his latest mock draft. That might seem high, but Kiper referenced the corner’s speed as one reason why he has the Alabama native as a first-rounder.
“The improvement that he showed, the tackling ability got better,” Kiper said. “I think his overall awareness in coverage improved to the point where he’s one of the faster corners in this draft, if not the fastest. I mean, he’s a first-round pick.”
Talk about speed.
The Cowboys need talent in the secondary — especially if Jones and/or Brown leaves town in free agency. Perhaps banking on a raw player with a lot of upside would pay off in a big way for Dallas, should they go that route in the second-round (and if Igbinohene’s is still on the board at that point after what should be an impressive combine performance),
There is no shortage of talent at cornerback in the 2020 draft, especially in the first two or three rounds. Which of these three defensive backs intrigue you the most?