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3 mid-to-late-round defensive tackle and safety draft prospects for the Cowboys

You don’t always have to draft positions of need in the early rounds to find quality players.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 14 North Texas at Cal Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We know that the Dallas Cowboys will have quite a few needs on both sides of the ball, whether it be for depth or starters, thanks to departures in free agency and just lack of talent. That doesn’t mean that they will need to get ahead of themselves and draft players based purely on need. They’ll still have a chance to draft quality players without reaching and that goes especially for the defensive tackle and safety positions.

Both positions have been neglected over the years by Cowboys management. Now is a good time to take a look at some prospects at those positions that could possibly be had in the later rounds.

All stats from ProFootballReference.com.

Round projections from Walterfootball.com

Defensive Tackles

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 30 Orange Bowl - Florida v Virginia Photo by Douglas Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tedarrell Slaton - Florida

Height 6’ 5”, Weight 340 lbs

Career stats: 99 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 19 quarterback pressures, 1 interception

The Florida Gator took over at defensive tackle this season and he didn't disappoint. This mountain of a man was able to anchor the Gators defensive front but also gave them a disruptive pass rush presence thanks to his suddenness off the line of scrimmage. Slaton, while quick off the line. was mainly used as a two-down defensive tackle whose primary function was to slow down the opposing teams running game. He’s very strong at the point of attack which made it difficult for the offensive lineman to move him even with double teams.

Adding Slaton to this defensive line would give this team some much-needed size along the defensive line to help stop the run and make things easier for the linebackers too.

Round Projection: Third to Fifth Round

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 27 Pinstripe Bowl - Michigan State v Wake Forest Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Naquan Jones - Michigan State

Height: 6’ 4”, Weight: 340 lbs

Career stats: 77 total tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery

If you’re looking for a truly under-the-radar prospect, then look no further than the massive, yet elusive, Naquan Jones. Another large defensive tackle that was able to cause problems for opposing offenses but a player that only started in five games during his time at Michigan State. He has a great punch when attacking offensive linemen and is pretty deceptive when you look at his size and ability to get burst off the line of scrimmage. Thanks to that burst he has the ability to stay on the field during passing downs.

Given his ability to anchor the middle of a defense and his still growing pass rush abilities, Jones is a player who right now is projected to go lower but could rise if he shows well at his pro day.

Round Projection: Fourth to Sixth Round

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 27 Rice at North Texas Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Dion Novil - North Texas

Height: 6’ 2”, Weight: 330 lbs

Career stats: 135 total tackles, 28 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles

If the Cowboys decide to hold off on finding a big body in the earlier rounds then they can wait and hopefully land the homegrown talent Dion Novil. From Abilene, TX, he was a 2020 First Team All-Conference USA Selection thanks to his motor and size. He may not give you much of a pass rush like Slaton and Jones might, but the one thing that Novil has mastered is stopping the run. In week 12, ProFootballFocus graded him at 99.9 against the run, the only player to get a perfect grade this season, very impressive.

If the Cowboys are truly intent on shoring up their run defense, which in turn will help them in the passing game, then maybe Novil can be that guy for them.

Round Projection: Seventh Round or Undrafted Free Agent

Safeties

San Diego State v Boise State Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images

Tariq Thompson - San Diego State

Height: 6’ 0”, Weight: 210 lbs

Career stats: 210 total tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 11 interceptions, 5 forced fumbles, 5 recoveries

The Aztecs have been known for producing talented safeties with the most recent being Damontae Kazee of the Atlanta Falcons in 2017. Thompson has a similar skill set to Kazee and that could be attractive to Dan Quinn who drafted Kazee when he was the head coach of the Falcons. During his time at San Diego State, Thompson was manning the middle of the field as a free safety and did a pretty good job of keeping pass catchers in front of him and not giving up the big plays.

The Cowboys need to find a safety that can man the middle of that secondary, get players into position, make plays on the football, and keep everything in front of them and Thompson could be a late-round steal if they decide to wait and take one later.

Round projection: Fifth or Sixth Round

Texas Tech v Oklahoma State Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Kolby Harvell-Peel - Oklahoma State

Height: 6’ 0”, Weight: 210 lbs

Career stats: 115 total tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 7 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, 2 recoveries

If the Cowboys decide they are looking for a utility knife safety then Harvell-Pell could be the guy. He has the ability to man the middle of the field but he also isn’t afraid to come down into the box against the run or to rush the passer. He was able to get his teammates in the right positions pre-snap and has very good read and react instincts. Now the only real knock on him is that he lacks the hip fluidity that coaches like in their safeties. If he can work on that and loosen his hips then he could rise in the draft.

He would be able to come in and start on special teams and work his way onto the field for the Cowboys.

Round Projection: Third or Fourth Round

Florida v Vanderbilt Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Shawn Davis - Florida

Height: 6’ 0”, Weight: 206 lbs

Career stats: 123 total tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 5 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 1 recovery

If you’re looking for a player with all the skills in the world but in need of someone to harness them and get him to look at the bigger picture, then Davis is a player to look at. He has the skill set to be a single-high safety in college and in the NFL but for all of his talent, he would rather go for the big play than the smart play. He’s got the quick-twitch that coaches look for and covet in safeties and is a sure tackler.

If the coaching staff thinks that they can get him to focus on the field and make the smart play, then he could be a player that they take a chance on later in the draft.

Round Projection: Third or Fourth Round