The Dallas Cowboys, despite getting mixed reviews for the draft, are also seeing a few rookies being singled out for accolades. Linebacker Micah Parsons has been named as a top candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Shortly after the draft, there were analysts calling linebacker Jabril Cox, drafted in the fourth round by the Cowboys, as “the steal of the draft.”
So it probably comes as no surprise that on a list of surprise rookies, you’ll find the name of Cox. Bleacher Report defined the surprise rookies this way:
The biggest surprise rookies in 2021 have a clear shot at playing time and will get a chance to make an impact. Some don’t have as obvious of a path to snaps, but the athletic profile and pro projection hint at big contributors that should lead to even more chances.
To keep it fair, we’ll stick to rookies drafted in the third round and beyond that don’t have a ton of hype to their name—yet. These are the surprise impact rookies to know this year.
Cox certainly fits that definition. The Cowboys have three top linebackers with the addition of Parsons, so Cox will have to find a way to get his reps. He’ll even be competing with safety-turned-linebacker Keanu Neal, who will probably serve a similar role as that of Cox, and that is coverage specialist.
So nothing will be handed to Cox, he will have to earn it. But his path to reps wouldn’t be so surprising if he was taken where he was supposed to in the draft. Many had him ranked in the second round, including Pro Football Focus. The fact that he slid to Dallas in the fourth round was the first surprise surrounding Cox. Now, he hopes to surprise the 31 other teams with his skills.
The Dallas Cowboys needed all the help they could get to rebuild the historically inept defense from a year ago, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see they doubled up on linebackers over the draft’s first four rounds.
Jabril Cox was the second of those out of LSU in the fourth round, falling far behind the hype levels of Micah Parsons at 12th overall.
But Cox should be out there pretty quickly, too. Making a name for himself in the SEC last year with 58 total tackles, one sack, five passes defended and three interceptions isn’t anything to turn up the nose at. It’s his skill in coverage that even had Cox ranked as the 46th overall prospect on Pro Football Focus’ big board.
That the Cowboys got Cox at No. 115 isn’t just a steal—it speaks to the confidence they have in his abilities to see him through the logjam of names at linebacker, including Keanu Neal. Those coverage skills will have him on the field and making plays, especially considering he’s a rookie learning the new scheme just like everyone else after a coordinator change.
It’s not just Bleacher Report and Pro Football Focus who think the Cowboys stole Cox, draft guru Daniel Jeremiah had this to say.
“This is an outstanding value with Jabril Cox,” Jeremiah said. “…He transfers to LSU, wants to step up in competition. he not only steps on the field and makes plays, he becomes the immediate leader of that LSU defense. ... This is a steal. I don’t know how else to call it.”
The Cowboys have five names in the mix at linebacker, and right now it would seem that Cox is at the back end. Jaylon Smith is a veteran riding a big contract, he will get playing time. Leighton Vander Esch is a former first-round pick who has played very well at times when healthy, so he will get reps. Micah Parsons is surely going to get his time on the field. And Keanu Neal is a former player for defensive coordinator Dan Quinn who the Cowboys are converting to linebacker.
Cox has a lot to work through to get his time on the field. We’ll have to see if he surprises everybody and steals some reps.