The Dallas Cowboys have had some iconic safeties throughout the years.
Charlie Waters, Mel Renfro, Cliff Harris, Darren Woodson – Hall of Fame worthy players on the back-end of some classic defensive units.
It’s been quite a while since Dallas could claim with a straight-face that they’ve thought highly of their starting safeties, though. Lately the Cowboys have looked for bargains on the back-end, with day three picks and underpriced veterans late in free agency getting major gameday reps.
And while Jeff Heath has been solid and Xavier Woods has obvious potential, safety is as clear a need as can be on the Cowboys 2020 roster.
So why not draft one in the first round?
Alabama’s Xavier McKinney almost makes too much sense 17th overall. The man who has been compared to Minkah Fitzpatrick has etched his own route to the league, rising to the tops of this year’s safety class and earning first round consideration.
McKinney had an incredible Sophomore season in 2018, finishing with 74 tackles, three sacks, and two interceptions. He then followed up his impressive 2018 with a strong Junior season, tallying 95 tackles, three more sacks and a three picks. Box score stats don’t tell the whole story, of course, but they do hint at what McKinney does best.
McKinney truly is a jack of all trades at safety, playing in the slot, at free safety, and in the box at times at Alabama. While he has done it all, he’s certainly not a “master of none,” or a weird fit in a traditional NFL defense like some other “versatile” safeties have been in recent years.
McKinney would fit seamlessly into the Cowboys defense, easily working as a centerfielder while also showing the ability to be used as a matchup-piece against “modern” offensive sets.
He’ll likely be right there for the Cowboys in the first round, but will a new coaching staff mean a new philosophy on how the franchise views the safety position?
There is certainly a lot of smoke between the two, but McKinney does still feel like a long shot to be picked at 17 compared to players like K’lavon Chaisson and Kenneth Murray.