Can Donovan Wilson Continue the Cowboys 6th Round Safety Success?

There are few teams in the NFL who have been able to unearth talent in the later rounds or undrafted free agency quite like the Dallas Cowboys in recent years. In the 6th round in particular, the Cowboys have had pretty good success uncovering some talent. Most notably at the safety position. In 2019, Donovan Wilson was the third safety selected in the 6th round in the last four drafts. Can he have the same success as his predecessors?

In the epic 2016 draft that yielded Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, one of the more underrated selections was Safety Kavon Frazier.

Frazier was taken with the 212th overall pick that year and has become a solid depth player at safety and core special teamer for the Cowboys. He hasn’t turned his career into a starter role, but he’s provided good depth behind starter Jeff Heath. In 2017, Frazier provided a physicality that was needed as the Cowboys defense struggled against the run in the second half of the season.

Frazier will likely be on this team because of his special teams prowess. He played the fourth most special teams snaps in 2017 and the fifth most in 2018. Having players on special teams that you can rely on is an underrated aspect of NFL team building. Though he may get pushed by Donovan Wilson for defense snaps, Frazier still has a hold on his roster spot.

Though Frazier hasn’t turned into a starter for the Cowboys, it shouldn’t diminish the success of the pick. Anytime you get a guy after the fourth round to stick to your roster, and Frazier has for three seasons, it should be deemed a successful selection.

The safety they selected in the 6th round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Xavier Woods, is on a different trajectory than Kavon Frazier.

Nov 12, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Dallas Cowboys safety Xavier Woods (25) runs with an interception against the Atlanta Falcons during the first quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Xavier Woods, coming out of Louisiana Tech, was a popular player among draft analysts for his ability in coverage. In college, he was the definition of a ball hawk and we’ve started to see that translate to the NFL.

In 2018, seeing a full complement of snaps at free safety, Woods tied for the team lead in interceptions with three and was third on the team in passes defended. Woods is the reason that the front office decision makers felt comfortable passing on players like Earl Thomas and Landon Collins in free agency and Juan Thornhill in the draft. They think very highly of him. And for good reason, he was an impact player in 2018.

Not only did he provide really good coverage in the back-end, but Woods showed a physicality that was surprising to some. There were several occasions last season where it looked like a receiver was about to make a reception over the middle only to see Woods flying in to make a big hit and dislodge the ball.

Woods has been the free safety this team has searched a long time for.

In Donovan Wilson, this year’s 6th round pick, the Cowboys hope they’ve found an athletic and physical box safety to pair with Woods.

Wilson is an incredible athlete to grab in the 6th round. Though he’s a little lighter than Frazier at 6-1, 207 pounds, he could add a little bulk to his frame to make him more durable in the box and better against the run. But you can’t deny the athleticism and length he brings to the position. 87th percentile in the broad jump and 94th percentile in arm length make him a very intriguing prospect for Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard to develop.

At Texas A&M, Wilson was very productive. In his final three seasons he averaged 63 total tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 2.67 interceptions (5 his sophomore year), and 2.33 passes defended.

Wilson brings it on every play. He plays with an edge and a physicality despite being smaller for a strong safety. If there’s an area that Wilson needs work it’s in his tackling. He’s a willing tackler, but can get beat when he doesn’t use a good angle or wrap up well. He plays with a lot of speed and quickness, so he can be a bit out of control when going for the tackle. If he can learn to play with more control, it will improve allow him to use better technique when tackling.

Because of the depth in front of Wilson, it may not be till year two that we see him emerge on the roster, but he’s a player that could push for snaps if he has a good training camp and preseason.

The Dallas Cowboys want to get better at the safety position, especially as it pertains to the running game. There were too many times in 2018 where Jeff Heath made contact with the runner at or just beyond the line of scrimmage, only to be carried for 5-8 yards beyond it. Heath can still offer you something in a reserve role and on special teams, but the Cowboys clearly need to upgrade their box safety position.

If Donovan Wilson can earn a spot on the 53-man roster and some defensive snaps, we may see yet another 6th round safety draft selection pay off for the Dallas Cowboys. From the looks of it, Wilson has the tools to make it happen.

What do you think?

John Williams

Written by John Williams

Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual, reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.


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