Heading into the 2018 NFL Draft, most expected the Dallas Cowboys to address the safety position rather early on.
Some hoped that they would deal their day two picks to Seattle to acquire All-World “centerfielder” Earl Thomas from the Seahawks. Others thought that safeties like Stanford’s Justin Reid or Wake Forest’s Jessie Bates would’ve been legitimate options for Dallas on day two.
Instead, the Cowboys skipped out on every option at safety during the draft, and to this point they’ve done the same in free agency. Stephen Jones, however, did say earlier this week that the team hasn’t ruled out bringing him a veteran safety, but they like what they have at the moment in their young guys.
Stephen Jones says the Cowboys “absolutely” still could add a safety. Depends on the fit and the situation. He adds that the Cowboys are confident and comfortable with where they are, but “there’s a lot of work to do between now and the start of the season.” #cowboyswire
Despite Jones’ hesitance to rule out signing a safety before training camp, the Cowboys’ strategic negligence of the safety position points towards a confidence in players which some would consider to be unproven.
The center-piece of those unproven safeties already on the Cowboys roster is Xavier Woods, and based off his play in 2017, that confidence is well deserved.
With Byron Jones moving back to corner the safety depth chart is wide open, and Woods has a clear path to the starting free safety role. The now second-year player is the ideal centerfielder in the back end, showcasing the range and athleticism to play in single-high coverage.
In college Xavier Woods was used as a bit of a “Swiss-Army Knife” type player. His versatility was emphasized in all scouting reports written about him, and deservedly so. But now surrounded by other defensive backs who possess that kind of versatility (such as Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie), Woods should be allowed to master one specific spot.
And in the current state of the Cowboys defense, that spot for Xavier Woods will be at free safety. Maybe, just maybe, the Cowboys found their rangy single high safety without having to pass on Michael Gallup or Connor Williams in the 2018 draft.
Based on their offseason actions, it appears the Cowboys believe that to be so.