It’s no secret that the secondary is one of the biggest areas of need for the Cowboys as they head into the draft Thursday night. Most draft experts predict they will look to acquire the services of Patrick Surtain II or Jaycee Horn with their 1st rounder, but they are also kicking the tires on a potential target that could help out there in the later rounds as well.
105.3 The Fan’s Jeff Cavanaugh reported that the Cowboys have been “doing work” on Elijah Molden from the University of Washington.
Molden would be an outstanding fallback option on day two if a guy like Penei Sewell or Rashawn Slater is still on the board when they are on the clock with pick 10. The biggest knock on Molden is his size, as he checks in at 5’10 and 190 lbs, but there’s a reason he’s drawn comparisons to Tyrann Mathieu. When you turn on the film his football instincts and natural ability to make a play stand out in a major way. The numbers back it up, too.
In 2019 Molden finished with 80 tackles, 4 interceptions, 12 passes defended, and a 63 QRA (Quarterback Rating Against) for passes thrown in his direction. He showed he was the same explosive playmaker in a shortened 4-game season in 2020, racking up 25 tackles, 3 passes defended, 1 interception, and an outstanding 28.1 QBR on passes against.
While he projects to spend a good portion of his time defending out of the slot, he’s versatile enough to move all over the secondary and mixed in some reps at safety in college. Molden got burned for a few big plays in man-to-man coverage but excels defending out of the zone.
On 22 targets against in zone coverage, he came away with 3 interceptions and 3 passes defended, translating to a 31.2 QBR against.
While his relative lack of size did lead to a few missed tackles here and there, he has excellent fundamentals and projects to be one of the better tackling defensive backs in this draft class. He’s shown he’s more than physical enough to hold his own against Tight Ends but is athletic enough to keep up with the quicker slot receivers and make plays against the run. Adding to his already solid on-field resume is the fact he didn’t miss a single game in college, speaking to his durability.
Molden is a real name to watch when the Cowboys step to the podium to draft on Friday night.
Even if they do come away with Surtain II or Horn on Thursday, drafting Molden could be in play when they come up in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. His versatile skill set would be a welcomed addition along with newcomers Damonte Kazee and Keanu Neal as they continue to transform a defense that allowed the 5th most (29.6) points per game in 2020 for new Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn.