Despite putting a high emphasis on improving their secondary the last few offseasons, the Dallas Cowboys still have a need for a safety. Sure, Jeff Heath is a solid player and Xavier Woods has a ton of upside, but the Cowboys need to add more talent on the back-end.
The NFL Draft is a great place to do this, and though this class isn’t known for its depth at the safety position, the Cowboys should be able find talent on Day two and beyond.
Let’s take a look at 3 safeties the Cowboys could fall in love with for one reason or another.
Taylor Rapp, Washington
Washington’s secondary is becoming an NFL talent producing machine, and safety Taylor Rapp joins his teammates in this year’s NFL Draft. Rapp had a decorated college career, being named Pac 12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year and preseason first team All American prior to his junior season.
Rapp has been on the NFL radar for a few years now, and has a bit of the “jack of all trades” profile the Cowboys tend to go for. Rapp filled multiple roles in Washington’s secondary, though he is at his best as a run defender. Though not quick twitchy or super fast, Rapp diagnoses the run game well and is very comfortable coming up to deliver blows. Taylor Rapp also takes solid angles as a run defender and is a sure tackler in space.
In coverage, Rapp isn’t as impressive, though he is still a solid contributor. Rapp isn’t the rangy centerfielder that many fans are really hoping for, but he could potentially be the starting box safety from day one.
Marquise Blair, Utah
Where Taylor Rapp is a physical tackler, Marquise Blair is much more of a rangy safety. Though he also spent a lot of time in the box in college, I actually think Blair translates better as a deep safety in the NFL. That is if he can control his overly-aggressive tendencies in coverage.
Blair is a fluid athlete with loose hips and good speed. He is able to keep everything in front of him in coverage, though his instincts and ball skills will be greatly tested at the next level. Blair was a bit disappointing at the Senior Bowl, especially in man coverage, and may fit better primarily in zone.
He looks the part of a bigger safety with the athletic profile to cover tight ends man-to-man, but whether or not he really has the skills do to so is in question.
Juan Thornhill, Virginia
Speaking of having the physical traits to cover tight ends in man coverage, meet Virigina’s Juan Thornhill. The three-year starter is battle tested covering tight ends in the slot, though he will struggle with shiftier slot wide-outs in the NFL.
At Virginia Thornhill showed his ability in zone coverage as well, and uses his length and physicality to his advantage to make plays on the ball. Unlike Blair, Thornhill’s ball skills and playmaking at the catch point are two of his calling cards.
Thornhill is a smart and instinctive player who lacks the athletic profile to garner early draft consideration. Still, Thornhill is a player the Cowboys could greatly covet for his “intangibles” and experience at safety.