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NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft: Ranking Dallas’ Pre-Draft Visits at Safety

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Draft: Ranking Dallas' Pre-Draft Visits at Safety

A glance at the Dallas Cowboys pre-draft visits to date certainly doesn’t hide the fact that they are committed to upgrading on the defensive side of the ball. Luckily for them, this draft will allow them to do that with a deep talent pool at some positions the Cowboys lack depth in like cornerback, defensive end, and safety.

With just eight days until the 2017 NFL Draft, I’ll be ranking the players Dallas has visited with as I think they will by position. Let’s start with the safeties.

1. Obi Melifonwu, Connecticut

Cowboys Interest in Obi Melifonwu Grows, UCONN Safety Takes Pre-Draft Visit

I’ve written pretty extensively about Obi Melifonwu – with a detailed scouting report available here – and his fit in the Cowboys’ defense as another potential UCONN safety who tested incredibly well at the Combine.

In fact, the Dallas Cowboys have never drafted a safety that is taller, heavier, and with longer arms than Obi Melifonwu. Performing better at the Combine than he does on tape though, the bottom-of-the-first-round hype surrounding Melifonwu will likely put the Cowboys in a tough spot to grab Obi if he doesn’t top their board with the 28th overall pick.

There are plenty of players I like at other positions more than Melifonwu for Dallas in the first round, but the potential to have him patrol the line of scrimmage as an athletic freak while his former college teammate and current star Byron Jones roams at free safety is an intriguing one – especially considering the fact that both players can flex to CB is absolutely needed.

Out of the safeties they’ve visited with, there is little doubt that the Cowboys really like Obi Melifonwu of Connecticut.

2. Xavier Woods, Louisiana Tech

2017 Cowboys Draft Target: Louisiana Tech S Xavier Woods

Xavier Woods is another player that has generated a lot of buzz late in this draft process, warranted because of his ceiling as a free safety. Unlike Obi Melifonwu though, the Cowboys have never drafted a safety as short or light as Woods, nor one with shorter arms.

Still using a valuable pre-draft visit spot on Woods, the Cowboys could certainly still be interested in the Louisiana Tech product thanks to the flashes he makes on tape. By my evaluation, Xavier Woods is less of a direct replacement for either Barry Church or J.J. Wilcox – two safeties that left Dallas in free agency this offseason.

Instead, Woods is simply a solid all-around player with the instincts to react to the ball at all levels and stop ball carriers in their tracks. The Cowboys will also love the fact that the Senior captain defended 32 passes over his four years as a starter, intercepting 14.

With tons of room to grow into a reliable NFL starter, Woods could be the perfect target as soon as the 60th overall pick for Dallas.

3. Tedric Thompson, Colorado

2017 Cowboys Draft Target: Colorado’s S Tedric Thompson

Tedric Thompson checks every physical threshold for the Cowboys at safety, coming into this 2017 Draft out of a Colorado secondary that features multiple NFL prospects.

A later round safety that the Dallas Cowboys could target, Thompson’s best trait is his ability to play as a center fielder with terrific range and the frame to defend passes with his long arms.

Right now, I don’t think Tedric Thompson projects as an every-down safety in the NFL due to his struggles closer to the line of scrimmage and overall awareness in coverage concepts. Thompson can fill gaps against the run thanks to his quick feet with ease, but tackling at the point of attack is often an adventure with him dropping his eyes and lunging.

The Cowboys did get the most out of their safeties in 2016 by employing a rotation around Jones with Church, Wilcox, and at times Jeff Heath. To start his career, Tedric Thompson could become the perfect rotational safety in Dallas with a clear spot for him at the top of the depth chart should he impress in training camp.

I think the gap from Melifonwu to Woods in these rankings is slightly larger than the one from Woods down to Tedric Thompson.


This is how I see the Dallas Cowboys ranking the three safeties they’ve visited with before the 2017 NFL Draft. It would come as a surprise if this team did not come away with a safety at some point in this draft, and although just a three player sample size, you see how Will McClay and this front office have covered prospects that can be targeted at different times.

As we approach final preparations for the draft, I’ll be posting similar positional rankings based on Dallas’ visits right here at Inside The Star.

Tell us what you think about “Cowboys Draft: Ranking Dallas’ Pre-Draft Visits at Safety” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Pleasant NJ, no we’re not how you think we are. Host of “Upon Further Review” on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. You may @ me: @SeanMartinNFL.

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4 Comments
  • Randy Martin

    One additional safety that has been linked to them via combine visit is Justin Evans. I am not on the Obi train. I can’t stand when everybody jumps on because of combine performance. He played at UConn! Flash: Byron Jones has not and I repeat, has not lived up to 1st round billing. I only hope Obi is off the board when we pick so I don’t have to squirm over the thought of us picking him. I will throw my pencil on that one! And Thompson is another JJ Wilcox. We just got rid of that and don’t need another. The absence of looks at Safety looks like they might be content with Heath and Frazier and take one of these guys. I like Woods myself…but at what pick?

    • https://InsideTheStar.com Sean Martin

      Woods is in a tough spot to grab, you might have to overdraft a bit at 60. I agree with you on Obi and also hope they’re out on Evans as well despite some interest, he’s closer to Wilcox in my opinion. The Blanton signing makes the lack of safety visits less of a concern if it was one though. Thanks as always for reading and commenting!

  • Brad Mundie

    No love for Josh Jones?

    • https://InsideTheStar.com Sean Martin

      I love Josh Jones personally. Cowboys don’t love – or even know about – my draft evals of course though haha. Others they like better at Jones’ position.

NFL Draft

Luxury or Need for Cowboys to Draft Another 1st-Round OL?

Brian Martin

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Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, offensive line

Due to growing concerns about Tyron Smith‘s availability and future health, due to reoccurring back injuries, there seems to be a growing consensus among Dallas Cowboys fans that there’s a need to draft an offensive lineman with the first-round pick. But, is it actually a need, or would it be more of a luxury?

There is legitimate concern about Tyron Smith and his future health.

Back injuries have a way of flaring up at the most inopportune times. It’s also not an injury that’s going away anytime soon, if ever. This is the unknown the Cowboys are faced with heading into the off-season, and it could end up having a major impact on the direction they go in the 2018 NFL Draft.

There seems to be a growing consensus around Cowboys Nation that the Dallas Cowboys should seriously consider selecting the best available offensive tackle with the 19th overall pick.

There are probably two reasons for this:

  1. Tyron Smith’s health concerns, and
  2. the need to upgrade the swing tackle position after watching Byron Bell and Chaz Green play in 2017.

But, the question remains: is drafting yet another offensive lineman in the first-round a luxury or need for the Dallas Cowboys?

Personally, I can see both sides of this argument. So, let’s break it down a little and examine each.

Luxury

Zack Martin

Dallas Cowboys RG Zack Martin

The Dallas Cowboys have already invested an enormous amount of resources to build arguably the best offensive line in the NFL.

They’ve spent three first-round draft picks to acquire Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin, two of which have already received long-term extensions with Martin waiting in the wings.

That’s a lot of money devoted to one position, which ultimately means the Cowboys have to go cheaper in other areas in order to fit under the salary cap. This is the money that would be used in free agency to acquire some of those higher-priced free agents fans are always hankering for.

It also can be used to re-sign some of the Cowboys players at other positions, such as DeMarcus Lawrence.

But, it’s not only the money that makes drafting a first-round OL a luxury.

Four out of five of the Cowboys OL are already pretty much set in stone. The left guard position is really the only unoccupied position right now, but that could be filled rather easily. This, of course, is assuming Tyron Smith stays healthy, but regardless, he is the starting left tackle when the 2018 season begins.

Need

Byron Bell

Dallas Cowboys OL Byron Bell

There’s no reason to believe Tyron Smith will be able to play an entire 16-game season going forward. The last two seasons he has had to sit out several games due to injuries, and unfortunately his back issues aren’t going away anytime soon.

To make matters worse, Dallas doesn’t have an adequate backup, which was proven on more than one occasion in 2017. Hence the need.

With the exception of the quarterback, the left tackle position is arguably the most important on offense. They protect the QB’s blindside and are largely responsible for keeping him healthy and upright.

There’s a reason they are drafted so highly and paid so handsomely: they are that important to a team’s success.

There was also a reason the Dallas Cowboys offense started to sputter once Tyron Smith started missing time. Opposing defenses no longer respected the Cowboys LT, and started putting their best pass rusher on that side to get after Dak Prescott.

Prescott ended up having happy feet and it had a ripple effect throughout the entire offense, and not in a good way.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Quite honestly, I think it would be a luxury to draft any kind of offensive lineman with the Cowboys’ first-round selection, but I wouldn’t be completely surprised if that’s the direction they went. There are positives and negatives to both sides of the argument.

But, if they stick to the draft board and an OL is their highest rated player there, I say go for it.

The only thing we can do is have faith that the Dallas Cowboys know more about Tyron Smith’s health and his availability to play then we do as fans. If they decide to draft an offensive lineman early, I think we should all take that as an indication that they are worried about Smith, at least a little bit.

Luxury or Need: Do the Cowboys draft a first-round OL?

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NFL Draft

The Dallas Cowboys Will Have More Than Enough Trade Ammunition

Mauricio Rodriguez

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The Dallas Cowboys Will Have More Than Enough Trade Ammunition
James D. Smith / Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys football team has a lot of needs on both sides of the ball. Sure, that’s pretty sad to say as a die-hard Cowboys fan, but it should make for a very interesting offseason. This front office needs to find a way to add talent in the draft, and probably in free agency as well, all while finding ways to keep Anthony Hitchens, DeMarcus Lawrence and David Irving, and extending Zack Martin.

Maybe they’re not able to achieve everything, but as long as they don’t lose all of these guys, they should be fine. We may even see a surprising release or trade. It sure would be interesting to see this team release Dez Bryant, for example.

Last year, Dallas lost Barry Church, Morris Claiborne, Brandon Carr and Ronald Leary… among others. But what do these four guys have in common? They all resulted in compensatory picks for the Dallas Cowboys’ 2018 NFL Draft.

Cowboys Nation on Twitter

Including the expected Compensatory Picks that the Cowboys will receive for their Free Agents that signed with other teams in 2017, the Cowboys should have the following picks in the 2018 Draft:

The Cowboys got two additional fourths and two fifths. After trading up to get Xavier Woods in 2017, Dallas had no original fifth rounders for this year’s draft.

This is a front office that avoids making “big splashes” in free agency and in the draft lately, but I wonder if they’ll at least explore trading possibilities this time.

With three fourth-round picks and two fifths, they should have more than enough ammunition.

Will McClay Discusses 2016 Cowboys Draft Class, Looks Ahead to 2017

Dallas Cowboys VP Stephen Jones, Will McClay

This team has done a nice job in the last few drafts, and with Will McClay staying for at least one more year, they might as well try to get everything they can out of their draft picks. After all, Dak Prescott himself was a fourth-round compensatory pick.

Even still, I would like to see this team do something out of the ordinary.

Whether it’s trading up to get a well-fitting player who might otherwise go before their pick, or if it’s to get another team’s player, it would be interesting to see this front office pull the trigger on an interesting trade.

Sometimes it’s surprising what NFL teams can get with late round picks.

The Buffalo Bills traded away Marcell Dareus for only a sixth-round pick less than a year ago. I mean, how would you have felt if Dallas had gotten Dareus for just a sixth rounder? I would’ve been completely fine with it, to be honest.

The Cowboys have enough ammunition to consider pulling a trade-off in free agency or the NFL Draft.

We may not like the coaching, but in the past few years, this front office has done a good job when it comes to team-building.

We were all frightened when we saw the defensive players that were leaving in the secondary, and a season later, the young defensive backs are one of the reasons why we’re very optimistic about this team’s future.

So if they decide to keep their picks to themselves, I’d say it’ll be worth it, too.

After a sad season, at least we have an intriguing offseason ahead of us to keep us entertained.

Tell me what you think about “The Dallas Cowboys Will Have More Than Enough Trade Ammunition” in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!

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NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft Target: Louisiana State WR D.J. Chark

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Draft Target: LSU WR D.J. Chark
AP Photo/John Raoux

It’s a little bit hard to believe, but draft season is already upon us. The Dallas Cowboys seem to have several needs to fill through the draft, and right now there is no clear-cut answer as to which position they should target in the first round. But, one of their top needs could be an upgrade at wide receiver.

There’s no way of knowing when the Cowboys will draft a receiver, or if they view it as a position of need. But regardless, so far my film study shows this 2018 WR draft class shapes up to be a pretty solid one.

The majority of Cowboys Nation is already familiar with the WRs the Cowboys could possibly draft in the first round, such as Calvin Ridley or Courtland Sutton. So, I’ve been looking at some of the more under the radar WRs and one of them particularly caught my eye for Dallas .

Louisiana State WR D.J. Chark

I’m honestly a little surprised D.J. Chark isn’t talked about more when referring to some of the top wide receivers in the 2018 draft class, but I think that will change once we get further into the process.

D.J. Chark

LSU WR D.J. Chark

I’m pretty sure he’s still under the radar because the 21-year-old senior only caught 40 passes for 874 receiving yards and three touchdowns with the LSU Tigers in 2017.

Those aren’t exactly eye-popping numbers, but he did finish as one of the top receivers in the nation at yards per reception, averaging 21.9 yards.

D.J. Chark (6’3″, 200) possesses an impressive skill set that would really fit in with what the Dallas Cowboys like to do offensively. In fact, some of his strengths as a prospect are currently missing from the offense, which is why I think he makes an intriguing target.

Chark has strong, reliable hands and a large catch radius. He’s a solid route runner, but could stand to improve in this area once he’s in the NFL. He has the speed to take the top off of defenses and also used that speed on jet sweeps and reverses. He also wasn’t afraid to do the dirty work in the blocking game, showing pretty good technique.

Let’s take a look at how and why I believe he would make a good addition to the Cowboys offense.

DJ Chark toetapping TD catch – Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

This particular play was from his junior season, but it was one of his more impressive plays during his career at LSU.

What you probably first noticed is his speed to get past the defender. It’s an aspect of the Cowboys’ offense that’s currently missing.

Chark is excellent at tracking the ball through the air, but it was his spatial awareness that made this particular catch so impressive.

LSU’s QB threw the ball where only Chark could catch it, but unfortunately didn’t leave him much room to get his feet down and secure the catch. Chark knew exactly where he was at on the field and was able to do a little toe tapping to get not one, but two feet down for the TD.

Here’s another example from his senior season.

DJ Chark deep threat – Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Again, D.J. Chark’s best quality right now is his speed, which is proven once again on this play.

From the snap of the ball, Chark puts the BYU defensive back in a tough position because of his speed. Even with the cushion the DB gave him, Chark is on top of him before he can react, creating separation on his way to the end zone.

Unfortunately, the QB under throws the ball on this play, or it would have been an easy six points. But, Chark does an excellent job of tracking the ball and securing the catch for a big gain.

So, you can see for yourself how D.J. Chark can stretch the field vertically, but he can also help the Cowboys offense by stretching the field horizontally.

DJ Chark jet sweep – Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Remember the jet sweep? It was an underrated play for the Dallas Cowboys in 2016. It wasn’t that successful, but it prevented the opposing defense from crushing the defensive ends down in the running game, and kept them from pinning their ears back in the passing game.

This is another area where D.J. Chark’s speed comes in handy, and something he did quite well during his time at LSU.

Like Dallas, LSU also has a run-first mentality, which is why they incorporated the jet sweep and the reverse into their offense. These kind of plays may not be very successful, and it wasn’t in this particular clip, but they help set up things in the running game to keep opposing defenses on their heels, instead of in attack mode.

Lastly, I want to show you what Chark can do on special teams as a returner.

DJ Chark punt return – Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

The Dallas Cowboys don’t necessarily need a punt returner after adding Ryan Switzer last year, but it never hurts to have another option just in case. D.J. Chark is dangerous with the ball in his hands because of his speed. If he can get into the open field, there’s not much chance of anyone catching him from behind.

It doesn’t really matter if it’s in the passing game or as a punt returner.

Overall, D.J. Chark has all the intangibles to find success with the Dallas Cowboys, and already knows what it feels like to play in a run-first offense.

His straight-line speed is really intriguing, but he has some quick-twitch ability to his game as well.

He has immense upside, but he’s nowhere near a polished prospect. Chark was somewhat inconsistent at LSU, but that has a lot to do with the quarterback play during his career. He also needs to become a better route runner at the next level, but that should come with better coaching.

What do you think of D.J. Chark’s as a Dallas Cowboys draft prospect?

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