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
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
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.