Despite signing veteran safety George Iloka last week, the Cowboys will still be going safety hunting during the 2019 NFL Draft. Dallas now has three legit starting options on their safety depth chart in Iloka, Jeff Heath, and Xavier Woods. But, outside of Woods, these safeties each tend to be better in smaller doses.
If the Cowboys want to deploy more three safety looks on defense, or even just want to find a better longterm starter than Iloka or Heath, they’ll be likely be able to find this player at 58th overall.
But, what type of safety should the Cowboys be looking for? Should they target a centerfielder that can shoulder the free safety load, in turn giving Woods less snaps at safety and more at slot-cornerback? Or should they go after more of a strong safety, making Woods the full time “centerfielder” and playing this new draftee in the box?
First, think about the current status of the Cowboys secondary. In theory, they could go without drafting any defensive backs this year and start with the group they currently have for 2019. This would be a solid group, and one you’d expect to be improved from last year. After 2019, however, Byron Jones, George Iloka, and Anthony Brown would all be free agents. Jourdan Lewis and Chidobe Awuzie will always be entering the final year of the deal.
Sure, four of those five names are cornerbacks, but their status has an impact on how the Cowboys look at their safety depth as well. Brown and Lewis each played primarily in the slot last season, a place where Xavier Woods also gained experience during his rookie year. Regardless of what the Cowboys do regarding Woods’ future at free safety, they will likely be looking to find a slot cornerback within the next two offseasons. That guy could be on their roster already (if they re-sign Anthony Brown or Jourdan Lewis), or it could be someone in this year’s draft class.
If Brown or Lewis are in their future plans, then Xavier Woods will likely be staying at safety through the 2019 season and beyond. And considering he’s the best and youngest safety of the Cowboys’ current crop, they have to ask themselves which type of safety would best compliment his abilities.
The answer? A run stopping box safety who can cover tight ends and offer versatility around the line of scrimmage. Ironically, a player with the skillset of someone like recent Washington Redskins’ signee Landon Collins would help take this defense to the next level. They missed out on Collins, though, due to his wild price tag, and now must hunt in the draft to find that type of player.
Is it Mississippi State’s Johnathan Abram? Well, while the draft media seems to love him as high as the first round, I have reservations about just how high his ceiling actually is. Abram’s tackling isn’t very consistent, and his coverage abilities leave much to be desired. Yes, he is a thumper, but that will only get you so far in today’s NFL.
To me, the perfect fit for this safety spot opposite Xavier Woods looks to be Washington’s Taylor Rapp. Rapp is a sure-tackler who can cover tight ends, and will be excellent in the box for a team with a need like the Cowboys have. He may not have the deep safety range teams often look for when drafting a safety in the first two rounds, but Rapp and Woods would compliment each other very well.