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Cowboys Roster: Strategies & Players At Cornerback

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Cowboys Roster: Strategies & Players At Cornerback

In the last couple of weeks we have looked at various strategies and players for each position. We looked at both free agents and draft prospects that could fill needs. This week, we will look at defensive backs. This article will focus on the corners, and the next part of for the safeties will be out tomorrow.

Let’s first look at the state of the corner position for the Cowboys.

Morris Claiborne will be gone, Brandon Carr will most likely restructure his contract, and Byron Jones will move to safety unless another safety (Jalen Ramsey anyone?) is drafted. The Cowboys had two practice squad players they moved up to add depth at the end of last year: Terrance Mitchell and Deji Olatoye. At least one of them will make the team and the Cowboys will hope to upgrade one position. The Cowboys will get Orlando Scandrick back, so that will help and that will leave the Cowboys needing a starting corner and one backup corner.

So with that in mind, here are some possible free agents (under 30 years old) the Cowboys could bring in.

Sean Smith (Chiefs)
Good playing man coverage. Physical and aggressive. However, at 28, he is on the backside of his career. He would provide a starter for the Cowboys but he will command a big price tag.

Prince Amukamara (Giants)
Has been a disappointment for the Giants. Often injured, he was finally having a solid year. He is the Giants version of Morris Claiborne. He would add a nice solid piece at a reasonable price.

Jerraud Powers (Cardinals)
Starter for the Cardinals. He does not get a lot of picks but he is a solid corner with playmaking ability. For the Cowboys, he would be a starter.

Nolan Carroll (Eagles)
Nolan is a good sized corner. He would give the Cowboys depth and would be a starting corner only when needed. He is likely to be affordable.

Patrick Robinson (Chargers)
Would be a slot corner and would add insurance if Scandrick is not ready.

Josh Robinson (Vikings)
A disappointment in Minnesota, but he has a lot of speed and talent. The Cowboys could take a chance on him at a low price. He would add depth and athleticism but it will not cost a lot.

Trumaine Johnson (Rams)
First few years were shaky, but a solid option now. Good size and physical. A great pick up for the Cowboys if the tag is not too high.

Janoris Jenkins (Rams)
Best corner on the market in my book. A great man to man player and he creates turnovers. If the Cowboys can get him, he would be a steal.

Josh Norman (Panthers)
Forgetaboutit. The Panthers will place the franchise tag on him.

Coty Sensabaugh (Titans)
A very good option to play slot. If he is signed, Scandrick can remain on the outside full time.

Jayron Hosley (Giants)
A slot corner that would add depth.

Jamell Fleming (Chiefs)
Would add depth and special teams play.

 

Now let’s look at the prospects in this year’s draft.

Before we do, here are a few attributes that we will use to evaluate corner prospects.

  1. Fluidity – Can you turn and run. Can you drive out of your pedal?
  2. Size – The bigger the better as long as they are fluid.
  3. Speed – The faster the better. Make up speed.
  4. Quickness – Do you have the lateral movement?
  5. Functional Strength – Can you jam and can you use your body on a receiver?
  6. Ball Skills – Can you high point, catch, and defend?
  7. Recognition – Do you see and anticipate route patterns?
  8. Playmaker – Do you cause turnovers, blitz, and strip balls?
  9. Aggressiveness – Are you physical and have attitude?
  10. Tackling – Will you hit someone?

With those out the way, let’s get into the actual prospects.

Vernon Hargreaves (Florida)

Strengths

  • Great hips, fluid, can adjust and drive
  • Athletic, should have good numbers at the combine
  • Can play off coverage and drive on a route
  • Is a good and willing tackler. Sets edge or will shoot flat to make tackles
  • Is always thinking turnover. Aggressive jumping routes and trying to strip the ball
  • Is good in man coverage mirroring receiver/route
  • Can change direction and drive down on receiver and make a sure tackle. Physical.
  • Good ball skills; a playmaker
  • Would be a good returner. Good runner with ball in his hands
  • Plays with aggression.
  • Can be physical with his hands.
  • Reads route combinations well

Weaknesses

  • Short, can be beat by bigger receivers
  • Can play too aggressive and get beat by double move
  • Can take too aggressive of an angle when coming up to stop run

Summary

    • Good against pass and run
    • Can play off coverage and man
    • Will make plays, but will give them up to bigger receivers
    • I think the Cowboys front office will love him because he is the type of corner that can play their scheme. Will tackle, cover flat, jump routes, but can also man up when needed

** I have him rated as a top 10 player

 

Mackensie Alexander (Clemson)

Strengths

  • Quick footed
  • Has nice hips and can change direction with fluidity
  • Will drive hard on routes
  • Has skills to cover in man
  • Will come up and help make a tackle
  • Plays with an attitude. Not afraid to fail. Will go toe to toe with receivers
  • Reads routes well
  • Good technique
  • Will play best receiver and likes the challenge

Weaknesses

  • Shorter, so could struggle against larger receivers
  • Did not have any interceptions. Needs to find a way to be a playmaker.
  • Not a great tackler
  • Did not play much zone or off coverage.

Summary

    • Quick footed, he can stay with receiver and recover if initially beat.
    • Will have to learn zone concepts.
    • Will need to get stronger
    • Will need to create more turnovers in the pros.
    • He is a good corner, but I am not sure he would be the type of corner that fits the Boy’s scheme.

** I have him rated as a top 20-25 player

 

Artie Burns (Miami)

Strengths

  • Good size for corner.
  • Fast, can cover a lot of ground quickly
  • Nice acceleration
  • Not as fluid as top corners, but athletic and shows good balance and change of direction
  • Aggressive and is a ball hawk
  • Played corner and safety. Could make a good free safety
  • Willing tackler, can take on blocker and set edge
  • Good hands, looks like a receiver attacking ball
  • Is good in press coverage

Weaknesses

  • Needs to work on techniques.
  • Hips are tighter than top 4 corners
  • Needs better route recognition
  • Needs to play better off coverage and zone
  • Needs to play through traffic better

Summary

    • Is as athletic as any corner in the draft
    • Rawer than other corners, he needs work on techniques.
    • Has great upside, but may take a couple of years before he figures it all out
    • Can play press immediately
    • He could play well as an outside press corner for the Cowboys. He would be a starter.

** I have him rated as a top 40 player

 

Eli Apple (Ohio State)

Strengths

  • Good size for corner.
  • Has the full skillset. He is athletic, tall, and plays with balance
  • Has good top side speed
  • A willing tackler, he will come up and support the run
  • Will highpoint balls and plays like a receiver trying to make a catch
  • Plays both zone and man coverage.
  • Can play tight man or off coverage.
  • Has a corners mentality. Got beat, came back and made the next play
  • Competitive, goes at receivers. Aggressive nature you want in a corner.

Weaknesses

  • Needs to work on techniques. Both run and pass
  • Doesn’t square up when tackling
  • Needs to be better in press coverage.
  • Got confused on a couple of bunch sets (to be fair, not sure which corner was a fault)
  • Can open his hips and as a result he struggles against possession type of receivers who run good routes.

Summary

    • His 40 and three cone times will be important. He has the size and fluidity (more fluid than Jackson), but needs to show he can run as well.
    • Good ball skills and will defend the run
    • He will get better. It make take a few years before he reaches his potential.
    • The Cowboys will like him. He tackles well, can play zone, off coverage, and can play press man. High upside, but it may take a few years.

** I have him rated as a top 40 player, but that assumes he runs a 40 somewhere near 4.5 to 4.55

 

William Jackson III, CB (Houston)

Strengths

  • Good size for corner. Looks like a safety playing corner
  • Physical with his hands and at the catch point
  • Creates turnovers. Gets picks and strips ball.
  • A hitter at the corner. Will bring some pop
  • Good hands, will make plays on balls thrown his way
  • Played a lot of zone and off coverage
  • Will play run support
  • Strong punch on jams
  • Recognizes routes and anticipates patterns

Weaknesses

  • Is not a shutdown corner when playing man coverage. Can get beat on a first move, but he is aggressive and will make up space. Plays tight and aggressive, but can give the QB a window before he recovers
  • Will struggle against quicker receivers
  • While he has pop, he does not have great tackling technique. Is not square and will miss when lunging
  • Takes aggressive angles

Summary

  • Not sure about his top end speed. His combine scores will be important. Needs a good 40 time. If he runs in the 4.5 range, then he will a low second round pick. If he runs over a 4.6, he will be more of a bottom of the third round pick
  • Maybe the most aggressive corner in the draft and one of the biggest
  • He is a risk reward type of player. He will cause fumbles and make interceptions, but he is also susceptible to getting beat deep
  • The Cowboys will like him. He tackles well, can play zone, off coverage, and can play press man. With a safety overtop he is at his best. He reminds me of a younger Carr.
  • I have him rated as a top 50 player, but that assumes he runs a 40 somewhere under 4.6

 

Kendall Fuller (Virginia Tech)

Strengths

  • Understands the position, natural instincts
  • Good technique
  • Athletic and quick
  • Can play press coverage. Can mirror routes
  • Fluid hips and movement
  • Shows good route recognition
  • Good using hands and has a nice body lean on receiver
  • Can tackle
  • Is best in off coverage reacting to QB.
  • Takes goo angles

Weaknesses

  • Gives up too many completions
  • Gets beat regularly on double moves
  • Struggles against taller receivers. Can’t defend the jump ball well.
  • Isn’t great making play on ball

Summary

    • I do not like him as much as other player evaluators do
    • He makes plays from time to time, but in the games I saw he gave up completions roughly 65% of the time.
    • Is not great against run either
    • Is best in off coverage reacting to QB and routes developing in front of him
    • I am not sure he fits the Cowboys model for corner.

** I have him rated as a top 75 player

 

Will Redmond (Miss St)

Strengths

  • Good hips, nice pedal and drive.
  • Will drive and make tackle on flat or runner
  • Technically and fundamentally sound
  • Can make play on ball
  • Quick recovery
  • Never gives up, he will chase runners down from across field
  • Decent recognition skills
  • Will deliver hit on receiver in flat
  • Can mirror
  • Has grit. Good guy to have on team

Weaknesses

  • Inconsistent
  • Willing tackler but misses too many tackles. Does not consistently wrap up and at times lunges for big hit and misses
  • Gives up the inside too much
  • Needs to make the big play. Doesn’t necessarily finish the play well. Needs more picks

Summary

    • He will be a consistent starter, though it may not be day one
    • Needs to get consistency in tackling and in finishing plays. Too often is in the right position but doesn’t finish.
    • Good but probably not great. Lower ceiling than other corners.
    • He could be a contributor for Cowboys, but not ready to start.

** I have him rated as a top 80 player

 

Maurice Canady (Virginia)

Strengths

  • Good size, athleticism, and coordination
  • Aggressive, will support run and pass
  • Good speed to carry receiver up field but strong enough to be physical too
  • Good punt returner. Can be gunner
  • Will make play on the ball
  • Will strip ball from runner
  • Solid tackler
  • Pretty good angles
  • Good with ball in air
  • Competitive

Weaknesses

  • Needs to have better awareness and recognition on routes
  • Poor footwork at times
  • Would have like to have seen more interceptions
  • Receivers can get separation on initial move, he can recover, but there is a window for QB
  • Needs to use hands better on jam

Summary

    • Needs to work on technique and footwork
    • Good solid player, not flashy but solid all around
    • He has the attitude to be a corner and special teams player too
    • He will be a starter in a couple of years
    • For Cowboys, he would be a contributor at corner and a special teams guru

** I have him rated right around a top 90 player

 

Cyrus Jones (Alabama)

Strengths

  • A play maker. He just makes big plays
  • Very good runner/returner with ball in his hand
  • Smart, anticipates routes
  • Quick, stout, a good athlete
  • Competitive with fighter mentality
  • Could probably cover slot and outside

Weaknesses

  • Not a very good or willing tackler
  • Is short
  • Can be overly aggressive and get beat deep

Summary

  • Will provide depth as corner both in slot and outside and he will be a special teams player
  • He has the attitude, intelligence and athleticism to start in NFL given time
  • He would add depth at corner for boy and he would be their punt returner
  • I have him rated around as a top 100 player

 

DJ White (Georgia Tech)

Strengths

  • Quick and fast
  • Has all the tools of a cover corner
  • Good tackler
  • Has great engine
  • Quick feet, not a lot of wasted motion
  • Can play slot or outside receiver
  • Will high point ball
  • Compact and physical
  • Understands zone concepts

Weaknesses

  • Shorter than you would like
  • Needs to show he can be consistent play after play
  • Needs to show he can carry a bigger receiver

Summary

    • Can be good player, but may have limited upside
    • Has the skills, but he needs to learn the techniques
    • He could be a contributor for Cowboys, but not ready to start. Would provide depth at slot and outside

** I have him rated as a 100 player

 

Rashard Robinson (LSU)

Strengths

  • Tall, rangy
  • Has the right attitude to play corner
  • Competitive
  • Can play off coverage and press
  • Long arms and good vertical
  • Will fight receiver for ball. Strong in the air
  • Versatile, can play free safety too

Weaknesses

  • Gives up too many completions
  • Susceptible to comebacks
  • Has hard time turning, then stopping and driving back to ball
  • Not much of a tackler
  • Skinny, will be a risk for injury

Summary

  • Needs to work on back pedal
  • Needs to get stronger
  • May need to move to free safety in the pros, unless he can work on hips
  • For Cowboys, he would be depth at free safety and corner
  • I have him rated at the edge of a top 100 player

 

Zach Sanchez (OU)

Strengths

  • Great ball skills
  • Will jump routes and take chances to create picks
  • Will fight receivers for ball
  • Can jump. Expect good vertical numbers at combine
  • Willing tackler, tries to hit hard
  • Can cover the flat

Weaknesses

  • Undersized, both in height and weight. Worry about injury
  • Terrible playing off coverage. Just gives up the inside
  • While a willing tackler, is not a good tackler because of his size
  • While he will battle receivers, he struggles against bigger bodied receivers
  • Just average speed. Quicker than fast. So he bails on may coverages and gives up the underneath
  • Needs to work on footwork, decent pedal but then he waste steps turning or driving

Summary

  • I think he would be effective as a slot corner
  • He needs to add size and strength
  • Needs to work on footwork
  • He could be a contributor for Cowboys, but not ready to start. Could add depth at slot corner. I think he has the attitude to be a special teams player too
  • I have him rated on the edge of the top 100

 

Eric Murray (Minnesota)

Strengths

  • Good feet
  • Aware
  • Good technique and discipline
  • Good tackling technique
  • Recognizes patterns and know what he is supposed to do
  • Good change of direction
  • Polished and smooth
  • Competitive and a leader

Weaknesses

  • Shorter than you would like
  • Can miss tackles on the edge
  • Will be beat in the air
  • Not elite speed or quickness
  • Needs to create more turnovers

Summary

    • Will provide depth as corner and be a special teams player
    • Will be good at all things, but not great at any
    • Can be an eventual starter but must tackle better and be consistent
    • Could cover slot too. Need to verify quickness and speed at combine.
    • He would add depth but not ready to start. Would be a special team player

** I have him rated on the edge of the top 100

 

Xavien Howard (Baylor)

Strengths

  • Good size and strength
  • Good strength/balance ratio
  • Uses body on receiver, physical
  • Will use hands effectively
  • Will drive on underneath route.
  • Can tackle and will set edge on runner
  • Man press coverage
  • Will cut of routes
  • Will get interceptions

Weaknesses

  • Terrible looking for ball. Loses receiver
  • Not terribly great making a play on ball
  • Struggles against shifty receivers
  • Not good in the air
  • Needs to learn to play zone and off coverage

Summary

    • Will provide depth as corner and be a special teams player
    • Can be an eventual starter if he learns to play the ball in the air
    • He could be a contributor for Cowboys, but not ready to start

** I have him rated as a top 120 player

 

Deiondre’ Hall (Northern Iowa)

Strengths

  • Tall, rangy
  • Can make play on ball
  • Versatile
  • A decent athlete. Coordinated for his length
  • A leader. Will communicate
  • Goes low to tackle. Will to get into mix
  • Special teams skills
  • Will get picks when he has chance

Weaknesses

  • Gives up too many completions.
  • Back pedals too much, turns hips too soon
  • While a willing tackler, he is not necessarily physical
  • Needs to come up quicker against the run

Summary

    • Will provide depth as corner, free safety, and special teams player
    • He needs to play off coverage. He also needs to work on his pedal so he doesn’t need to bail
    • Will add strength. Will probably find a home as a free safety
    • He could be a contributor for Cowboys, but not ready to start.

** I have him rated as a top 120 player

 

Strategies for Cornerback

If the Cowboys like Hargreaves or Ramsey, I do not believe it will be a stretch for them to draft either of them at #4. I do think they could move back to 11 or 12 and still have a shot at Ramsey or Hargreaves (whoever they have higher and is still left). Both are game changers and would make the Cowboys a better team next year.

However, if the Cowboys decide they need to address Defensive End or Linebacker with the first pick, there will still be some great options available to them.

Apple, Burns, and Jackson would all be good picks in the second round. The Cowboys could trade down in the first, pick up a second and a third rounder, and look at these three corners with one of the second round picks. If they decide to wait until the third or fourth round then there are good options available there as well. Redmond, Canady, Jones, or White would be good picks in the third, and the fourth you could pick up corners who add depth with Sanchez, Murray or Howard.

I expect that the Cowboys will add one corner through the draft and one through free agency. If they go out and get a starter in free agency (Smith, Amukamara, Powers, Johnson (Rams), Jenkins (Rams)), then I expect them to draft a corner for depth in the third or fourth round. If they do not sign a starter, then expect them to go after a corner in the first or second round, and then sign a free agent for depth.

If the Cowboys do not sign either the top corner or DE in free agency, expect for them trade down and accumulate picks. They must get a starting corner, MIKE, DE and running back in free agency or through the draft. So look for what they do in free agency to help determine if they draft early or trade down.

My personal opinion is that there are good players in this draft. It is a deep top-75. The Cowboys should trade out of their first and possibly second round picks to accumulate at least three more second and third round picks. i.e., Trade down from 4 to 12-15 for a second and third, and trade back their second to 40-42 for a third. That would give the Cowboys a first, two seconds, and three thirds.

In addition, the Cowboys will have an early fourth. That would give the Cowboys seven of the top hundred(ish) picks and would go a long way to filling many of their pressing needs. In this scenario the Cowboys would probably pick either a first or second rounder on the corner position and possibly a fourth rounder as well.

Next week, we will start with running backs and receivers, but look for the safeties segment of the defensive backs here tomorrow.

Tommy Simon

Tommy Simon is an entrepreneur, writer, speaker and sports enthusiast. He is currently CEO of TechBAA, an investor and board member of TPC Technical and CommunitesFIrst, and acting CFO for ALS Communities. In addition to investing and advising companies, Tommy is also a Sales Management coach and is working with companies as a Fractional CMO/CSO.

Tommy is a life long football player, coach and Cowboy fan. He currently coaches and sponsors several 7 on 7 teams. He manages/coaches an adult flag football team that is the top team in Florida one of the highest ranked teams in the country.

Tommy’s hobbies include international travel, fantasy football, reading, and engaging in intelligent political discourse. He is married to a wonderful women for 18 years; which is the best thing he has ever accomplished. He has a dog that is the best dog ever. He also has 9 siblings and roughly 30 nieces and nephews.

For more information about tommy, or to request him to speak, please contact him at info@techbaa.com

1 Comment
  • Bryson Treece

    For me, I think Jalen Ramsey is the guy you go for at #4 over a Jared Goff or Carson Wentz. If none of those three are there then you trade back to a mid-first and pick up extra picks in rounds 2-4.

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