While Safety Xavier Woods has emerged as a starter for the Dallas Cowboys the last two seasons, he has yet to break out as a true star at his position. With his contract expiring after 2020, this has put Dallas in a difficult spot during the offseason and in next week’s NFL Draft.
To be clear, Woods has been exceptional given that he was just a 6th-round pick in 2017. That he’s put in two years of starting work, and as a quality player, is way more than you usually get from those later rounds.
But we went into 2019 expecting Xavier to emerge as one of the top safeties in the NFL. And while he was still solid, his performance didn’t have that third-year improvement you want to see.
The expectation may be unfair on our part. One of the ways we soothed ourselves after not landing Earl Thomas last year was the thought that Woods was going to step up and become a homegrown star. That may be asking too much.
But that leaves the Cowboys with a difficult choice in the draft. Do they trust that Xavier Woods still has room to grow, or do they look for an upgrade now?
Dallas is in a great position at the 17th pick to land the top safety in the rookie class, Alabama’s Xavier McKinney. They might even be able to trade down and get him, or go for another strong prospect like Grant Delpit or Kyle Dugger.
While I expect the Cowboys will take a cornerback or receiver in the first round, their perceived need at safety depends a lot on their feelings about Xavier Woods.
If they trust that Woods can become a star, they may not feel the need to spend a premium pick at safety now. They’ve already signed veteran Ha Ha Clinton-Dix for 2020 and have Donovan Wilson as an intriguing developmental player.
But if they’re not so high on Xavier, and especially with his contract up next year, the Cowboys may be looking at safety as a top draft priority.
Again, this isn’t a slam on Xavier Woods. He’s been great for where he was drafted and could be a starter here for years to come.
But does Dallas see him as a future star or just a solid player at safety? That answer could have a major impact on what they do in next week’s draft.