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Cowboys Still Waiting for Xavier Woods Breakout; Impact on 2020 Draft

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?

Cowboys Draft Target: Alabama Safety Xavier McKinney
Alabama safety Xavier McKinney

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.

What do you think?

Jess Haynie

Written by Jess Haynie

Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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  1. Not sure how they can grade any of their defensive players with the poor job the coaching staff has done the past several years. Richard helped Byron Jones by switching his position but that was about it. Unless we get some form of training camp to let this new staff work with these players we may not find out this season either.

  2. Safety is not top need. Zack Baun at #17. Most versatile in multiple defensive schemes Dallas is evolving. Sideline-to-sideline coverage-capable LB, but also a beast at EDGE with 12.5 sacks last season. Consider possibilities. LVE neck is same degenerative disease that ended Michael Irvin’s career. What if LVE reinjures neck or age causes Lee to lose a step? Conversely what is the Gregory/Smith reclaimation projects sputter? In either case you have a premiere LB or EDGE. However if Gregory/Smith perform and the LBs are healthy, you have and additional beast in the box on passing downs.

    • I like baun. As a buckeye fan he was very disruptive against us twice last yr always causing problems. Really would like Henderson at 17 or possibly kinlaw but if we could trade back and still get baun or delpit/mckinney I’d be happy

    • LB and DE are at the bottom of our needs!! We have 5 or 6 edge rushers already and that’s not including Gregory or Smith, and even if LVE does have problems with his neck this season we still have Joe Thomas who can play either position very well, plus Lee and that’s just to name a couple!! We don’t have anybody at safety!! Woods and Clinton Dix will be free agents after this season leaving us with Donavon Wilson and Thompson…. Idk about you, but I don’t feel comfortable with those 2 as our only options at safety!! And even this season we still don’t have a strong safety….. Both Clinton Dix and Woods are both free safeties leaving us with no strong safety!! So clearly safety is a top priority for us in this draft!! And it would be foolish to waste a 1st round pick on a DE just to let him sit on the bench!! We’re supposed to use our top draft picks for players that can help us right away, not for players who may or may not play!! That would be a wasted draft pick!! The only time we do that are in the later rounds of the draft when we take a flyer on a prospect to see what the player can do!! But in the first 3 or 4 rounds we need to draft players that can help us right away, and DE and LB are 2 positions that will NOT be needed to help us right away!!

  3. Woods has performed very well for a 6th round pick but now he wants to get paid. Time to upgrade at the S spot. Keep in mind Ha Ha on a 1 year deal.

    Now if Woods isn’t going to break the bank in 2021 great but time to re-load in the secondary while we can.

    PS, Woods is what he is and isn’t likely to change or change much. A good but not impact level NFL player.

  4. Jess I’ve been a Cowboy fan longer than you’ve been alive so you had to be careful when you use the collective “we” when talking about Cowboy fans. You were right in the beginning when you stated he has performed well for a 6th round pick. For anyone that expected Woods to emerge as one of the best safeties in the NFL last season it was just false hope. Its a clear illustration of people buying into the “Kris Richard will turn him in to the next Earl Thomas ” hype. He is a nice player and he is a solid starter but there is no reason to believe he will be significantly more than that.

  5. ONLY the Dallas Cowboys NO brain trust have Trust and High Hopes in Xavier Woods becoming a Star. He is NOT N NEVER going to be a Star. He’s JUST a Starter, THAT’S IT. He makes NO plays. The Cowboys have BEEN Been NEEDED to DRAFT A First or AT LEAST Second Round Safety – A Playmaker at Free Safety AND an Enforcer at Strong Safety. Ha Ha Clinton Dix is JUST a Veteran n IF Mike McCarthy WASN’T the Head Coach, they WOULDN’T have Never signed him. He’s Already A Journeyman Safety/Player. Dallas NEEDS TO N SHOULD DRAFT 2 Safeties, between the 2nd & 4th Rounds in ala Kyle Dugger & Jeremy Chinn, with DRAFTING a Cornerback @ #17 in C.J. Henderson.

  6. X. Woods will have a breakout year as do all players who are playing in their contract year. The question is will Dallas then turnaround and overpay him like they always do for players who have great contract year seasons. He’s solid and safe, but he’s no Star and never will be in my opinion. He’s very Barry Church like minus the injuries. Jacksonville overpayed for Church. 2 seasons later he was out of the league. X. Woods is good enough that you don’t have to waste a pick on McKinney when Corner and Receiver are way more dire needs.

  7. Jerry Jones and Head Coach McCarthy. I am a DallasCowboys fan for life. Bottom line every coach and player need to execute. Offense/ Defense whoever on the field. I see the Veteran’s you’ll added. Slot receiver position: Bring back DEZ 2 fill that position, give him a try how it play out. Safety, CB, Special player: kick/punt returner needed bad. No slack, No excuses, No micromanage!!!!!!

  8. This article truly misses a key point. There are two different S positions. SS and FS. Just like the Cowboys this article fails to recognize this fact. For years under Marinelli Dallas has treated safeties as interchangeable. Woods is a fine FS with good range, coverage ability and tackling in space. What Dallas needs is a TRUE SS who can play close to the line of scrimmage, helping in the run game and blanketing RBs out of the backfield and occasionally blitzing. Think Roy Williams before he was asked to cover downfield. Darren Woodson was the rare exception who could do both. All indications are McKinney is a true SS with better than average cover skills. Hopefully in Nolan’s more aggressive defense (read no more bend but don’t break) he will deploy safeties with proper skillsets for SS and FS and not some hybrid between the two.

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