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NFL Draft

Did The Dallas Cowboys Strike Gold In The 6th Round Again?

Brian Martin

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2017 Cowboys Draft Target: Louisiana Tech S Xavier Woods

One of the more difficult things for NFL teams to accomplish is finding players late in the NFL Draft to not only contribute early, but to develop into starters down the road. The Dallas Cowboys are no exception, but they have recently been able to find late round gems. This is especially true in the 6th round, because it looks as if they have struck gold once again in back to back drafts.

The Dallas Cowboys 2016 draft class was simply phenomenal last season and could turn out to be one the best in the history of the franchise. Lost in the shuffle because of all of the attention Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott received, is the outstanding play of the Cowboys 6th round draft pick Anthony Brown.

Not much was expected from Brown as a rookie, but due to injuries he ended up having to start nine games in his first year in the NFL for Dallas. He was a bright spot for the Cowboys' secondary and finished the season with 55 tackles, eight passes defensed, one interception, and one forced fumble.

Brown is looking to build on his rookie success in 2017 and is likely competing for a starting job at one of the outside cornerback positions. I know it's still a little early to predict the trajectory his career will take, but when you think about what he has already accomplished, he looks like a 6th round steal.

CB Anthony BrownAnthony Brown certainly looks like the real deal, which is definitely hard to find from a player selected on Day 3 of the NFL Draft. But, the Dallas Cowboys may have struck gold once again in the 6th round in 2017 with the selection of former Louisiana Tech safety, Xavier Woods.

To say that the Dallas Cowboys lucked into making Xavier Woods a member of the team is an understatement. Woods was one of the Cowboys' 30 pre-draft visitors and someone they thought very highly of. So, to see him still sitting there in the 6th round was a temptation they simply couldn't pass up.

The Dallas Cowboys decided to trade a future 2018 5th round draft pick to the New York Jets in order to draft Xavier Woods 191st overall. By the way, that's just two selections after the Cowboys drafted Anthony Brown (189th overall) the year before.

I don't know about any of you, but I was really hoping the Cowboys would trade up in the fifth round to secure Woods' services, so to get him in the 6th round was simply amazing. I actually have high expectations for Woods, but I just don't know how much of an impact he can have as a rookie.

Woods has the talent to become a starting safety in the NFL. His extremely aggressive and plays with a fearlessness in both the running and passing game. He has excellent ball skills and always seems to be around the ball making plays. Those are definitely attributes the Cowboys' secondary can use.

Unfortunately, Woods is buried on the depth chart at the safety position. Byron Jones is without a doubt the starting free safety and it is starting to look like Jeff Heath has locked down the starting spot opposite Jones. So, barring some unforeseen injury (heaven forbid), Woods is going to have a hard time seeing a lot of playing time in his first year in the NFL.

Xavier Woods still has training camp to make a case for himself in order to earn playing time in 2017, but it is an uphill battle. Woods is likely to play the role of a core special teams player as a rookie, but I could see the scenario where he earns a rotational role at safety this season.

Even though Xavier Woods might not have the same type of impact Anthony Brown did as a rookie for the Cowboys doesn't mean Dallas didn't strike gold once again in the 6th round. Woods might just take a little longer to prove himself.

Do you think the Cowboys struck 6th round gold once again?



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Travis Diggs

    June 20, 2017 at 7:45 pm

    I think the cowboys found a gem in the 6 round again. I believe while most cowboys think Jeff Heath is the” #GOAT”, I think Xavier Woods could be the enforcer that makes teams respect this secondary. He might not start right away but it wont take too long for staff to see this guy

    • Brian Martin

      Brian Martin

      June 20, 2017 at 8:14 pm

      Travis, I don’t really see Xavier Woods as an enforcer. I actually think Jeff Heath is more of an enforcer. I think Woods is more athletic and rangy, with better ball skills. I don’t think he’s going to start right away, but I think he’s going to earn playing time as a rookie and to be in some type of rotation with Heath. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      • Travis Diggs

        June 20, 2017 at 8:35 pm

        From seeing his college tape after they got him in the draft, all i see is big hits and him all over the field. Jeff heath as a enforcer is a typical Jeff Heath cowboys fans GOAT thing!? What game can anybody name that would make us believe that Heath would be the enforcer…I’ll wait….???I remember a blind side hit in a seattle game that almost paralyzed a guy, thats about it. I’ve seen ints, but nothing for me to believe he’s an a enforcer type player offenses game plan for. Maybe woods isnt that guy but we need somebody that can come down an smack guys and make the league respect a defense no one is afraid of

        • Brian Martin

          Brian Martin

          June 20, 2017 at 8:46 pm

          Heath hasn’t really been asked to play around the scrimmage as much, but I see what you’re getting at. The concern I have with Woods as an enforcer is his size. He’s only about 5’11”, 200 pounds, which is a little on the smallish size. He plays with a recklessness when tackling, so injuries could become a concern. And I would much rather have two interchangeable safeties than a true free safety and a strong safety/enforcer type. I just think the defense benefit so much more from interchangeable safeties, but that’s just me.

          • John Williams

            John Williams

            June 28, 2017 at 1:18 am

            I think the enforcer idea of a player is a bit overrated, especially with the rule changes the league has made to limit the hits on defenseless receivers.

            While JJ Wilcox and Roy Williams (the safety) made big hits, they also got beat a lot going for the big hit.

            I’d rather have a guy who can hit, but is more concerned with make the sure tackle.

            Not saying Woods will be this guy, but he reminds me a lot of Darren Woodson, though Woody was probably a bigger player.

            They both have the ability to cover multiple positions (Tight end, running back, slot receiver) as well as play cover two or three zone.

            Regardless, even if Woods is a rotational player and special teamer, it’s still a solid sixth round pick.

            Brian is right, with the depth that this team has in the secondary, Woods’ snaps are going to have to be earned.

  2. Assassin

    June 28, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    Thought for sure X would go in the late 3rd or 4th round. I was screaming at the TV for Dallas to grab him… cannot believe he lasted to 6.

    I think he will end up being the box safety, not free. Athletic limitations will limit that. While the guy can INT the ball, he does go for broke a bit too much, not what you want your last line of D to do. Has limitations in space. the closer he can get to the action, the better

    • Assassin

      June 28, 2017 at 4:18 pm

      Wonder if he could backup the slot CB too?

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NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft Target: Kentucky CB Lonnie Johnson Jr.

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Draft Target: Kentucky CB Lonnie Johnson Jr.

Since Kris Richard has taken over the back-end of the Dallas Cowboys defense, they have clearly shown a bias towards a "type" of cornerback. Richard, looking to build this Dallas unit in a similar form to his Seattle teams, has prioritized long corners both in height and arm length.

As his responsibilities within the organization increase, it's only fair to expect Kris Richard to have more say in who the Cowboys' defense acquires in terms of talent. This means we should anticipate more defensive backs who fit his type, such as Kentucky Wildcats cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr.

The Player

So why does Lonnie Johnson fit the mold of what Kris Richard tends to look for? Well, for starters, he is 6'3" and 206 lbs with 32 1/4" arms. He's a long corner with excellent size and the trait profile which indicates he could be the perfect candidate to play cornerback in Dallas.

But while he might look great on paper, the tape is always the most important factor for evaluating and projecting talent. And, for Johnson, the tape isn't all-that great. Despite his length, Johnson struggled mightily in press-man coverage at Kentucky. Too often he is late or ineffective with his hands, leaving him susceptible to being blown by by the opposing receiver. He often loses balance due to poor footwork, and is rather average with his hips and quick change of direction.

Where Johnson was his best in college was in zone coverage, playing his deep third of Kentucky's cover-three look. Rarely did he allow receivers behind him in zone coverage, and displayed good instincts when deciding whether to jump routes or play more conservatively when playing in that deep third. He was not nearly as comfortable underneath, and Kentucky didn't ask him to play in that role too often. Because of how big he is, Johnson is able to contest at the catch point regularly, yet he only deflected 9 passes in 2 years.

What gives me the most hope for Lonnie Johnson as a prospect (besides his length) is his Senior Bowl performance. Johnson impressed daily at the Senior Bowl, looking more comfortable in man coverage and playing much better in his press technique.

Was this Johnson becoming more comfortable over time and a sign of things to come at the next level, or was it an anomaly that we shouldn't read too much into? The answer to that question is up to the individual teams, but his combine performance will play a huge role in how those teams answer.

The Fit

As I've discussed already, Lonnie Johnson Jr. fits what Kris Richard tends to look for in his cornerbacks. He is long, tall, and relatively athletic, making him a clay piece for a coach like Richard to develop.

The question is, however, how much development can really occur? The highs for Johnson are rather high when he maximizes his natural abilities on the field. But too often he is sloppy in technique, or looks lost in man coverage. Whether or not Richard can "fix" Johnson completely may never be seen, but teams (especially this one) could fall in love with him as a prospect for what he can become if it all comes together.



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NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft Target: Oklahoma Sooners RB Rodney Anderson

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Draft Target: Oklahoma Sooners RB Rodney Anderson

NAME: Rodney Anderson

SCHOOL: Oklahoma

CONFERENCE: Big 12

POSITION: Running Back

CLASS: RS Junior

JERSEY: No. 24

RECRUITMENT RATING: 4-star

HT: 6'1"

WT: 219

D.O.B.: 9/12/96

Highlights:

Rodney Anderson || 2017-18 Highlights ᴴᴰ || Oklahoma

Rodney Anderson || 2017-18 Highlights ᴴᴰ || Oklahoma Like, Comment, and Subscribe for More! Follow my Instagram: @szhighlights Songs: - "Don't Know Me" by Trae Tha Truth - "Better Days" by Trae Tha Truth I do not own any of these highlights or music clips.

Before we get into the player, we should really try to get to know Rodney Anderson the person. He attended Katy High School in Katy, Texas, one of the powerhouse HS football programs in the state. He was a four-star recruit who received offers from Auburn, Baylor, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma. He originally committed to Texas A&M, but changed his mind and decided to go to Oklahoma instead. He had an up-and-down career on the football field at Oklahoma because of injuries, but did graduate with a degree in Arts and Sciences in May 2018 and is pursuing his Master's in Human Relations.

Pros:

Rodney Anderson has the ideal size and athleticism to become a featured back in the NFL. He shows good patience and vision on film to allow his offensive lineman to secure their blocks before sticking his foot in the ground and exploding through the hole. He runs behind his pads and shows good strength, loose hips, and balance to run through arm tackles. More than capable of picking up those "dirty yards" and is surprisingly slippery as a runner in the open field.

Anderson is capable of playing in a power scheme or a zone heavy scheme like the Dallas Cowboys deploy. He has been featured in a number of rushing concepts including gap/power, read action, and power sweeps. His talent also carries over to the passing game. He possesses soft hands and looks natural catching the ball both out of the backfield and down the field as a receiver. Solid in pass protection, but this is an area of his game where he can improve.

Cons:

The biggest negative about Rodney Anderson is his injury history at Oklahoma. He is basically a one-year wonder because of three separate season-ending injuries, but bad things happen in three so maybe that's behind him. Durability will be a question mark entering the NFL though.

His vision is sometimes questionable, especially on inside and outside zone reads. Has a tendency to to try to bounce runs to the outside too often or cut back too quickly. Shows good explosiveness, but only average burst through the hole. Seems to have adequate long speed on tape, but is 40 yard dash time will be heavily scrutinized if he's able to run at the NFL Scouting Combine.

In the passing game he needs to improve his route running and pass protection if he wants to be a three-down back in the NFL. The talent is there, just not the production and consistency. Will also have to prove he can be productive against stacked boxes at the next level since he rarely saw any in college due to Oklahoma's spread offense.

Cowboys Fit:

If the Dallas Cowboys are looking for a running back capable of being a featured back in the NFL, while also spelling Ezekiel Elliott from time to time, then Rodney Anderson is there guy. His combination of power, balance, explosiveness, and scheme diversity could come in handy as their RB2. Not only would he provide a good insurance policy if the unthinkable were to happen to Zeke, but he could take over if they decide not to give No. 21 a contract extension.

There is a lot to like about Rodney Anderson's game and his ability to contribute in the running and passing game, but he is not by any means a clean prospect. Despite his immense talent, his injury history and lack of consistency in college is bothersome. But, as a mid-round pick the reward far outweighs the risks. Paired with Elliott, the Cowboys could have a formidable one-two punch in their backfield and could pound opposing defenses into submission.



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NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft Target: South Carolina WR Deebo Samuel

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Draft Target: South Carolina WR Deebo Samuel

Our search for a new pass catcher for the Cowboys in this years' draft class continues, this time with a wide receiver.

South Carolina's Deebo Samuel put himself on the map with a strong Sophomore season, but fell off a bit due to a severe leg injury early in 2017. After a strong 2018 campaign, and an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl, Samuel has played himself back into early Day Two draft discussions.

The Player

I don't know that anyone "won" Senior Bowl week more than Deebo Samuel did this January. Samuel, who had to deal with some poor quarterback play throughout his college career, didn't get much of a break in that department either at the Senior Bowl. But, he did show out every day at practice, and seemed to go viral on Twitter at least once a day.

During his actual collegiate season, Samuel finished with 882 yards and 11 touchdowns on 62 catches, solid production especially coming off an injury and playing in a limited offense. Initially in the NFL, Samuel is going to make his money in the slot. He's a shifty yet explosive receiver type than can quickly beat defenders with his speed. He's not the speedster than someone like Marquise Brown is, but he is explosive enough in his own right, especially in terms of short-area quickness.

Samuel isn't someone who will go up and grab the ball consistently, or even make up for inaccurate throws as often as some others might be able to. But he does have reliable hands, and his ability to get open quickly and create separation should give someone like Dak Prescott easy windows to find him in for completions.

What makes Deebo Samuel so fun for me to watch, though, is his ability after the catch. Despite his lack of size, Samuel is tough as nails, and rarely defers out of bounds or avoids contact. He's built well enough to withstand that contact as well, and when he gets free, he's hard to catch and bring down.

The Fit

Drafting Deebo Samuel 58th overall would be a heck of a haul for the Dallas Cowboys. In need of another playmaker in the passing game, the Cowboys could make immediate use of Samuel's talents in 2019, specifically as a slot receiver.

As has been mentioned ad nauseam, it seems unlikely that Cole Beasley will be returning to the team this season, which makes the need for a slot wide-out that much greater. Samuel has big play ability from the slot already, and has traits which project him to potentially work outside as well. If he tests well enough at the combine, reps on the outside could very well be in his future.

Samuel should be on every Cowboys fans' shortlist of draft targets in the second round this year.



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