After free agency there was no secret what the Dallas Cowboys' biggest holes were going into the draft. They certainly needed talent along the defensive line, but more importantly they needed bodies at cornerback.
With Orlando Scandrick, Anthony Brown, Nolan Carroll, Leon McFadden, and Jeremiah McKinnon being the only defensive backs under contract, Dallas needed to bring in bodies, but bodies with talent.
The Shopping Spree
After losing two of their starting Corners to free agency (Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr), the Cowboys signed Nolan Carroll in free agency after spending three years in Philadelphia. Carroll will likely be handed one of the starting cornerback spots due to his experience at the position, the size of his contract, and talent at the position.
The Cowboys also loaded up on CBs in the draft spending three of their nine draft picks on guys to fill Carr and Claiborne's shoes. Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and Marquez White were all drafted by the Cowboys to come in and compete for a starting role and at least a rotational role right away.
The Cowboys CB depth this time last year looked a little like:
- Morris Claiborne (Signed by NYJ via Free Agency)
- Brandon Carr (Signed by BAL via Free Agency)
- Orlando Scandrick (Under Contract by DAL)
- Anthony Brown (Under Contract by DAL)
- Leon McFadden (Under Contract by DAL)
- Deji Olatoye (Signed by ATL)
- Josh Thomas (Free Agent)
- Buddy Jackson (Free Agent)
- Terrance Mitchell (Signed by KC)
The Cowboys Current CB depth looks a lot different:
- Nolan Carroll (Signed by DAL via Free Agency)
- Orlando Scandrick (Returning Player)
- Anthony Brown (Returning Player)
- Chidobe Awuzie (2nd Round Pick)
- Jourdan Lewis (3rd Round Pick)
- Marquez White (6th Round Pick)
- Duke Thomas (UDFA)
- Sammy Seamster (Returning Practice Squad Player)
- Leon McFadden (Returning Player)
- Jeremiah McKinnon (Returning Player)
As you will notice there are only three familiar names between the two lists. Scandrick, Brown, and McFadden are the only returning players from 2016. Pretty crazy, huh?
Projecting The Cornerback Depth Chart
Now obviously the team will not keep all of the 10 players currently on the roster, they certainly have some sorting to do, but when you take a look at the roster you can all but guarantee Orlando Scandrick, Nolan Carroll, Anthony Brown, Chidobe Awuzie, and Jourdan Lewis are locks to make the final 53 Man Roster.
At most, one more player may make the Dallas Cowboys' opening day roster bringing the final total of cornerbacks to six. That is where former Florida State Seminole Marquez White must fight to earn his star.
White has some stiff competition ahead of him in Leon McFadden and Jeremiah McKinnon. Both of these players spent time on the active game-day roster last season as bottom-of-the-depth-chart type of guys. White showed flashes of being a very good player at Florida State, but never played at a consistently high level.
What the Cowboys could try to do is stash Marquez White on their practice squad, but that is a big risk to take, which may force them to go ahead and carry six CBs.
CB Position's Biggest Issue?
When you look at the talent of the players who will be forced to start or contribute early, it leaves me with little worry.
Nolan Carroll – Isn't a flashy or dominant player, but he does his job and creates turnovers. That's something this defense has been lacking for a very long time.
Orlando Scandrick – He is what he is. Scandrick is probably a top-10 slot CB in the league.
Anthony Brown – Brown is a question mark. He was great last year as a rookie after being drafted in the sixth round in 2016, and forced into playing time after injuries to Claiborne and Scandrick. Brown responded as well as he could, being a very solid player on the boundary and in the slot. The second year player shows no signs of slowing down and will look to fight for a full-time starting job at OTAs and Training Camp.
We have yet to see how Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis will handle the NFL level of play, but their college film shows that — out of the slot — both players were as good as they come. Both Awuzie and Lewis have the versatility to play as a nickel back or as a base corner along the boundary.
What worries me is that four of the five guys I talked about above are or played better in the slot than they did as a boundary CB. Anthony Brown played at a high level at both and I see him having little to no problem being a very productive starting CB in the Cowboys' base defense.
Where my worry comes into play most is with Orlando Scandrick and Jourdan Lewis. Orlando Scandrick played on the boundary quite a bit last year and, at times, really struggled. Scandrick plays his best when he's asked to do one job and that job is line up across from whoever the opposing team's slot receiver is and stick to him like glue.
Jourdan Lewis actually showed at Michigan that he can play along the boundary and do so at a high level. The problem comes in with Lewis' size. Lewis is listed at 5'10” 188 lbs but played like a giant at Michigan. If that translates to the NFL then my worries will go away. But as well all know, the NFL is a different beast. Slot receivers in the NFL are bigger, stronger, craftier, and faster.
Can Jourdan Lewis play for the Cowboys like the “alpha dog” he proved he was at Michigan? We'll have to find out.
Chidobe Awuzie was a Swiss army knife for the Colorado Buffaloes. Awuzie played on the boundary, in the slot, and even played some safety for his former team and played all the positions he was asked to play at an extremely high level. I trust Awuzie's ability to play on the boundary more due to size, instincts, and his ability to stay close to his man in coverage.
After watching Morris Claiborne, Brandon Carr, Barry Church, and J.J. Wilcox all leave in free agency, a lot of Cowboys fans worried how they would rebuild their secondary, or if they could do it at all.
There's no doubt about it that they brought in the fire power to do so, but they still need to show that they are ready for the bright lights on Sundays. The potential of this secondary is sky-high and every Cowboys fan should be ecstatic to see what they bring to the table in the 2017-2018 NFL Season.