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Grant Delpit or Xavier McKinney, Who’s the Better fit With the Cowboys?

Grant Delpit or Xavier McKinney could solve the Dallas Cowboys safety problems.

It’s only February, but when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys first-round pick (17th overall) fans and media alike seem to have tunnel vision. It doesn’t matter if you’re listening to a podcast or the radio, reading an online or printed article, or watching television everyone seems to have their eyes set on the top two safeties in the 2020 NFL Draft, Grant Delpit and Xavier McKinney.

It makes sense of course. It is one of the Dallas Cowboys “needs” this offseason, especially with Jeff Heath hitting free agency and the entire Trysten Hill debacle last year. It’s only natural to assume the Cowboys will draft a safety at some point in the 2020 NFL Draft, so why not go with the top two rated players at the position in Delpit or McKinney. But, which one?

Well, that’s a question not easily answered. Both players are good in their own right, but neither is without their warts. Then, you have to take into account schematic fit. Which one fits the best into what Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan and Defensive Back’s Coach Maurice Linquist want in their safety prospects? Right now, your guess is as good as mine.

Doing a deep dive into Mike Nolan and Maurice Linquist’s past coaching history could provide a clue for what they’re looking for in a safety, but even that would be nothing more than an educated guess. For all we know they could be planning to do something entirely new with the Dallas Cowboys, so that doesn’t really help us either.

So, what do we know? All we really have to go on right now is what Nolan and Linquist have said and fortunately it sounds as if they’re both on the same page.

“As most things do, it does start with the player. Typically there are players that have a knack for getting the ball and some that don’t, but at the same time a coach’s job is to work on that. It’s the number one thing in winning football games, getting the ball for your offense, and as a defense that’s what we’ll strive to do all the time. Outside of that it is getting your opponent to third down so you can get off the field. Like I said, some players have a knack for it (turnovers) but the ones that don’t I think you can improve their skill and that comes through practice and making ball awareness and things like that.”

The above quote was Mike Nolan’s response when asked about the Cowboys defense creating more turnovers. It’s pretty much the generic answer we have come to expect from any coach around the NFL, whether from a defensive coordinator or not. They never want to tip their hand about a player they may be targeting, especially so early in the draft process. Fortunately though, Maurice Linquist is a little new to the game and may have shed a little more light on the topic.

When asked about what kind of safeties he wants, Linquist replied:

“Ballhawks. Ball players. I mean obviously you want guys who can affect the ball. You want guys who can separate, whether its a running back or receiver, from the ball. You want guys who can go get the ball. I think a lot of defensive football is about attacking the football. It’s about your ability to be a ball disruptive player. At all 11 positions if you are looking at an elite defensive player, you want somebody who can be aggressive to the ball and go make plays on the ball.”

It’s not much to go on, but it doesn’t really sound like Mike Nolan or Maurice Linquist is looking for a traditional strong safety type who plays mostly around the line of scrimmage. To me, it sounds like they want a versatile chess piece on the backend of the defense who can be aggressive and attack the ball. Believe it or not, but that fits both Grant Delpit and Xavier McKinney.

I really don’t think the Dallas Cowboys could go wrong with either Grant Delpit or Xavier McKinney, but I do believe one fits in a little better than the other. I’ve studied both players and have them ranked neck and neck with one another, but I believe Delpit has a slight edge over McKinney. I think he has the potential to be something special.

My scouting reports on Grant Delpit and Xavier McKinney

If you look over my scouting reports on both players, you will see I believe Xavier McKinney is at his best when he’s playing around the line of scrimmage. Grant Delpit on the other hand is at his best when he’s playing as a deep safety in coverage where he can use his range and instincts. It’s his ability to neutralize a receiver or tight end in coverage that makes him a better fit with the Dallas Cowboys in my opinion.

If Mike Nolan can clean up Delpit’s tackling technique, the former LSU Tiger has the ability to become one of the best young safeties in the game and be an immediate impact player as a rookie. Whether or not they think the same is up in the air. They may not like either one of these safety prospects, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Grand Delpit or Xavier McKinney, who’s a better fit with the Cowboys?

What do you think?

Brian Martin

Written by Brian Martin

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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  1. 100% agree Brian. Delpit is the choice for me as well. His range in special and would very beneficial to our corners knowing we have a guy back there who will have their back and go get the ball. I think his tackling issues were a result of that nagging ankle injury he played through in 2019. Honestly if he had another year like 2018 in 2019, there would be no debate on this and he might not be available to us at 17. He and Woods would be fun to see in the secondary being used as chess pieces to disguise our coverages.

    • I think his tackling issues has more to do with poor technique than anything. I think that’s definitely correctable with better coaching in the NFL. But even if it’s not, I think I still prefer his ability as a coverage safety. I really like the idea of him matching up with some of the more athletic TEs around the league and within the division.

  2. My only issue with Delpit is he plays more free safety and that is Xavier Woods spot, can he play SS., if not then you’re back to Jeff Heath or unproven Donavan Wilson. I prefer Xavier McKinney because he slides into SS spot and keeps your best veteran safety on the field. (and I like the Xavier squared duo)

    • I wouldn’t not draft Delpit just because of Xavier Woods. Woods is entering the final year of his rookie contract and may not be in the future plans of the organization.

  3. My only issue with Delpit is he plays more free safety and that is Xavier Woods spot, can he play SS., if not then you’re back to Jeff Heath or unproven Donavan Wilson. I prefer Xavier McKinney because he slides into SS spot and keeps your best veteran safety on the field.

    • I don’t really think the Cowboys are looking for a traditional strong safety type. That’s what the old coaching regime wanted. I think the Cowboys are going to go to two more of a two-high shell look on the backend of the defense and play more quarters coverage.

  4. Tackling has been Cowboys weakness. Why not why get Xavier McKinney to lock down the Box and let Woods play free. Delpit don’t tackle because he gets hurt easily. McKinney have a better injury report, expecting a safety like Delpit who experience injuries to make tackles is not going to work. Xavier McKinney can play free safety and strong safety and we’ll have a better chance of staying healthy.

    • I honestly like both Delpit and McKinney and would be happy if the Cowboys drafted either one. Personally though, I prefer Delpit because he is much better in coverage. I think we are going to see the Cowboys go to more of a two-high shell, so you don’t really need a strong safety roaming around the line of scrimmage as much. It really all comes down to what this new coaching staff is looking for.

      • I actually believe Delpit has more upside than McKinney. His range and instincts are unmatched in this year’s draft class, whereas with McKinney I think you’re pretty much getting what you see. I don’t see very many areas of his game where he needs to improve. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but he may have peaked already or is close to it.

  5. I agree I do like Delpit and McKinney. Do you think Delpit could stay healthy for a full season? And do you think McKinney can play two-high shell? I lean more for McKinney because of his durability.

    • I don’t think Delpit is injury prone if that’s what you’re asking. He battled through injuries in 2019 and still played really well. That’s a testament to his toughness if nothing else. And I’m not against McKinney at all. I think he can play the two-high shell as well.

  6. Neither one I think both are highly overrated. I much rather wait for rounds 2-4 to grab a safety. I would consider McKinney if we traded to the bottom of round 1 but I really don’t see first round value in either one. Winfield Jr in the second would be much better.

    • I completely agree. I think a lot of Cowboys fans kind of have tunnel vision for the safety position and forget about the other players who are probably ranked higher.

  7. Xavier Mckinney is my choice!! I think he’s an all around better safety than Delpit!! More interceptions, definitely more tackles, more sacks, and more of everything else too!! Delpit is good, except for his tackling, but I will always choose Mckinney over Delpit!!

    • I actually liked both players to be honest. I like Delpit just a little bit better because I think he will continue to improve. I don’t see much room for growth in McKinney’s game. Not that that’s a bad thing. He’s good, but he may already be what he is as a player.

    • I wish I was as positive about McKinney. I like both players for different reasons, but I like Delpit just a little better.

  8. Take Kyle Duggar over both of these guys in the second round and get a stud true big defensive tackle in the first round. Would be a win win situation.

  9. I like both but would rather trade back 5-10 slots in first round to get either and acquire another 2nd round pick. Delpit scares me with his injury history but seems the better fit. Just happy Smiling Dopey Opie is gone:) and time to get a NT early too

  10. I like both, but I think Mckinney is a little better!! I think he’d be a better fit for us than Delpit!! And he can actually tackle!! Delpit has a tackling problem and he has an injury problem too!! I’m gonna stick with Mckinney!! He’s been my favorite 1st round choice for months now and that’s where I’m gonna stay

  11. Chaisson and Dugger 1 and 2 would be just what the doctor ordered for this defense….with DT, 3rd or Slot Receiver. I also recognize that Cowboys try to set themselves up for best player available and things don’t always fall this way…e.g. Mcgovern 3rd..

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