The 2021 NFL draft is right around the corner and the Dallas Cowboys have plenty of holes to fill. One of the most important areas is the Cowboys secondary which they have been trying to get right for quite some time now.
In 2020, the Cowboys found two young studs to build with on the third level of their defense. Cornerback Trevon Diggs had some struggles early in the season and missed four games with a broken foot, but still became the first Cowboys rookie defender to lead the team in interceptions (3) and pass breakups. Strong Safety Donovan Wilson showed promise as a rookie in 2019 until an ankle injury derailed his progress. However, he played in 14 games (10 starts) and produced 71 tackles, two interceptions, three pass breakups, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and 3.5 sacks.
With 2017 draftees Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie, and Xavier Woods all headed for free agency, the question becomes who will play opposite Diggs and Wilson in 2021? NFL Network’s Jane Slater highlighted two defensive backs who the Cowboys are keeping an eye on in TCU safety Trevon Moehrig and Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain.
Let’s talk defensive options in the draft folks with one right here in the DFW area #Cowboys pic.twitter.com/4XkKhRYXQE
John Owning of the Dallas Morning News gave a breakdown of Moehrig’s skill set a few weeks ago.
“Listed at 6-2, 202 pounds, Moehrig thrived in Gary Patterson’s split-safety, quarters-based defense. Moehrig played cornerback in high school, and it shows in his movement skills and coverage ability. Moehrig does a great job of staying in-phase with receivers from off-coverage alignments. Moehrig also displays impressive range as deep zone defender, leveraging his explosiveness and natural instincts to get in position to make plays at the catch point. He locates and finishes on the ball as well as any defensive back in this class, totaling six interceptions and 20 pass breakups while allowing a 51.1% completion rate when targeted in the past two seasons at TCU.”
Moehrig faced a lot of spread offenses playing in the Big 12 which prepared him well for the pass-happy league the NFL has become. The Cowboy’s new Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn’s Cover 1/Cover 3 scheme requires a free safety that can play center field as a ball-hawking playmaker which Moehrig did well at TCU. He can cover sideline to sideline and is a good run defender.
Trevon Moehrig is the best safety in this class and an absolute perfect fit for Dan Quinn’s defense.* 6’1″ 208lbs* TCU’s defensive CEO* elite cover safety* numbers to numbers range* excellent ball skills* fluid athlete, with easy transitions* solid run defender pic.twitter.com/da0on75MRA
If the Cowboys were to spend a premium pick on a safety for the first time since the days of Darren Woodson (1992) and Roy Williams (2002) by selecting Moehrig, they would get an immediate starter opposite Wilson for the foreseeable future.
A week before his assessment of Moehrig, DMN’s Owning broke down Surtain’s ability during his days playing under Nick Saban.
“Listed 6-2 and 202 pounds, Surtain possesses the size and length Quinn values at the cornerback position in addition to his technical efficiency. Coming from one of the most complicated coverage schemes in all of college football, Surtain has the versatility to thrive in any NFL scheme under the sun.
“In man coverage, Surtain thrives in press, as his long arms and play strength enable him to disrupt receivers at the line of scrimmage. In addition, Surtain does an outstanding job staying in-phase with receivers in-and-out of breaks and when attacked vertically. Surtain is rarely out of position, which enables him to consistently stay true to his technique and stay sticky to receivers when one-on-one.”
Surtain showed excellent balls skills and a knack for creating turnovers in his three seasons at Alabama with 24 pass breakups, four interceptions, and four forced fumbles. He displayed great ability as a tackler as 82 of 116 stops on the collegiate level were of the solo variety. Also, in 41 games at Alabama, Surtain allowed over 70 yards on just one occasion according to Pro Football Focus.
Cowboys Wide Receiver CeeDee Lamb faced Surtain in the 2018 Orange Bowl and had some glowing praise for one of the 2021 NFL drafts top corner prospects last month.
“He has the ideal size, speed, quickness, everything,” Lamb told FOX Sports. “He’s just about everything you look for in a Pro Bowl DB… I’m excited to see where he’s going to end up going. I hope to see him again soon.”
CeeDee Lamb vs Patrick Surtain pic.twitter.com/K3Wg6pFoZz
The ideal scenario for the Cowboys would be to snag Surtain with the 10th overall pick and hope that Moehrig drops to the second round. Nonetheless, they are both excellent options to improve the Cowboys secondary and will be two names to keep an eye on in April.