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NFL Draft

NFL Draft: What To Look For In S Prospects

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Headlines - NFL Draft: What To Look For In S Prospects

Today, we will conclude this 10 part series by taking a gander at what I look for when the scouting the safety position.

If you’ve been paying attention you may have noticed that I excluded the outside linebacker position. I did this because the Dallas Cowboys use a 4-3 defensive scheme and an outside linebacker plays in a 3-4 defense.

Here are the positions that have been previously broken down about what to look for when scouting: Quarterback, Running back, Wide receiver, Tight end, Offensive line, Defensive end, Defensive tackle, Inside linebacker, and Corner back.

Now, let’s take a look at the safety position and what I look for when analyzing these NFL hopefuls.

Understanding Coverages

Just like with the CB position, you have to educate yourself about the different types of coverages a safety will be asked to play in at the NFL level. This may be the most important thing to fully understand when analyzing a safety prospect.

Here is a look at the five coverages that are mostly used in the NFL:

Cover 0: Man coverage without a free safety playing over the top helping.

Cover 1: Man coverage with strong and free safety help.

Cover 2 (Tampa 2): Safeties divide to the field playing zone coverage and corner backs cover the flats.

Cover 3: Corner backs and free safety divide the field into thirds and play zone coverage.

Cover 4: Corner backs and safeties divide the field into quarters and play zone coverage.

I can’t express enough how important it is to understand the different coverages and how the safety will fit into those particular defenses.

Type of Safety

We have seen a shift in the NFL these past several years and the safety position might be the one that has been impacted the most.

The NFL has become a pass friendly league and teams have started looking at the types of safeties they like to have on the roster little differently.

Before there was an identifiable difference. There was a strong safety and a free safety. The strong safety generally played closer to the line of scrimmage and was usually bigger and more physical. These types of safeties were solid tacklers but usually limited in coverage.

Free safeties are usually a little smaller, but better in coverage. These are the types of safeties that teams have started to gravitate towards more here in recent years.

A lot of teams prefer their safeties to be interchangeable and they look for them to make plays in the running game, as well as in coverage.

It is really important to identify whether a safety prospect is better suited to play as a strong safety or a free safety.

Instincts

One of my favorite traits to analyze when scouting a safety prospect is their instincts. I like to look for how quickly they can diagnose a play and react accordingly.

Cowboys Draft - NFL Draft: What To Look For In S Prospects

If a safety is slow to react that could put him out of position and as we all know, the safety is the last line of defense.

Safeties are usually lined up about 15 yards from the line of scrimmage and it is important to react as quickly as possible and take the proper angles in order to make a play.

If it’s a run play I like to see if they safety comes downhill quickly and is able to break down and make the play. If it’s a pass play I want to see the safety take the proper angle to intercept the receiver and make a play on the ball.

Some of the best safeties of all time were great because they were instinctive and had a habit of being in the right place at the right time.

This is the one trait that I pay the most attention to when analyzing the safety position, and the only trait that can’t to be taught. A player either hasn’t or he doesn’t.

Speed/Acceleration

Speed is an important trait to look for in a safety prospect. They are lined up the furthest away from the ball and have to use their speed and acceleration to make plays in both the running and passing game all over the field.

Safeties might just cover the most ground during a game than any other position in the NFL, so their speed is an important trait to pay close attention to.

Safeties have to use their speed and acceleration to run downhill and make plays in front of them in the running game. They also have to be able to change direction and use their speed to cover receivers in the passing game.

Personally, I like a safety that runs at least a 4.5 second 40 yard dash or faster, but a player with great instincts can overcome a lack of speed and vice versa.

Technique

Technique is much more important for the CB position, but a safety in the NFL still sometimes has to rely on his technique to put him in the best position possible in order to make a play.Cowboys Draft - NFL Draft: What To Look For In S Prospects 1

When watching game film I like to see a safety move smoothly when coming out of his backpedal and then turning and running in coverage. It’s the same principle that I use when scouting the CB position.

I don’t expect a safety prospect to be as fluid in their movements as a CB because they are usually built differently, but I want the movement to be as close as possible.

The safety position plays mostly in the open field so they have to be able to rely on their technique to break down when making a tackle or transitioning from their backpedal and turning to cover a receiver down the field.

Agility

Agility is an important trait to look for when analyzing just about any position, and it’s a trait that I want to see when scouting a safety prospect.

What I like to look for the most is whether or not a player has quick feet and is able to use that to his advantage when making plays all over the field.

With the shift to use more athletic safeties that are better in coverage, a prospects agility becomes even more important to properly analyze.

Safeties are asked to play both man and zone coverages in the NFL and either one of these types of coverages require a player to have good agility in order to have a successful NFL career.

Tackling

Honestly, I don’t know if there’s a team in the NFL that wants safety that shies away from making a tackle and that is why I believe this is an important trait to pay close attention to  when scouting the position.Cowboys Draft - NFL Draft: What To Look For In S Prospects 2

A perfect safety prospect would have the coverage ability of a CB and the tackling ability of a linebacker, but those are few and far between.

A safety is usually the last line of defense and whether or not the prospect is able to make a tackle might just mean whether or not the offenses able to put points on the board.

The days of the hard-hitting safeties is most likely coming to end due to the fact that the NFL is putting more emphasis on player safety and the rules reflect that. So, I look for a safety that uses the proper form when tackling and is able to wrap up and bring down the player with the ball.

Tackling is an important trait, so pay close attention watching film.

Size

I personally don’t put too much emphasis in a safety prospects size, because we’ve seen in the NFL that players of all sizes can become successful if they’re talented enough.

Generally though, teams like a safety prospect around 6’0″ tall, if not taller and somewhere around 200 pounds because they want the player to be effective not only in the running game, but in coverage as well.

Earl Thomas is one of the better free safeties in the NFL and he is only 5’10”, 210 lbs, so it usually just depends on the team’s preference. That is something to keep in mind when scouting these NFL hopefuls.

Summary

Elite safeties don’t come around very often, so it is important to properly analyze these players and determine how they will fit into a teams philosophy on defense.

This is especially true now that there seems to be a shift in the way that teams view the safety position.

Instincts, size, speed, and agility are all important traits to look for in these prospects, but the best players have all of these traits and are able to use them effectively.

One safety prospect that I think the Dallas Cowboys could use in the secondary is Karl Joseph out of West Virginia. Joseph could help solidify the backend of the secondary for defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli’s 4-3 defense.

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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.

NFL Draft

Sean’s Scout: UTSA’s Marcus Davenport Fills Pass Rush Need for Cowboys

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: UTSA's Marcus Davenport Fills Pass Rush Need for Cowboys
Daniel Dunn / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It is not often at all that a team picking 19th overall may be out of range to draft a small school prospect, but this is rightfully the case for the Dallas Cowboys and UTSA’s Marcus Davenport. For scouts who only care about how these prospects can help their NFL teams, Davenport has all of the traits to be an impact defensive end the second he enters the league.

Should the Cowboys find themselves in position to draft Marcus Davenport in the first round, he would fill an immediate need as another pure pass rusher to pair with DeMarcus Lawrence.

Firmly a first round player on my 2018 NFL Draft Board, let’s take a closer look at Davenport’s potential fit in Dallas.

Davenport5 – Streamable

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What is most exciting about Davenport’s projection to the NFL is that he’s an ideal right defensive end prospect that played mostly on the left side in college. That means Davenport is stout against the run as a powerful player who also displays freakish speed, dip, and balance as a quarterback hunter.

“Simply forcing offensive tackles to respect his rare combination of speed and dip allows Marcus Davenport to knock them backwards with hands-above-eyes technique.”

Davenport1 – Streamable

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This quote and accompanying film clip comes from my full scouting report on Marcus Davenport on Slant Sports. There simply aren’t many EDGE prospects at the top of any given draft as complete as Davenport, while still showing elite upside to get even better.

Davenport does not exactly have a plan for each of his rushes, but pointing him at the quarterback on every play from the RDE spot in Dallas could do him nothing but good from day one. This is a player who captures the corner with ease, thanks to his burst and length, doing so with the balance to absolutely punish blockers.

When Marcus Davenport hits someone, they go backwards. This is a great thing to say about any defensive prospect, particularly a pass rusher who can also bend the corner.

Davenport4 – Streamable

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“There simply aren’t many snaps on which he allows a blocker to work inside of his frame.”

The only slight projection that has to be made on Davenport playing defensive end with the Cowboys is his transition from playing mostly in a two-point stance to putting his hand on the ground. This technical change does little to affect a defensive end’s pass rush approach.

The strength Marcus Davenport shows in his hands is absolutely stunning, and equally as impressive is his controlled acceleration ability. These two traits alone are more than enough to expect Davenport to be able to beat left tackles at the next level with consistency, attacking them before they can reach this lengthy prospect.

“Tapping into Davenport’s full potential could be as simple as getting him in the habit of rushing the half man on every rep, but expecting him to do so right away is a projection.”

With Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli notorious for getting the most out of his defensive linemen, there is no question that Dallas is an ideal landing spot for Marcus Davenport to instantly reach his full potential.

The key to unleashing Davenport on the NFL will be teaching the mental aspects of the position to a player who dominated with raw traits in college.

Davenport3 – Streamable

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The Cowboys have some numbers to sort out at defensive end before the draft, as the likes of Charles Tapper and Randy Gregory could potentially give them enough of a presence across from Lawrence to warrant looking elsewhere with the 19th overall pick.

Of course, Dallas also used last year’s first selection on DE Taco Charlton — who took major strides in his game towards the end of 2017.

None of this should deter them from reinforcing their defensive front with another versatile pass rusher.

Marcus Davenport has a legitimate case to come off the board within the first 15 picks of the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft, making him a great value for the Cowboys, slated to pick 19th.

Sean Martin ✭ on Twitter

My latest scouting report is UTSA’s Marcus Davenport. Get to know this tenacious EDGE prospect — https://t.co/Fm9FYpNvsT https://t.co/DBcLiQEYhP

Tell us what you think about “Sean’s Scout: UTSA’s Marcus Davenport Fills Pass Rush Need for Cowboys” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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NFL Draft

Cowboys Land Small School WR in Latest PFF Mock Draft

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Land Small School WR In Latest PFF Mock Draft
Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post

It’s officially draft season around the NFL, meaning — whether you like it or not — it’s now mock draft season. Pro Football Focus is the latest of the national football media outlets to release a mock draft. Their version of the draft was controversial towards the top, but their pick for the Cowboys was equally intriguing.

PFF has the Cowboys taking Colorado State Wide Receiver Michael Gallup, with the 19th overall pick, a player they graded with a 92.1 in 2017.

“Dallas could go a number of ways here, but they add another receiving threat in Gallup, who can win with speed down the field and toughness at the catch point. He was the nation’s top-graded receiver in 2017 at 92.1 overall, and he adds another weapon for QB Dak Prescott.”

Personally, I’m a huge fan of Michael Gallup. As I stated in my scouting report of Michael Gallup for Slant Sports, I believe he is one of the top-five receivers in the 2018 draft class. Gallup caught 100 passes last season for Colorado State, finishing with 1,413 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns.

At 6’1″ and about 200 pounds, Michael Gallup is the perfect productive Z receiver that any NFL offense would want.

nfldraft2018 michael gallup 2 – Streamable

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Gallup is a smart, athletic, and tough wide out, with consistent hands and excellent ball tracking skills. He was incredibly productive in college, and should be able to contribute to an NFL offense right away as a rookie.

Drafting Gallup in the first round, however, may not be the best move.

I think he’s a fantastic day-two option for the Cowboys. But if they were to pass on Vita Vea and Roquan Smith for Michael Gallup, as they did in this PFF mock draft, I don’t think Cowboys Nation would be too happy.

Of course, this is just one of many mock drafts circling around the inter-webs, but Michael Gallup would be a great fit for the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas desperately needs this type of wide out in their offense, but I hope they can get him 50th overall, rather than 19th.

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NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft Target: Virginia Tech LB Tremaine Edmunds

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Draft Target: Virginia Tech LB Tremaine Edmonds 1

Draft season! Draft season! Draft season! Pardon my excitement, but it’s one of my favorite times of the year. We all get the chance to study and speculate about the new crop of rookies coming in and determine their potential fit with NFL teams, and in this case, the Dallas Cowboys.

This draft season, especially, is shaping up to be an exciting one because the Cowboys have clear needs pretty much across the board. That means there is no clear answer as to which direction they will go with any of their draft picks, especially when they’re on the clock at 19 in the first round.

There is of course one draft need that has to be near the top of the list, if not #1 overall.

There can be no arguing the Dallas Cowboys absolutely need to address the linebacker position, especially with Sean Lee’s continued health concerns and Anthony Hitchens‘ potential departure via free agency.

Finding linebacker depth through the draft is a must!

A lot of Cowboys fans have already become enamored with former Georgia Bulldogs LB Roquan Smith, and rightfully so.

Smith will likely be the first linebacker off the board when the 2018 NFL Draft gets underway, which means he won’t be available for the Cowboys at 19.

But don’t be disheartened Cowboys fans, I think there is a linebacker in this draft class who possesses the God-given talent to be even better. Let me introduce you to a linebacker who I believe has Superstar potential.

Virginia Tech LB Tremaine Edmunds

Tremaine Edmunds checks all the boxes for an NFL linebacker. He is one of the more intriguing prospects in this entire draft class because of his versatility to play in any scheme. But, most intriguing is he is slated to be the second youngest (19) prospect ever drafted, only Amobi Okoye was younger.

But don’t let his youth fool you; he’s a monster on the field.

Tremaine Edmunds is a natural in so many phases of the game, and it has everything to do with his rare athleticism.

Edmunds has the size of an edge player (6’5″, 250), but the movement/athleticism of the smaller and quicker linebackers we’ve seen become popular around the NFL. To put it simply, he looks like a lion, but moves like a gazelle in the open field with his long strides and flexible hips.

Here’s an example of his loose/flexible hips in coverage.

Tremaine Edmunds loose hips in coverage – Streamable

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This isn’t a play you would typically ask a 6’5″, 250-pound man to make, but Tremaine Edmunds makes it look easy.

On this particular play, Edmunds drops into his hook/curl zone coverage. He then realizes the quarterback has decided to pull the ball down and scramble. He shows excellent field awareness and breaks from his coverage responsibility to make the open field tackle on the QB, despite the referee getting in the way.

This play probably wouldn’t have been possible if Edmunds was unable to flip his hips to change direction in order to make the tackle after covering the tight end. He does this with ease.

What I really like about Tremaine Edmunds is his versatility to play in any kind of defensive front/scheme. But, I personally believe he fits best in a 4-3 scheme, which is why I think he makes an excellent Cowboys draft prospect.

I think he fits best in the 4-3 scheme because of all of the different positions he can play. In the 4-3 scheme, Edmunds could play:

MIKE (middle): He has tremendous gap-shooting ability and play anticipation.
SAM (strong-side): He has the ability to stop the run and still drop into coverage.
EDGE: He has the size, athleticism, flexibility, and explosion.

Tremaine Edmunds played all of these positions while at Virginia Tech, and I think he could even play WILL (weak-side) as well, but that’s something he wasn’t asked to do in college.

But, you don’t have to take my word for it.

Edmunds at MIKE:

Tremaine Edmunds read/react – Streamable

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Here you see Tremaine Edmunds playing the MIKE LB position. He quickly reads and diagnoses the play, shooting the gap to make the tackle for a loss on third down.

It’s an excellent play and shows the God-given talent he was born with. You can’t teach those kind of instincts.

Edmunds at SAM:

Tremaine Edmunds covering RB – Streamable

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On this particular play, Edmunds is lined up at the SAM LB position and has responsibility of covering the running back out of the backfield. Not only does he once again show his loose hips in coverage, but he makes an excellent open-field tackle on third down for a minimal gain to get the defense off the field.

Edmunds at EDGE:

Tremaine Edmunds off the edge – Streamable

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Tremaine Edmunds was also utilized as an edge rusher, at times, while at Virginia Tech. Here you see him lined up in a two-point stance on the defense’s left side.

At the snap of the ball, you can really see his first-step explosion, natural bend and athleticism.

The TE trying to block him had no chance, and Edmunds probably would have gotten the sack if not for the slight hold and the QB’s ability to get rid of the ball quickly.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

As you can see, Tremaine Edmunds is an intriguing prospect for the Dallas Cowboys, and could probably start right away at the SAM LB position while also providing much-needed depth in other areas.

He’s not a polished prospect by any means, he’s still raw, but I believe he has the upside to be one of the great ones.

If I were to compare him to a current NFL player, I would compare him to either Anthony Barr (Vikings) or Jamie Collins (Browns). Both players have been successful as inside linebackers as well as edge players in the NFL, and that’s what I envision Edmunds will do in his career.

I think Edmunds is going to open a lot of eyes once we get further into the draft process, especially after he puts on a show at the combine. He will likely shoot up draft boards, which means he should be in play for the Dallas Cowboys with the 19th overall selection. I have absolutely zero concerns about taking him there.

What do you think about Tremaine Edmunds as a Cowboys draft prospect?

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