Heading into both free agency and draft season, safety is a clear need of the Dallas Cowboys for 2019. They'll likely need to take one within their first two picks, unless they address the position in free agency first (see: Earl Thomas).
This year's safety class is one that can fit many different types of needs, whether it is for a slot defender, a box safety, or even a centerfield type player.
Here are my top 6 safeties heading into the NFL Combine, based on who I have watched thus far.
1. Nasir Adderley, Delaware
Nasir Adderley jumped onto the national scene at the Senior Bowl, showcasing his skills as a true free safety. Adderley has the zone coverage skills and range to serve as a middle of the field deep safety in the NFL, and he has the physicality and tackling ability to come up and make plays in space. He's the ideal single high safety, something which is highly valued in the NFL.
Adderley is the most well-rounded safety in this class, and is firmly seated atop my rankings as of today. He'll likely be the top safety heading into draft day as well, but there's just about no chance the Cowboys will be able to draft him this year. Even though he would be the perfect fit for their defensive needs.
2. Deionte Thompson, Alabama
Thompson is who I expected to be my top safety all throughout the college season, but he has been passed by Adderley rather soundly. Thompson certainly looks the part, and is as fluid and athletic at his size as you could hope for, but his instincts and mental processing are a step behind Adderley at this point.
An aggressive tackler who takes good angles when coming downhill, Thompson will be useful as a run defender from day one. He can work as a single-high safety as well, but isn't as well rounded a player as Adderley at this point.
Thompson is going to be a really good pro, and is worthy of fringe first round consideration, but he falls behind Adderley on my board.
3. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Florida
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is the wild card of this safety class. Playing all over the field at Florida, you'd think Gardner-Johnson would be the perfect candidate to be a modern day NFL safety. He didn't excel in all of those spots, however.
And, ironically, one of the areas I have the most questions about him is as a true safety. Still, Gardner-Johnson will be a valuable chess piece to any NFL defense. He's excellent in man coverage as a slot defender, and impresses in underneath coverage as well. Disciplined as a tackler and as versatile as they come, Gardner-Johnson should be on the Cowboys' short list at 58th overall.
4. Johnathan Abram, Mississippi State
National draft analysts love Johnathan Abram. And there is some good reason to.
Abram is a traditional strong safety, and will be effective as a box defender in the NFL. He's a big and physical player who will be valued mostly for his ability against the run. He's a good, no great, tackler who can actually get a bit too aggressive at times, but could be used as the modern day safety/linebacker hybrid in most defensive schemes.
In coverage, Abram is nowhere near the deep safety or zone coverage savant that someone like Nasir Adderley is, and he will have to make his living in the slot and the box.
5. Taylor Rapp, Washington
If you're looking for a solid tackling, aggressive, downhill strong safety then Taylor Rapp is your guy in this draft class. Rapp isn't going to sit back and play centerfield all that well (unless you line him up about 200 yards off the deepest receiver like Washington did at times), but can be effective in other ways.
I like Rapp as a tone-setting hitter and a sound tackler in the box, who can also offer value in man coverage against tight ends.
6. Juan Thornhill, Virginia
When you think Juan Thornhill, think "leader." A three year starter at Virginia, Thornhill is an instinctual player who understands both defensive responsibilities as well as opposing route combinations. Thornhill excelled at making plays on the ball in college, and is physical enough to match up with tight ends at the next level.
He is far from an athletic freak, however, and his combine testing will play a huge role in figuring out just what his upside as a coverage safety will be in the NFL.
Cowboys Draft: Film Notes on Iowa State Cyclones WR Hakeem Butler
The 2019 NFL Draft is light on a lot of the offensive skill position players at the top of the draft. There are a couple of wide receivers that are making noise in the first round, but I'm surprised to see that Iowa State Cyclones Wide Receiver Hakeem Butler isn't one of them.
Is he a perfect NFL prospect coming out of the Big 12? No. But this year, there isn't a perfect NFL wide receiver prospect, in my opinion.
Hakeem Butler measured in at 6-5, 225 with 35 1/4 inch wingspan, and 10 3/4 inch hands. He's a big receiver and generally, the type of wide receiver that the NFL looks for when they're attempting to build their receiver corp.
Here are his measurements, courtesy of Mockdraftable.com.
And here is his Spider Graph, if you're into that sort of thing.
As you can see, Butler moves the needle on the spider graph in the strength and athletic testing. He didn't run the short shuttle or the 3-cone drill at the NFL combine, which isn't surprising as those would be lesser traits to his game.
For his size, Butler runs an excellent 40-yard dash at 4.48 seconds. That puts him at the same time as Carolina Panthers Running Back Christian McCaffrey. Former Dallas Cowboys great, Dez Bryant ran a 4.52. The 40-yard dash helps measure straight line speed and it's helpful, it just isn't the be all-end all. Sure, you'd like a receiver to be faster, but Butler's size-speed combination makes up for being a touch slower than the guys running in the 4.3's.
In order to get a handle on Hakeem Butler, I watched his games against Iowa, Oklahoma, West Virginia, TCU, Baylor, and Washington State. Believe me, watching the Iowa State offense was no small task. Quarterback much?
Here's what I saw from Hakeem Butler.
- Is able to create separation on a variety of routes and against press coverage. Ran posts, slants, ins, outs, curls (both in and out breaking), double moves off of slants (sluggo and hitch and go), and nine or go routes.
- Moves well for size, could use some more quickness.
- Hakeem Butler is at his best when thrown back-shoulder fade routes. He's an excellent ball tracker and shows great anticipation for the ball being thrown under the route for him to come back to the ball.
- Quarterback play at Iowa State was an issue. I counted three, maybe four different quarterbacks that he had to work with throughout the 2018 season. Though Butler was able to bail them out at times, he and the rest of the Cyclones receiving corp dealt with poor ball placement.
- Butler is a physical blocker at the point of attack and away from the ball. He uses route feints to set up the defender so he can get square on them and uses good technique to secure his man and plays till the whistle.
- Was lined up all over the field in the games watched including the slot, the middle receiver in bunch formations, and in tight sets as a single receiver to one side.
- Is very physical against press coverage and fights to get free throughout the route.
- The two games he struggled the most were against TCU and Iowa where they used more zone coverage than Iowa State's other opponents. Those teams kept him bracketed, which left him little room to work in the zone and forced him into more contested catch situations.
- He had bad drops in both the Iowa and TCU games, but also came up with excellent catches.
- Butler is very physical after the catch and uses his size and agility to break tackles and create yards after the catch. Against the Sooners, he broke three or four tackles after the catch to take one the distance for the touchdown.
I like Hakeem Butler as a pro prospect. He has some nuanced route running to him and is more than just a jump-ball specialist, red zone threat. He has the skills to be a lead receiver for a team in the NFL and could even be used as a big-slot receiver much like the New Orleans Saints use Michael Thomas. Despite some drops, I think he has really good hands and with his size and physicality would be an excellent addition for the Dallas Cowboys.
I'd be surprised if he was available for the Cowboys at pick 58 of the second round, but if for some reason he was there, I wouldn't hesitate to select him. You can use him on the outside and move Amari Cooper to the slot or put Butler in the slot and use Cooper on the outside. His ability to run routes from all over the formation is an asset that a smart team will take advantage of.
Cowboys Draft Target: Central Florida DT Trysten Hill
NAME: Trysten Hill
POSITION: Defensive Tackle
SCHOOL: Central Florida
JERSEY: No. 9
RECRUITMENT RATING: 3-star
|Tackles||Tackles||Tackles||Tackles||Tackles||Def Int||Def Int||Def Int||Def Int||Def Int||Fumbles||Fumbles||Fumbles||Fumbles|
Uploaded by Micah Wade on 2019-02-22.
The first thing that jumps off the tape when studying Trysten Hill is his first step quickness at the snap of the ball and his burst to get upfield. He is scheme diverse, but projects better as a 4-3 defensive tackle. Can play the one-technique or the three-technique in a 4-3 defense, but is at his best as a one-gapper.
Hill plays with a nonstop motor and high energy down after down. Doesn't take any plays off. Shows the ability to fight off blocks. Always working his hands and feet to free himself. Is equally disruptive harassing the quarterback as a gap penetrator and in the running game playing sideline to sideline.
Shows good agility and flexibility to bend and finish tackles behind line of scrimmage and in the open field. Can anchor down against double teams, but needs to improve his overall play strength. Uses a twitchy arm over and spin counter move to penetrate the gap as both a pass rusher and run defender.
There are questions about Trysten Hill's maturity, work ethic, and coach ability. He found himself in the doghouse last year at Central Florida and only started one game. Was he demoted because of the new coaching staff or are the character concerns about him factual? This is something teams will have to dive deeper into.
Needs to do a better job of playing under control. Will run himself out of gaps at times, which causes him to lose his gap responsibility. Can get washed out of the play by down blocks. Needs to develop a better feel and response to keep that from happening.
Can anchor down against double teams, but needs to add functional strength in order to become more consistent. Drops his head at times on his initial punch. Needs to develop a more diverse pass rushing repertoire. Relies too much on arm over and spin move.
Trysten Hill is a versatile defensive tackle capable playing the one-technique or the three-technique in the Dallas Cowboys 4-3 defensive scheme. Due to his first step quickness and high motor, he is likely better suited to play the three-technique. He has starting potential, but would likely be a rotational piece on the DL as a rookie behind Maliek Collins. His ability to play on the other side of the line of scrimmage and sidelined the sideline would be a welcomed addition along the Cowboys defensive front. He projects as a late Day 2 or early Day 3 draft pick, and that's exactly where the Dallas Cowboys would likely have to target him to acquire his services.
Cowboys Draft Target: Nebraska WR Stanley Morgan Jr.
NAME: Stanley Morgan Jr.
POSITION: Wide Receiver
CONFERENCE: Big Ten
JERSEY: No. 8
RECRUITMENT RATING: 3-star
"Where I come from ... I had to block for Leonard Fournette, I played on the same team as Tyrann Mathieu," Morgan said. "It's just guys like that around me that made me want to work harder, just to keep going and give it my all. It's something that I was born with."
Stanley Morgan Jr. was a consistent and productive wide receiver during his time at Nebraska. He projects as a "Z" receiver in the NFL, but is probably better suited to play in the slot because of his skill set. Might be the best route runner in the entire 2019 WR draft class.
There's no questioning his toughness and competitiveness. His passion for the game shows up on tape. Unafraid to carry his routes across the middle of field. Possess good separation ability due to his precise route running and his ability to change directions on a dime. Has an understanding of how to temper his routes as well and has a way of lulling defensive backs to sleep and catching them off guard.
Has soft natural hands and shows good technique at the catch point. Shows the ability to make contested catches. Large catch radius. Excellent catch focus and body control. Shows the ability to climb the ladder and high point passes. Unfazed with DBs draped on him and shows good spatial awareness along the sideline. Has a little wiggle to be a threat after the catch, but doesn't have homerun ability.
Stanley Morgan Jr. could be labeled as "just a guy" as a wide receiver prospect. There is nothing really special about his game and he has just average speed and athleticism. Despite his productivity and consistency at Nebraska, he may have already reached his peak.
Morgan may be nothing more than a slot receiver in the NFL. He doesn't possess the necessary speed to be a threat down the field and doesn't show a lot of burst out of his breaks. Average speed will limit his big-play ability as well. Struggles to beat press coverage, which could cause cornerbacks to sit on underneath routes.
Doesn't offer anything on special teams. Had a handful of opportunities at Nebraska as a kick and punt returner with very little success. Doesn't show a lot of functional strength on film. Lack of strength and power limits his blocking ability in the passing game. Arrested for marijuana possession in May 2017.
Although Stanley Morgan Jr. has the ability to play the "Z" position with the Dallas Cowboys, they would likely move him into the slot full-time as Cole Beasley's replacement now that he's officially moved on to the Buffalo Bills. He may not have the same kind of change of direction skills as Beasley, but Morgan's precise route running ability immediately makes him a threat in the Cowboys aerial attack as a rookie.
Morgan unfortunately doesn't offer much, if anything, on special teams. He returned a few kickoffs and punts during his time at Nebraska, but had marginal success. He will probably never be more than a WR3 and might have already reached his peak as a prospect, but he is the type of WR who can have a long career in the NFL. As a potential mid-round draft pick he is an intriguing slot option for the Cowboys, but probably won't help fans forget about No. 11 anytime soon.
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
5 Realistic Free Agents Cowboys Should Sign Before the Draft
NFL Draft1 week ago
Hypothetical La’el Collins Trade Could Recoup Cowboys a 2019 1st-Round Pick
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Cowboys Show Interest in Browns DE Emmanuel Ogbah
Player News1 week ago
Chiefs Release Eric Berry, Should Cowboys Be Interested?
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
REPORT: Cowboys Keeping OL Joe Looney, WR Tavon Austin, WR Allen Hurns in 2019
NFL Draft1 day ago
Cowboys Draft Target: Nebraska WR Stanley Morgan Jr.
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
BREAKING: Dallas Cowboys Sign DL Christian Covington
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Dallas Cowboys Should Take a Run at EDGE Justin Houston