There has been quite a bit to talk about the Dallas Cowboys safety position this offseason, especially in regards to the possibility of trading for Earl Thomas or moving up in the draft to select Derwin James. Unfortunately, I don't really think either one of these moves happen, but that shouldn't discourage you.
The Dallas Cowboys already have a few safety options on the roster, but that shouldn't keep them from looking for an upgrade. Jeff Heath could reprise his role at free safety this season, but the other safety spot opposite him is completely up for grabs with Byron Jones moving back to cornerback.
Personally, I would like to see Xavier Woods get a shot at one of the starting positions, but that's something to debate and speculate about once we get a little further along into offseason workouts. That is why today I want to share with you the top 10 safeties I think the Cowboys could target after the first-round.
Rashaan Gaulden, Tennessee
Round Grade: 2nd
Rashaan Gaulden was a two-year starter for the Volunteers and was part of the No. 3 nationally ranked pass defense in 2017. He is a bit of a Swiss Army knife defensive back and has lined up at several different positions in the secondary during his time in college.
Gaulden was primarily the starting nickel or inside corner, but I think he projects better as a free safety in the NFL. He has the speed and toughness to play the position, but needs to become a little bit more disciplined. He has all the traits scouts look for in a safety prospect and a good foundation to build upon.
Jessie Bates, Wake Forest
Round Grade: 2nd
Jessie Bates played in 20 career games and has two years of starting experience during his time at Wake Forest. His decision to enter the 2018 NFL Draft is somewhat of a head scratcher since he had two years of eligibility remaining, but he looks like a surefire second-round draft pick.
Bates was the starting strong safety for the Demon Deacons, but probably projects better as a free safety in the NFL. He has a slight frame which could lead to durability issues down the road. Despite this, he is fearless in run support and shows good range and coverage instincts. He fits the mold of the kind of free safety the Dallas Cowboys are in search of.
Justin Reid, Stanford
Round Grade: 2nd
Justin Reid is the younger brother of Eric Reid, the former San Francisco 49ers safety. He was a two-year starter at Stanford and although he was listed as a free safety on the depth chart, he played several different roles in their secondary.
I believe Reid can be an interchangeable safety in the NFL who is capable of playing deep in coverage or in the box around the line of scrimmage. At Stanford he primarily played in the box or in man coverage in the slot. His smooth athleticism and versatility make him an intriguing second-round option for the Dallas Cowboys.
Jordan Whitehead, Pittsburgh
Round Grade: 3rd
Jordan Whitehead is a three-year starter at Pittsburgh and lined up primarily at strong safety. But, he also showed off his versatility by playing free safety, cornerback, and even played on offense. He is a premium athlete, but there are some concerns with him as a prospect.
He doesn't have the ideal frame NFL teams look for in a safety prospect and there is a little bit of concern with his character. He also needs to clean up his technique in coverage and play with better eye discipline. As a run defender he is an inconsistent tackler at times because of poor technique, which will need to be cleaned up in the NFL. Overall, he has starting ability, but there are a few things that need to be cleaned up before he is trustworthy.
Terrell Edmunds, Virginia Tech
Round Grade: 3rd
Terrell Edmunds is the brother of Tremaine Edmunds, a projected first-round linebacker who a lot of Dallas Cowboys fans would love to see available at 19. Terrell is a three-year starter at Virginia Tech and bounced around their secondary throughout his collegiate career.
Terrell is a sound run defender and has shown he can make plays on the ball in the passing game, but good route runners will eat him up. He is probably best suited to play in a defensive scheme that utilizes a lot of zone coverages because he really struggles when he's asked to play man to man.
Marcus Allen, Penn State
Round Grade: 3rd
Marcus Allen is a four-year starter at Penn State and helped lead them to a national championship. Despite being listed as a free safety on their depth chart, he played primarily around the line of scrimmage as a box safety.
Allen is an aggressive downhill tackler and finished his collegiate career with 321 tackles, ranking 5th overall in school history and only four behind Dallas Cowboys own, Sean Lee. He has the speed and athleticism to be a coverage safety, but he is much more comfortable making plays in front of him than he is when he has to play in reverse.
Dane Cruikshank, Arizona
Round Grade: 3rd-4th
Dane Cruikshank was a two-year starter at Arizona. The former Wildcat first started his career at cornerback before making the transition to a hybrid safety role last season. He looks most comfortable as a overhang safety where he can blitz, defend against the run, or cover tight ends and receivers in the slot.
Cruikshank projects to be a strong safety in the NFL and has starting potential. He will struggle early on in coverage, but with time to develop could improve in this area. With the Dallas Cowboys, he would likely end up being a player similar to Barry Church, but they may already have that type of player in Kavon Frazier.
Tracy Walker, Louisiana Lafayette
Round Grade: 3rd-4th
Tracy Walker was a four-year starter at Louisiana Lafayette and was primarily used as a boundary safety. He is a former basketball player and as the frame to match. He needs to put in the work in the weight room in order to fill out his frame, but has starting potential.
I believe he could become an interchangeable safety in the NFL with little time to develop. He has the athleticism to become a rangy free safety and has the physicality to play down around the line of scrimmage in the box. He could compete for playing time as a rookie, but he might not be ready for a full-time starting gig.
Tarvarius Moore, Southern Miss
Round Grade: 3rd-4th
Tarvarius Moore is a former junior college transfer and one-your starter at Southern Miss. He put up eye-popping numbers and his pro day and has the potential to become the best free safety in the entire 2018 draft class.
Moore has yet to play his best football and will only continue to get better the more coaching and playing time he receives. His on-field athleticism and range really stand out when watching his game film and he shows really good pursuit angles when chasing down the ball carrier. He also isn't afraid to mix it up in the running game.
DeShon Elliott, Texas
Round Grade: 4th
For many Dallas Cowboys fans, DeShon Elliott's name probably stands out the most on this entire list. The Cowboys have already met with him and worked him out, so you know there is an interest in him in some capacity.
Elliott is a bit of an enigma as a safety prospect. At times he looks like a top prospect, but then in the next instant looks completely lost. He has only average athleticism and play speed, but he has a knack for finding himself in the right place at the right time. He looks more comfortable around the line of scrimmage than he does in coverage. He will likely be a special teams standout as a rookie while he develops.
Any of these 10 safety prospects make sense for the Dallas Cowboys?
Cowboys Draft Class: How Many Will Be Starters In 2018?
The Dallas Cowboys have been showered with praise by most national NFL media outlets for their 2018 NFL Draft class. NFL.com graded the Cowboys as having the 2nd best class in the league, and most other analysts have agreed that the team had a strong showing.
But now, of course, it's time to see what these new players will actually do on the field. Some are hoping the team found 3-5 new starters for the 2018 roster, but history would suggest that is pretty rare.
Dallas' 2016 draft class has been lauded as one of the best in the last decade, especially considering they look to have found their franchise quarterback in round four. That strong class only features four full-time starters heading into 2018, but we have to wonder if that's the outlier and not the norm.
Still, as we look back and examine this 2018 draft class it really appears they have found three day one starters in the first three rounds.
First round pick Leighton Vander Esch is expected to be the starting MIKE linebacker this season, with former second round selection Jaylon Smith moving to SAM. Vander Esch wasn't my favorite option at 19, but he is certainly starter-worthy in this Cowboys LB corps.
On day two the Cowboys added OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup, two of my personal favorite picks of their entire class. Williams should be the starting LG week 1 of the season, and Michael Gallup may overtake Allen Hurns as the most productive WR on the roster by year's end.
What about the rest of the class?
Dorance Armstrong will probably have too much competition to start at defensive end this season, but he should be an interesting rotational pass rusher. TE Dalton Schultz has the chance to surprise some people, but overtaking Geoff Swaim as the "starter" would be unexpected.
After that, the player with the best chance to make the team and contribute early on might be Boise State WR Cedrick Wilson. Wilson was a late day-two, early day-three pick to me so snagging him in the sixth round should provide incredible value to this roster. That wide out room is getting very crowded, though, so Wilson has his work cut out for him heading into camp.
How many of the Cowboys' 2018 draft picks will be starters in 2018? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.
Did the Dallas Cowboys Find 4 Starters in the 2018 NFL Draft?
One of the many winners of the 2018 NFL Draft were, without a doubt, the Dallas Cowboys. Not only did they addressed some of the team's most pressing needs, but they managed to draft very talented, capable players beyond the first round.
Cowboys Nation had to feel better about the rookie class the front office walked away with, specially after the second day of the Draft. Just like last year, they managed to find steals in the second and third rounds. In 2017, they did so with Cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis. Now, they stayed put at their original picks and walked away with OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup.
But first things first. In the eyes of many, Leighton Vander Esch wasn't worth the 19th overall pick. While I do agree that Vander Esch was a questionable selection, the Cowboys fixed arguably their most concerning position of all. As much as it pains to admit it, Sean Lee has yet to play an entire NFL season and Jaylon Smith was pretty much the only other capable starter on the roster.
Although Vander Esch needs to develop a ton before reaching his full potential. he's a week 1 starter and an early contributor for this defense. Whether it felt like a "reach" or not, the Cowboys took a starter in the Boise State linebacker.
Later, the Cowboys managed to add an arguably first-round talent with pick #50 to plug-and-play along the offensive line. Texas OL Connor Williams was also seen as a tackle prospect, but he'll likely start at guard for Dallas as a rookie.
Since Ron Leary left for Denver, the left guard spot hasn't been as stable. Jonathan Cooper did a decent job filling that spot, but with Williams taking his place, the Cowboys dominance in the trenches will finally return. Playing next to All-Pros Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, Connor Williams might become the best rookie in this class for the Cowboys.
One can't simply say the team found a "replacement" for Dez Bryant since he's a special player and with a very specific skill set, but Michael Gallup from Colorado State has the potential to become the team's WR1 pretty soon.
In the team's effort to build a Dak-friendly offense, Gallup is a crafty and smooth route-runner who has what it takes to play in any spot of the offense. His skill-set will allow him to play anywhere on the field and become Dak's favorite target in a year in which Jason Witten and Dez Bryant will no longer be lining up on his squad.
Taken in the first three rounds, Vander Esch, Williams and Gallup will be unquestionable starters. The question, however, is who else could become a starter for the Cowboys? Who could line up and start in week 1?
Even though it definitely isn't as certain as the other three rookies, I'm betting on Dalton Schultz to be a more important starter than we imagine. Listen, maybe it's not an ideal scenario to have the TE from Stanford start in week 1, but it could be necessary.
The Rico Gathers Adventure might just be over before it starts and Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin may not be anything special. In college, Schultz was pretty good at run blocking. In the Cowboys' offense, led by one of the best running backs in the league, Ezekiel Elliott, Schultz may be able to find success earlier than expected.
Besides, he has what it takes to catch passes in the NFL and although he certainly won't be the flashiest, he could be enough to give Dak Prescott a reliable tight end.
Dalton Schultz could be the surprise of this Draft for Dallas. He'll probably become a starter at some point in the season and for a fourth-round pick, that's a very good thing to say.
For a front office that's constantly bashed by Cowboys Nation, their job at this year's NFL Draft was a pretty good one. Now it's just a matter of time to find out which picks were as good as we originally thought.
Why Cowboys Nation Should Feel Better About Leighton Vander Esch
A week ago, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell walked out to the stage at AT&T Stadium to announce the Dallas Cowboys first pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. For the second consecutive year, a large portion of Cowboys Nation was not pretty happy about the player America's Team had drafted in the first day of the Draft.
Boise State's Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch has become one of the main debates among Cowboys fans right now and will continue to be one at least until the season starts. Some are fine with the decision the front office made and some simply don't view Vander Esch as a first round talent.
Naturally, taking Leighton in the first round has been widely compared to the team's last first round pick: Taco Charlton.
Both of these selections resulted in fans all around the world complaining and criticizing the selections since they both seemed like a reach, arguing that they could've gotten better players at other positions.
But fans shouldn't be so quick to compare the Charlton and Vander Esch selections, because they really aren't that similar. Sure, most of the media and Draft fans didn't consider any of these players worthy of a first round pick, but that doesn't mean both players were ranked similarly in the Cowboys' draft board.
Defensive End Taco Charlton, despite showing some very promising flashes towards the end of the year, wasn't able to become a starter at any point during his rookie season. Hopefully he develops into one next season. But when you're talking about first-round picks, being a solid starter at the end of the season at the latest is a very usual expectation.
Possibly what made the Taco pick hurt even more, is the fact that the front office didn't even consider him a first-round talent. Although he was drafted to wear the Star with the 28th overall pick, he wasn't their guy.
The #Cowboys had three first-round grades on DEs, but Taco Charlton wasn't one of them.
With Leighton Vander Esch, the same can't be said. The Cowboys knew he was their guy and that they were going to take him, regardless of the situation. For many weeks we wondered about just every scenario the team might face when they were on the clock.
What if DE Harold Landry is available? What if Calvin Ridley is still on the board? What if Derwin James slides, would they trade up?
For the front office, there was quite a lot of talent to choose from at 19 (not to mention James did slide out of the top 15), but they still took Leighton Vander Esch, even with Landry and Ridley on the board. We might disagree with the pick. We might not think the Boise State's product should've been taken so early. That's completely fine.
But Cowboys Nation should be happy knowing that this was the guy they wanted all along. Maybe if Derwin James hadn't been drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers with the 17th pick, Dallas would have still taken Vander Esch.
"If the Cowboys traded up a few spots in the first round, I believe it would have been to ensure they got Vander Esch, not get James or Edmunds." Dane Brugler on the Cowboys' approach to the Draft.
For now, it's time to root for the Dallas Cowboys' new rookie. Vander Esch will provide a special factor to this defense and has the potential to become a very good starter down the road. Playing side by side with Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith will certainly help his development and turn him into an impact player soon.
At the end of the day, it takes years to properly evaluate how a draft pick turned out in the NFL. There are first round players who turn out to be complete busts just like there are sixth or seventh round players that go on to become superstars in the league.
The Dallas Cowboys did a hell of a job addressing their needs throughout the Draft this year and there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about this year's draft picks. Leighton Vander Esch is without a doubt, one of them.
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