When Pro Bowl safety Darren Woodson roamed the Dallas secondary, that was the last time the Dallas Cowboys didn’t need to be concerned with the safety position in the secondary. Since 2004 it has remained a constant thorn within the side of defensive coaches in Dallas.
Will Dallas choose to address the situation in this years draft? Mark Barron (the top rated safety going into the NFL combine) has been diagnosed with a double sports hernia, so he will likely not be available to perform at months end in Indianapolis.
This leaves the door wide open for other prospects at the position to show off their talents in an attempt to move up draft boards; one intriguing prospect the Dallas Cowboys could consider in this years draft is Boise State free safety George Iloka.
Draft pundits like to talk top of the draft but there are those fanatics who actually want to know what a team may do in the middle or late rounds to solidify depth and possibly strike it rich by finding a diamond in the rough type player like the Dallas Cowboys 2005 224th overall pick Jay Ratliff.
George Iloka could be just that for a team like Dallas, but at the same time Iloka could merely end-up adding depth to the Cowboys roster much like 2006 fifth round NFL draft pick Pat Watkins did for a few years while playing for the Cowboys. The Boise State safety does have an above average football IQ and runs in the low 4.5’s; Iloka has been clocked in as fast as 4.42.
The physical stats & style of play are very similar to Miami Hurricanes strong safety Ray Ray Armstrong which some analysts believed would be a top rated talent at the position had Armstrong made himself NFL draft eligible at the end of the 2011 college football season.
Iloka isn’t known as a natural ball hawk, although his biggest contribution to the Dallas Cowboys would be his size & speed. Iloka was rarely tested as Boise State opponent’s game planned to attack the younger less experienced cornerbacks in the Broncos starting defensive line-up. Standing at 6’3″ & 225 lbs., George Iloka played the last three games for the Broncos lined up at the cornerback position.
The drafting of Iloka would almost immediately pay dividends for the Cowboys in obvious third down passing situations when lined up to patrol the middle of the field defending against the bigger faster prototypical tight-end types like Jimmy Graham, Jermicheal Finley, & Vernon Davis.
The Boise State Bronco has the build of a smaller linebacker but the speed and agility of a defensive back. This is the exact combination of player that the Dallas Cowboys have to get on the field in order to contend with the offensive speed of NFC east rivals.
Iloka’s stock is on the rise since the Senior Bowl and depending on the free safety’s performance at the NFL combine, his stock could raise enough for the former Bronco to play himself into the early second round.
Going into the Senior Bowl the free safety was projected as one of the top two players at the position and a likely late second round or third round player, but he was tested sparingly during the actual game.
Mike Mayock recently released his top safeties going into this years NFL combine and George Iloka is listed at number three, behind only Mark Barron of Alabama and Harrison Smith of Notre Dame.
After Iloka’s performance in Mobile, Alabama the free safety isn’t shying away from performing on a big stage and understands every aspect of his game is being analysed by NFL coaches and scouts.
“I’ve got to show them the fact I didn’t have an interception this year was not because I’m not a playmaker, but because teams didn’t come my way.” Iloka said. “They were targeting our young corners.”
Everyone who happens to be a Cowboys fan knows the struggles the team has had trying to replace Pro Bowl safety Darren Woodson since his abrupt retirement from the team and the NFL in 2004. Eight years later the Dallas Cowboys are still looking to draft a starting safety that will finally remove the bandage from the open wound left behind by Woodson’s retirement.
One such Cowboys fan and head central scout, Alex Brown, of Optimumscouting.com suggests that fans keep a close eye on Arkansas State safety Kelcie McCray at this years upcoming NFL combine as the former Red Wolf is a top 20 prospect from the Players All-Star Classic in Little Rock Arkansas.
Brown’s thoughts on the safety from Arkansas State – “Kelcie McCray has a ton of upside with a long, lean frame that needs bulk up to 210, is a fluid moving athlete with plus ball skills, sideline to sideline range, and impressive foot speed for such a tall player. McCray will need a year in the weight room before he becomes a solid starting free safety, but has skill set and tools rare for the safety position.”
Other than the drafting of Roy Williams with the 8th overall pick in 2002 Dallas has seemed to have under valued both the strong safety and free safety positions since Williams and Woodson. Will this year be any different?
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