The Renny Rant: With the 80th Overall Pick, The Dallas Cowboys Select…

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For a Dallas Cowboys team only able to register seven interceptions TOTAL last season, we certainly could use a true ballhawk in the defensive backfield, one even similar to say, Darren Woodson?

For those potential ballhawks, I have three suggestions that should be available when we go on the clock with the 80th overall pick in the third round. In the third round however, expect to see coveted names like Kenny Vaccaro (Texas), Matt Elam (Florida) and perhaps even Jonathan Cyprien (Florida International) OFF Mel Kiper’s list of “Best Available.”

Rather, look for these potential starters in the third round…

Oct 6, 2012; Fort Collins, WY, USA; Fresno State Bulldogs safety Phillip Thomas (16) intercepts a pass against the Colorado State Rams during the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs beat the Rams 28-7. Mandatory Credit: Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Phillip Thomas, Safety, Fresno State

Talk about ballhawk – Thomas reeled in eight interceptions (which led the nation) alone in his senior season with the Bulldogs. Thomas would provide plenty of value in the third round. Last season alone, the Fresno State product compiled 82 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, four passes defended, and forced four fumbles. The kid is a turnover machine plain and simple. Match him with Barry Church and you would have a formidable safety duo for years to come in Dallas.

D.J. Swearinger, Safety, South Carolina

Swearinger is known as an emotional player on the field who has been to known to play with a chip on his shoulder. Maybe that’s why they call him a “chippy” player. Either way, his attitude and emotion would be a welcomed addition to Monte Kiffin’s 4-3 scheme. With his speed and instincts, Swearinger can cover a lot of range on the backend of any defense. His numbers for his senior season were very respectable; 79 tackles, two forced fumbles, seven passes defended and two picks.   

September 15, 2012; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers safety Eric Reid (1) raises his arms to the crowd as the Tigers take the field against the Idaho Vandals during the first half at Tiger Stadium. LSU defeated Idaho 63-14. Mandatory Credit: Crystal Logiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Reid, Safety, LSU

Now Reid could go as early as the 2nd round, but I am projecting him to fall to Dallas in the 3rd round (I know, how convenient?). A college teammate of Morris Claiborne, Reid evidently missed the production of fellow safety Brandon Taylor, and star cornerbacks Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu (The Honey Badger) during his senior season. His dip in production from his junior to senior seasons no doubt affected his draft stock, but he has still solidified himself as a day two pick. At the end of the day, Reid is an instinctive player that has good size (6’2 and 212 pounds) and has wrangled with the best competition in college football the past four seasons playing in the vaunted SEC. His senior season for the Tigers still resulted in 91 tackles, seven passes defended and he also hauled in two interceptions.

All of these players will be capable of coming in and competing for starting spots their rookie year. Monte Kiffin’s scheme calls for his safeties to play with speed, play in coverage, and run to the ball carrier and all three safeties fit the bill. Now we don’t need a Cliff Harris/ Charlie Waters or a Roy Williams/Darren Woodson combination on the backend (no matter how nice that would be). We just need a safety tandem in Dallas that is capable of creating turnovers, delivering some big hits, not allowing the big play, sustaining late leads and helping to close out games for our defense in 2013. And that potential tandem remains a high possibility (with the right draft pick) entering 2013.

My final prediction for the 80th overall pick – of the three listed players – I’m leaning the most toward Phillip Thomas (Fresno State) at the moment.

Darren Woodson was a 2nd round pick in 1992 (although he played linebacker at Arizona State). If the Dallas Cowboys brass is capable of finding a 3rd round safety to match even HALF the production of “Woody,” then they just might finally have a formidable duo at safety (along with the highly touted Barry Church) for the first time in a decade.

I think I speak for Cowboys Nation across the globe when I say, we have waited long enough!

Stay tuned next week for a follow-up to this article. It will be titled “The Renny Rant: With the 47th Overall Pick, The Dallas Cowboys Select…”