Free agency departures left the Dallas Cowboys with a large gap at safety. Fortunately a loaded draft class has help on the way.
Heath is a ‘part-time’ safety due to his primary role as the Cowboys’ special teams ace. In 2016, he logged the team’s most ST snaps (78.4%).
Last season his ST workload trumped his time at safety by 102 plays (345-243). In 2015, he recorded 90 more ST snaps than at safety (296-206).
Heath’s elite ST prowess far outweighs his marginal safety talents. Though wishful thinkers believe he’s earned another chance to start and prove serviceable.
Dallas can’t afford to dilute special teams simply to regress from a solid starter (Church) to a serviceable one. The brutal 2017 schedule won’t allow it.
Heath makes big plays and shows well in limited use. But there’s a reason the primary back-up role belonged to another serviceable safety J.J. Wilcox.
Fortunately a deep safety class will save Dallas and keep Heath’s dual role intact.
SAFETY CLASS FOUR ROUNDS STRONG
The safety deprived Cowboys enter an ideal draft for starting caliber options. There should be four rounds of worthy choices to partner with Byron Jones.
Limited coverage responsibilities at strong (box) safety make it easier to fill than free safety. Thankfully, Jones has the free spot on cruise control.
However, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli claims Jones can play either safety. Dallas wouldn’t overlook a special free safety if the right one fell to them.
Below are the Cowboys’ likely safety targets by round. This isn’t my order, but where the players are rated by major draft services…
FIRST ROUND OPTIONS:
JAMAL ADAMS – jewel of the class, Dallas has no shot
MALIK HOOKER – special free safety, gone in top 15, no chance
JABRILL PEPPERS – if he falls, Cowboys draft next Darren Woodson
Notes: Dallas has no chance at the top two. Peppers is a long shot they’d pounce on, but he’s unlikely to fall. No other safeties have first round value.
SECOND ROUND OPTIONS:
BUDDA BAKER – free safety, love him at 60, shouldn’t last
JOSH JONES – great size, plays physical, good fit as box safety
OBI MELIFONWU – freakish physical traits, physicality doesn’t match size
Notes: Baker would be a steal, but shouldn’t make 60. Jones would be a solid choice. Melifonwu is a physical freak but attacks timid and struggles to shed blockers.
THIRD / FOURTH ROUND OPTIONS:
XAVIER WOODS – intense play maker, best value in class
MARCUS MAYE – another good fit with matching value
JUSTIN EVANS – highly productive, physical, solid option
DESMOND KING – has CB and S versatility but nothing jumps off page
EDDIE JACKSON – shows traits but suspicious production, 4th round only
Notes: The best strategy is to wait and select Woods, Maye, or Evans (Pick 98 or 133). Each one is highly aggressive, could start immediately, and won’t burn a high pick.