Is the Dallas Cowboys second round selection in the 2017 draft, Colorado’s Chidobe Awuzie, a better NFL cornerback or safety?
Earlier this year, the Dallas Cowboys‘ defensive secondary suffered significant losses due to free agency. Longtime starting cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne along with strong safety Barry Church all signed elsewhere in March. The Cowboys also lost former starter and key reserve safety J.J. Wilcox in the free agency exodus.
This left Dallas with several major voids to fill. After adding free agent veterans in cornerback Nolan Carroll and safety Robert Blanton to the roster, the Cowboys turned their attention to the NFL Draft. Using seven of their nine draft selections on the defensive side of the ball, and four of those seven picks on defensive backs; Dallas has instantly injected a tremendous amount of youth into their secondary.
Those rookies include Colorado cornerback Chidobe Awuzie in the second round, Michigan cornerback Jourdan Lewis in the third, and two sixth rounders in Louisiana Tech safety Xavier Woods and Florida State corner Marquez White.
But as the Cowboys second round selection, 60th overall, Awuzie is expected to play a major role in revitalizing the defensive secondary in Dallas. And although he possess the versatility to play both multiple positions, many seemed to have penciled Chidobe in as a potential starter at cornerback.
Which makes perfect sense, as Dallas has a bonafide starter at the safety position already in former first round selection Byron Jones. And with Woods and special teams ace Jeff Heath expected to compete for other starting safety role, playing Awuzie at corner seems to fill a major need.
But according to one expert who has followed Awuzie’s college career closely, safety may be the 21-year old’s best position in the NFL.
"“I think [Awuzie] might wind up as a corner or safety in the NFL just because of the instincts he has and flexibility,” Buffzone.com‘s Brian Howell told the Dallas Morning News recently. “He never struck me as a really big speed corner. I think he’s just so instinctive that with the speed of the NFL I wonder if he’ll be better when he can react more. I think he can help the Cowboys in a number of positions and the way he reacts, as smart as he is and the way he studies film, he’ll be more impactful as a safety.”"
While at Colorado, Awuzie was used all over the defense. Not only did he play both outside and in the slot as a corner, but also Chidobe played both safety positions and even spent some time at outside linebacker.
At nearly six foot, 202 pounds, Awuize has the size and production to translate well to the safety position. He posted a combined 154 tackles, 19.0 tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles and an incredible 8.0 sacks in his last two years at Colorado. And by all accounts his football intelligence is off-the-charts, reportedly scoring a whopping 35 on the Wonderlic test.
Like Byron Jones before him, Awuzie’s versatility will be very useful in Dallas this season to fill some of the major voids left by all those veterans lost to free agency. But also like Jones before him, that versatility can become a curse if he’s given too much to do too early.
Although Chidobe Awuzie may be forced to play multiple positions in 2017 out of necessity, at some point the Dallas Cowboys will need to figure out if he’s a better cornerback or safety at the NFL-level, and allow him to grow at that one spot.