On Friday night, the Dallas Cowboys had a pivotal defensive decision to make. And it appears they made the choice that best suited their defensive coordinator.
The Dallas Cowboys had to wait out 57 agonizing selections until finally making their first pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. And with the 58th overall selection, late in the second round on Friday night, the Cowboys made Central Florida defensive tackle Trysten Hill the newest member of America’s Team.
But it couldn’t have been an easy choice for the Cowboys as it’s believed they were also considering the selection of a safety in that very same spot. The likely candidate? A ball-hawking playmaker out of Virginia named Juan Thornhill. Two other top safeties in this draft class were available as well, Delaware’s Nasir Adderley and Washington’s Taylor Rapp.
The debate was which would impact the Cowboys’ defense more? A three-technique, under tackle that could be a disruptor up the middle? Or a rangy safety who could play down in the box as a run defender but also be a potential takeaway machine?
In the end, it seems that it was defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli that was the swing vote. His scheme has always been dependent on having a difference maker at the under tackle position. And in Hill, who posted 36 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks last season for the Knights, Marinelli had found himself an interior beast.
In fact, NFL.com Analyst Bucky Brooks called the selection of Hill by the Cowboys one of the ten best fits between teams and picks in the entire 2019 NFL Draft. Here’s Brooks explanation as to why …
"“The marriage between Hill and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is a match made in heaven, based on the defensive tackle’s non-stop motor and relentless approach. The 6-3, 308-pounder plays like his hair is on fire on every play, and he promised the grizzled coach that he would bring that same effort to Dallas when he signed a ‘work ethic contract’ prior to the draft.”"
Clearly, Marinelli loved what he saw from Hill at UCF’s Pro Day, working out the prospect himself. The Cowboys meet with their top pick several times this offseason, making sure he was the right kind of player to add to the roster. And after waiting through 57 other draft selections, Dallas made their decision.
As for the trio of potential safety prospects; Thornhill, Adderley, and Rapp were all selected within five picks of the Cowboys’ selection of Hill. Dallas eventually landed themselves as hard-hitting safety prospect in the late sixth round, Texas A&M’s Donovan Wilson. The former Aggie posted an impressive stat line of 63 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, five interceptions, three forced fumbles and a defensive touchdown as a sophomore.
The selection of Trysten Hill is the perfect marriage between player and scheme. For the Dallas Cowboys, Hill represents hope for improved interior play this year and for many seasons to come. Although the debate will rage on whether the Cowboys made the right choice or not, the team’s past successes have earned them the benefit of the doubt.