The month of April couldn’t have come quicker for most Dallas Cowboys fans. After a disappointing loss in the first round of the playoffs and a less than satisfying start to free agency, Dallas fans can turn their attention to an area where America’s Team has typically excelled over the past decade, as the Dallas Cowboys draft classes have largely been successful.
The NFL Draft is quickly approaching, and the Cowboys are wrapping up evaluations and hosting potential targets with each of their nine selections in the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft. The pressure will be on Will McClay and the Joneses to put this team in a position to be the first repeat winner the NFC East has seen since the Eagles won four straight from 2001-04.
However, after an offseason that started with more departures than additions, a strong draft haul has never been more crucial. Let’s take a look at the Dallas Cowboys draft targets at each position, starting at safety in this article.
Dallas Cowboys Draft Targets: Safety
When the offseason began, the safety position was near the top of my list for draft needs. Jayron Kearse, Damontae Kazee, and Malik Hooker had taken the majority of the Cowboys’ reps at safety, and all three were heading toward free agency.
However, with Kearse and Hooker back in the fold, it would appear the Cowboys are more likely to add depth at the position. Of course, Dan Quinn is always a candidate to find a unique piece to the defensive puzzle and cater his system to accommodate for it, and I’m not ruling that out for Dallas.
This year’s crop of safeties is diverse, and if the right guy falls to the Cowboys, I could see them making a significant addition. However, value will ultimately dictate whether Dallas gets their hands on a difference-maker that pushes for a starting job or a depth piece.
Where the Cowboys could look to add help
There are several talented safeties that could force Dallas’ hand with a top-100 selection. Outside of that, the Cowboys will likely look to add help on day three of the draft.
If they are going to spend a high pick on a safety, having the versatility to play in the slot will probably be a must. Hooker has some versatility as well, and so that could play a factor if Dallas finds a prospect that fits best as a single-high player.
Still, the likely scenario is fining a young, developmental prospect thy can groom behind Hooker or Donovan Wilson.
First-Round Dallas Cowboys Draft Options
Daxton Hill, Michigan
We have covered a lot of bases with the Cowboys’ first-round options, and after what has recently transpired with Kelvin Joseph, a guy like Daxton Hill should not be out of the running at 24. The former Wolverine can line up as a single-high player, thanks to his outstanding range.
However, he can also line up in the slot, which gives him value for a team with a huge question mark at the cornerback position. Hill has twitchy athleticism and terrific instincts in coverage to match up one-on-one against most pass-catchers.
He may be on the slender side with just average height, but his skill set would be an intriguing fit with Hooker and Kearse. He fits around 24, and if he’s the top guy on Dallas’ board when they are on the clock, I wouldn’t be shocked to see them grab Hill.
Day 2 Dallas Cowboys Draft Targets
Jalen Pitre, Baylor
Like Hill, Jalen Pitre has plenty of experience working in the slot. He may not be quite as twitchy in coverage, but he competes his tail off on every snap and is described as a film junky. I also love his instincts against the run, as Pitre is one of the better finishers in this class.
Some see him solely as a slot player and envision him filling a role similar to Charles Woodson or Malcolm Jenkins. Still, his nose for the ball will benefit anywhere near the box.
The Cowboys would have to consider him if he got to 56, and I think his value fits better in the early stages of the second round. If Dallas chose to move out of the first round from 24, I’m sure his name would come up there as well.
Lewis Cine, Georgia
I’ve actually got Lewis Cine rated above Pitre on my board, but I’m not sure the Cowboys will value them that way. While Cine is a terrific athlete, he’s not the same twitchy defender that can match up with players in the slot.
Cine is more of a heat-seeking missile with the straight-line speed to cover a lot of ground. He’s a punishing hitter at the point of attack and led the nation’s top defense in tackles last fall.
Adding him would allow Quinn to move Hooker in and out of the box, knowing that both Cine and Hooker are comfortable lining up deep. Of course, his skill set would also be a natural fit on special teams. I doubt he gets to 56, but the Cowboys need to do prepared if he does fall.
JaQuan Brisker, Penn State
JaQuan Brisker is another player the Cowboys need to be prepared for in the second round, and the most likely of this bunch to fall to that point. While he’s got good range for the position, his best work comes closer to the line of scrimmage, where his eyes and competitive spirit can shine.
His coaches brag about his leadership and toughness, and he could push Donovan Wilson for the third safety position in Quinn’s defense. He may not have the twitchy athleticism to cover man-to-man, but he flows to the ball well in zone coverage.
While not as powerful a finisher as Cine, he does take a more disciplined approach. He was one of several star defenders the Cowboys got a front-row seat to watch at Penn State’s Pro Day, so they know what he offers if he is near the top of their board at 56.
Bryan Cook, Cincinnati
There is a lot to love about Bryan Cook, starting with his discipline in all facets of the game. His positioning and pursuit angles are terrific, and while he’s not a violent finisher like some of the other safeties in this class, Cook gets the job done at a high rate.
I couldn’t help but see some Honey Badger in him as a run defender, which is quite the compliment. However, he’s not quite the same player in coverage. As a zone defender, I like his ability to diagnose and close downhill, but matching up one-on-one will never be a strength of Cook’s.
Still, he’s another player that brings tons of leadership and intensity to a defense. It’s possible he could slide into the end of round two, but if he slips into day three, the Cowboys should keep their eye on him.
Day 3 Dallas Cowboys Draft Targets
Markquese Bell, Florida A&M
Bell has size and athleticism that shined at Florida A&M, but there is still a fair amount of development left for his game. I wish he took better angles to the football, both in the run game or when the ball is in the air.
He seems most comfortable playing in the center of the field with the play in front of him, but he needs to get better with his eyes, as he can be late reacting to routes in front of his face. Still, teams will love his physical makeup, and his name will likely be called before the draft is over.
Dallas’ latest pick is in the sixth round, and while that is a bit high for where I would take him, they could select Bell there to ensure they get him. He could be groomed behind Hooker as a deep safety with the long-term potential to be the successor in that role.