FRISCO, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys' needs in the draft are not a surprise with pass rusher, cornerback, safety and offensive tackle at the top of the list.
ESPN Insider Mel Kiper offered up his third mock draft on Wednesday and for the third straight time he has the Cowboys taking a defensive back at No. 28. This time it is Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers. In his first two mock drafts he had Washington cornerback Sidney Jones and Florida cornerback Teez Tabor coming to Dallas.
(Interestingly Todd McShay’s mock drafts have been three different defensive linemen.)
Peppers is a tremendous athlete. He played on both sides of the ball for Michigan, and there are some who wonder if he would be better on offense than defense. He ran faster than some expected at the combine (4.46 seconds in the 40), and he is explosive.
The need for a safety is obvious. The Cowboys lost Barry Church to the Jacksonville Jaguars and J.J. Wilcox to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency. They have Byron Jones and the current projection would have Jeff Heath as the other starting safety. Last year they drafted Kavon Frazier in the sixth round and he mainly filled a special teams’ role in 2016.
Would Peppers be a fit for the Cowboys?
Kiper admits the team that drafts Peppers will have to be creative in how they use him, and creativity is not a strong part of the Cowboys’ defense. Or at least it hasn’t been. You can already hear coaches using the term “football player” for Peppers. Put him anywhere and he will figure it out. With defenses using sub packages so much of the time, it shouldn’t be that hard to find a place for Peppers.
And there’s another question: Do the Cowboy value the safety position enough to use a first-round pick?
Jones was drafted in the first round as a cornerback in 2015 and was moved to safety by the end of his rookie season. He started every game last season at safety.
The Cowboys opted not to pay Church, a defensive captain with four straight 100-tackle seasons to his credit. They did not make a pitch to keep Wilcox. After taking Roy Williams in the first round in 2002, Wilcox (2013) was the last safety picked in the top three rounds by the Cowboys. They have been content to roll through players such as Gerald Sensabaugh, Will Allen, Abram Elam and Alan Ball. Church was an undrafted find in 2012.
To use a Jerry Jones’ term, the Cowboys seem to view the safety spot as “fungible,” which will upset the folks who think an Earl Thomas is available every year.
In Kiper’s mock he had Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton and Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey still available in the first round. In positions of importance to the Cowboys and their history at safety, either one would make more sense than Peppers.