Dallas Cowboys Draft: Analyzing the Picks on Defense

Safety JJ Wilcox drafted in the 3rd round.

Safety JJ Wilcox drafted in the 3rd round.

My previous blog analyzed the offensive player draft picks so now a look at the defensive draft picks. It can easily be argued that more should have been done in the draft to help in the conversion to a 4-3 defense but these are the picks that Monte Kiffin will have to work with in 2013.

Safety JJ Wilcox, 6’0 204 lbs
Skills:

-Good build and plays physical. separates receivers from the ball with hits and can wrestle the ball away.
-Breaks on the ball nicely when it goes up in the air. A converted WR and that receiver mentality comes out when the ball is in the air.
-Kickoff returner that averaged 25 yards/return.
-Good athlete. Was quite productive as a receiver for Ga. Southern before switching to defense. Ran a 4.51/40 time and also performed well in the cone at the combine.

Areas to improve:
-Tackling and ability to help in run support needs to improve. Remember he only played one year on the defensive side of the ball.
-Man coverage will need development. Played at a small college and while he performed well at the senior bowl, he hasn’t been asked to man up on a TE very often, at least on video.
-On video, he looks for the knock out hit on a receiver and may miss tackles or even get flagged.

How he fits:
Can contribute right away on special teams as a kickoff returner for Dallas. A duty that the departed Felix Jones managed primarily but no one else seem to take ownership of.

Not ready to be an every down safety yet and will need a season to develop. The Cowboys drafted safety Matt Johnson last season and how he can contribute remains to be seen because of injuries. Based on film, I think Wilcox has more upside potential than Johnson but they do play in a similar manner that being more of a strong safety than free safety.

Immediately Wilcox will do fine in zone coverage where he is asked to keep everything in front of him and can contribute in packages for 3rd down and long. The new Tampa 2 defense will primarily be zone anyway.

Player comparison: Jerron McMillian– Wilcox, not lacking in any confidence, compares himself to the hard hitting former Redskin pro bowl safety Sean Taylor. Some of the hits Taylor made back in the day, would result in fines today.

Wilcox said of his own versatility, “Offense, receiver, running back, free safety, strong safety, I’m a special breed.” He can do it all! More realistically he compares to Jerron McMillan the small school safety the Packers drafted last season and will likely start in the future.

LB Devonte Holloman 6′-2, 243 lbs
Skills:

-Excellent feet quickness and a top performer in the 20 yard shuttle. Athletic.
-Good run tackler and brings a pop with his hits.
-Experienced as a safety, scouts like his ability to cover the pass as a LB. Good instincts in coverage.
-Excellent open field tackler. On video I saw a guy who doesn’t go for the juke but makes the tackle.
-Good effort and stays after the play.

Areas to improve:
-limited experience at the position and doesn’t always find the ball at LB.
-Can get blocked near the line.
-To compete as a NFL LB, will need to add strength.

How he fits:
The plan would appear to play Holloman as a strong side LB in the 4-3 defense. However he will require some time to develop into a starter there. His pass coverage ability is impressive and I really like how he played as a strong safety at S. Carolina.

I look for Holloman to be in pass coverage packages soon as a LB, safety, or hybrid position.

Player comparison: David Thornton– LB that played in the NFL for 8 years with the Titans and Colts. In 2003 he lead the Colts in tackles and had 2 INTs. Similar size as Holloman and was effective in pass coverage.

CB B.W. Webb 5-10, 184 lbs
Skills:

-Productive punt returner.
-Solid in zone coverage and breaks on the ball well.
-Able to jump and get hands on passes. Top vertical jump among CBs at the combine.
-Quick feet and had top shuttle time of CBs at combine.

Areas to improve:
-Poor tackler particularly in open field. Arm tackles and that will not get it done in the NFL. Not above whiffing on tackles too. Evidently B.W. stands for the “brotha whiffs”.
-Man coverage needs development. Chases the receiver and consequently loses the ball.
-Played at smaller division college. NFL receivers will be a big step up.
-Average CB size at 5-10 and that becomes more of an issue at next level.

How he fits: Punt return duties are in good hands with Dwayne Harris however Web can compete for kickoff returns right away. I think expectations are that he eventually replace the over paid Scandrick to cover the slot however it remains to be seen if Webb can develop. For now he is the 4th corner.

Player comparison: Mike Jenkins– Not a huge compliment I admit. The former Dallas CB Jenkins who made the Pro Bowl one season but was not much of a tackler.

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