(Editor's Note: As the NFL Draft approaches on May 8-10, DallasCowboys.com's Draft Series will analyze every position, including the Cowboys' needs at each and which players might be targeted with their 11 picks, while also providing some interesting draft nuggets. Part 9 features the safeties.)
There's only one player at safety with a stranglehold on a starting spot, and that's Barry Church, the team's leading tackler last season who also forced a team-high three fumbles. Church has been the lone constant at the safety spot to provide some stability to the position, and it'd be shocking to see him off the field in Week 1 this year.
His ability to come up and play near the line of scrimmage hasn't been matched by anyone currently on the roster. It would help if he could be paired next to a roaming safety who can make plays on the ball, but who that player is remains a question. The leading candidate is likely last year's third-round, J.J. Wilcox, but Jeff Heath, Matt Johnson and Jakar Hamilton are all still possibilities for the second starting spot.
Wilcox started five games at safety after the team released veteran Will Allen, but Wilcox suffered a knee injury and Heath took hold of the spot, starting the final nine games at safety. Heath was an undrafted free agent and Wilcox was a third-round pick, so they'd like to get the latter involved, but the position is definitely up for grabs, and they'd like to see what they can get when Johnson is healthy.
What They Need:
If they're to add a player in the draft, it would make sense for that player to be a play-making pick in the first couple rounds. The Cowboys have depth at the position with the aforementioned players, but if they can get a star centerfielder-type safety who can cover the whole field and allow Church to play closer to the box without feeling like he needs to help out, that might be worth one of their top picks in the draft. If they look for another safety, the most important trait would be the ability to cover.
The Cowboys went this route last year by adding Allen, but that experiment didn't last long into the season as they wanted to get a look at their younger options. Former Broncos safety Mike Adams and former Redskins safety Reed Doughty are probably the most prominent players at the position still left in free agency. But after demonstrating last year that they'd like to get younger at the position, at this point it would seem more likely any major safety additions would come via the draft.
The two at the top of most mock draft lists are Alabama safety Hasean (Ha Ha) Clinton-Dix and Louisville's Calvin Pryor, with the latter becoming more and more prominent recently for his explosiveness. Both players left school early and provide the deep coverage ability the Cowboys may be looking for, if they want to grab a safety in the first round. [embedded_ad]
Another possibility to creep into the first round is Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward, who visited with the Cowboys and finished his senior year with seven picks. He could end up providing the same playmaking ability, and if the Cowboys wait until the second round, he may be off the board. Florida State's Terrence Brooks and Washington State's Deone Bucannon could also creep into the second round.
For a more in-depth look at all the draft prospects, check out the Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine 2014 Draft Guide, which profiles more than 80 potential picks with rankings for over 300 players available in the upcoming draft. Digital subscriptions, which include 32 issues throughout the year, are available for just $14.99.