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Finding 58: Where Does Gardner-Johnson Project?


FRISCO, Texas – Somehow, it's draft season once again.

The offseason is flying by, and the 2019 NFL Draft is set to start in just two short weeks.

This year is different from other ones, as the Cowboys' trade for Amari Cooper leaves them without a first-round pick this month. With their first selection coming at pick No. 58, it's a bit more challenging to identify their options.

Still, by paying attention to their pre-draft movements, it's possible to get an idea for what the Cowboys are thinking this year. The goal of this series is to identify their targets at the back end of the second round.

The series starts with Florida safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.

  • Name: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson
  • Position: S/CB
  • College: Florida
  • Height/Weight: 5-11/210
  • Honors: Chick-fil-A Bowl Defensive MVP

Key Stat: Gardner-Johnson displayed a nose for the football during three years at Florida. He finished his career with nine interceptions, three returned for touchdowns, to go with 12 pass breakups.

How's His Stock: As always, it depends on who you ask. Gardner-Johnson is flying a bit under the radar compared to some of the other safeties in this draft class. Perhaps that's because he spent his final season at Florida playing more of a nickel back role. Despite that, he's got fantastic tape and his performance at the NFL Combine confirmed his next-level measurables. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so it's not surprising to learn that Gardner-Johnson's draft grade ranges everywhere from the first round to the back end of the second round. It feels like a good bet that he'll be a top 60 pick, but it's hard to say exactly how high he'll be drafted. If he slips into the Cowboys' range, he'll certainly be in consideration.

How He Could Help: There's a variety of ways. As previously mentioned, Gardner-Johnson played both corner and safety during his time with the Gators. That's exactly the type of versatility that could make him useful in a crowded secondary. If he's not ready to step in as a Day 1 starter at safety, he could be a fantastic sub-package player as either a nickel corner or a third safety – similar to how Xavier Woods contributed during his rookie season. From there, the Cowboys could groom him to be an eventual starter at either position. Or, in a best-case scenario, perhaps Gardner-Johnson could step right in and star at safety.

Scouting Report: Plays well in the slot and is physical off the line. You see him make plays all over the field. He likes to rally to the ball and he gets off the block well. I just said he will step up to tackle, but I have to admit he can be 50-50. You will also see him lack awareness at times. His athleticism helps him show some range from the backside. He can run with his man down the field. Plays more as a rover than he does as a safety. He's more of a projection as a player at safety – but he is all over the field when it comes to making plays. Plays to the level of his 40 time. Florida's coaches changed the defensive scheme in order to get him on the field. – Bryan Broaddus

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