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 Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram.
Name: Johnathan Abram
College: Mississippi State
Honors: Abram got to Starkville via junior college, but he burst onto the scene as an upper classman. In his only full season as a starter, he was named first-team All-SEC and second-team All-American.
Key Stat: Tackling is his calling card, and it shows. Abram played just two seasons for the Bulldogs, but he finished with 170 total tackles.
How's His Stock:
The main problem with Abram is that he simply might be too good to fall to the Cowboys at pick No. 58. Along with Delaware's Nasir Adderley and Washington's Taylor Rapp, he is widely regarded as one of the top three safeties in this draft class. From the sounds of it, though, beauty might be in the eye of the beholder. Abram has the athleticism to play sideline-to-sideline, but there are plenty of people who question his abilities in coverage. In the modern, pass-happy NFL, it'll be interesting to see how that affects his draft stock. If teams see him mainly as a box safety, it wouldn't be surprising to see him slide toward the Cowboys' range. By all accounts, his character and leadership abilities are off the charts – which is something this team covets. If he's available, he'd likely on the short list of guys the Cowboys would love to draft.
How He Could Help:
The front office signed George Iloka last month, and the expectation is that he'll compete for a starting spot in 2019. That expectation might change if the Cowboys draft a guy of Abram's caliber. It's clear that the Cowboys view Xavier Woods as a guy who can handle the free safety position for the foreseeable future. Abram would give them a hard-hitting, athletic strong safety who can play in the box and make plays near the line of scrimmage. As mentioned above, there may be concerns about his coverage ability. But at the 58th overall pick, that's a manageable price to pay for a guy who could step in and start at a position of need – especially with Woods and Iloka on hand to help out. It's even possible that, with Iloka and Jeff Heath on the roster, Abram doesn't completely seize the starting role right away. But adding him to the roster would certainly upgrade the talent at the positon, and it would give the Cowboys a young talent to pair with Woods for years to come.
Abram has one of the top qualities you look for in a safety, and that's a nose for the ball. Quick reactions and feet. Mississippi State was not afraid to play him in the slot and in coverage as a safety. This guy is a menace as a tackler. He throws his body around, he wraps up and he comes downhill in a hurry. He can be an effective blitzer when he attacks the pocket. In coverage, he can run with the receiver but needs to look back for the ball. But he can cover some ground when he's chasing the ball. There are things to work on, but I love his toughness. – Bryan Broaddus