We recently detailed the 2009 success of the Cowboys’ cornerbacks in our Grading the ‘Boys segment. Nickel cornerback Orlando Scandrick struggled some in ‘09, but starters Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman were outstanding. Newman’s health proved to be a ticket to the Cowboys’ defensive success.
With such strong starters in place (and Scandrick set to rebound nicely in 2010), the Cowboys have no need to address the position early in the draft. Newman is aging and a team can never have too many talented cornerbacks, but the position is not an area of immediate need.
There is one big “unless,” however. . .UNLESS that cornerback is an excellent return man. In our last “Potential Draft Picks” post, we profiled Indiana of Pennsylvania cornerback/return man Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, a.k.a. “AOA.” AOA figures to be a second or third round selection.
The feature of this article, Rutgers CB Devin McCourty, will not last until the Cowboys second round pick. His 4.34 forty at the Combine cemented his status as, at worst, an early-to-mid second-rounder.
Is it really possible that the Cowboys could use their 27th overall pick on a player at a position which is such a strength of the team? If they consider McCourty a top-notch returner, then yes.
At 5′11”, 193 pounds, McCourty has the size to play either outside or in the slot. This versatility might make him more attractive to the Cowboys than AOA, who likely will only line up outside. His 4.34 Combine forty was the fastest of any cornerback. He also displayed outstanding hip fluidity and change of direction.
McCourty’s 16 bench press reps are not off the charts, but at 193 pounds, it proves that he has been in the weight room. His work ethic and skill set are such that we would not be surprised if he is deemed the best cornerback of this draft class five years down the road.
McCourty will have to improve his tackling form in the NFL. At Rutgers, he frequently dove at the feet of ball-carriers instead of wrapping up. Newman has shown it is not necessary to be a huge player to become an excellent tackler.
Also like Newman, McCourty may have to work on securing interceptions. His speed and quickness allow him to be in position virtually every play, but he will sometimes bat the ball down when it appears he could pick it off.
On returns, McCourty shows tremendous burst and decision-making. He hits the hole at full speed, showing no hesitation. While most of the returners we have profiled are primarily punt returners, McCourty is actually superior on kickoffs. This may be valuable to Dallas, who struggled mightily on kickoff returns with the hesitant Felix Jones and Kevin Ogletree back deep.
To secure McCourty, Dallas would likely have to use their first round selection. There is a slight chance that he is taken before their 27th overall pick, but he will more than likely be available. We currently have McCourty going No. 30 overall to the Vikings in our latest mock draft.
McCourty is in a battle with FSU’s Patrick Robinson to be the third CB drafted in 2010. Even if Robinson surpasses him, McCourty is unlikely to sniff the Cowboys’ 59th overall selection in the second round.