While strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh’s future in Dallas is in limbo, there’s no way free safety Alan Ball will be starting for the ‘Boys in 2011. Free agency looks like a strong possibility, with Michael Huff being heavily linked to Dallas.
Whether the Cowboys sign a veteran free safety or not, they should probably address the position at some point during the draft. The position is crucial in today’s game and it’s been far too long since the ‘Boys had a reliable playmaking safety on D. My current safety rankings look as follows:
1. Aaron Williams, Texas
2. Marcus Gilchrist, Clemson
3. Rahim Moore, UCLA
4. Chris Culliver, FS, South Carolina
5. Jaiquawn Jarrett, Temple
6. Deunta Williams, UNC
7. Quinton Carter, Oklahoma
8. Ahmad Black, Florida
9. DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson
10. Tyler Sash, Iowa
I did a feature on Chris Culliver a couple of days ago, and he is a developmental prospect I like a lot.
You can see that I like today’s feature, Marcus Gilchrist, even more than Culliver. He has just as much upside (if not more), but he is less of a project. Even if Dallas does sign a player like Huff, Gilchrist would be a perfect prospect to bring in and develop behind him. Actually, I think teams should start two “free safeties” (or at least safeties who are interchangeable), but that discussion is for another day.
Gilchrist reminds me of a lot of former USF free safety Nate Allen. Both players are very versatile in that they can play safety, move into the slot (and cover as well as most cornerbacks) and pitch in on special teams. Gilchrist is one of the few pure cover safeties in this draft, which is exactly what the ‘Boys need.
Unlike many other safeties who excel in the deep half, Gilchrist is not a horrible tackler. He’s not a devastating hitter by any means–you won’t see Gilchrist wrap and drive a ball-carrier backwards. He is a solid tackler, though, who doesn’t whiff on ball-carriers. He uses excellent form to bring the guy to the ground. Your free safety is generally your last line of defense and Gilchrist is about as efficient as an open-field tackler as one might hope. His angles to the football are superb, which is crucial when in the back of the secondary.
Gilchrist tackles well despite average (at best) size. He is 5’11”, 190 pounds, which allows him to be extremely quick in coverage. His backpedal, hips, and lateral quickness are all cornerback-like. His speed is good (not great), but he is “quicker than fast.” He has athleticism similar to that of Chris Culliver, but superior football instincts. He breaks on the ball fairly well and is generally in proper position in coverage.
Gilchrist’s range, body control, and ball skills are all outstanding. He attacks the football like a receiver (see the 34-second mark below...that play is ridiculous). Despite displaying the ability to play cornerback, I think Gilchrist is best-suited as a free safety. With the ‘Boys figuring to blitz more under Rob Ryan, you’ll see plenty of Cover 1 this year, which means the free safety is in a “centerfield” position.
Overall, I think Gilchrist will eventually be a starting safety in the NFL, but one who possesses cornerback and special teams potential. He’s a personal favorite of mine (currently No. 35 overall on my Big Board).
Gilchrist is rising up boards. Most draftniks are now projecting him to go in the third round. Because of how highly I have him rated, I would be fine with the ‘Boys selecting Gilchrist there. It is certainly possible that Gilchrist drops to the fourth round, which would obviously be even better value, but waiting that long may not be worth the risk. If the ‘Boys grade Gilchrist as I did, they need to grab him in the top of the third.
Other Potential Dallas Cowboys Draft Picks in 2011