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Tuesday, January 7, 2014
For Cowboys, no more small-school DBs

By Todd Archer

IRVING, Texas -- The NFL draft is not until May 8-10 and we will spend plenty of time dissecting players from here, there and everywhere in relation to the Dallas Cowboys.

While you should never speak in absolutes when it comes to the draft, here is one: The Cowboys do not need to draft a defensive back from a small school.

Since 2010, the Cowboys have drafted five defensive backs from small schools and have not seen one pan out yet.

It is too early to know what J.J. Wilcox will turn into. A third-round pick last year out of Georgia Southern, he had moments early in training camp and was given the starting job, which led to the release of veteran Will Allen. He missed three games with a knee injury and was unable to take the strong safety spot back from undrafted free agent Jeff Heath. Wilcox played safety for one year in college after playing running back. In small spaces, he made some plays. When the field was spread out, he did not.

B.W. Webb was the Cowboys’ fourth-round pick out of William & Mary. To put it kindly, he struggled. He was given more individual instruction on the field than any other defensive back in practice but he just lacked awareness as a rookie. He was benched late in the season in favor of Sterling Moore and was inactive for the final game.

Matt Johnson (2012 fourth round, Eastern Washington) suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the preseason. That came on the heels of him missing his rookie season with hamstring and back injuries. He has yet to play in a regular-season game. The Cowboys kept him on injured reserve and will give him another chance.

In 2011, the Cowboys took Josh Thomas in the fifth round out of Buffalo. He did not make the final roster. He will play this weekend for the Carolina Panthers against the San Francisco 49ers as a backup cornerback.

In 2010, the Cowboys used their fourth-round pick on Akwasi Owusu-Ansah out of Indiana (Pa.). His highlight film was terrific. He had all of the measurables, too. But the Cowboys weren’t sure he could play cornerback or safety. They moved him to wide receiver for a spell.

This isn’t to say small-school players can’t succeed. All you have to do is look at guys like Tony Romo, DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin, but the bulk of the quality players come from the major programs.

With so many needs to fill in the draft, the Cowboys can’t really afford to gamble on another small-school product. And especially at defensive back, if history is any indicator.