FRISCO, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – The Dallas Cowboys secondary had a grand total of five interceptions last season. So little wonder the new coaching staff is looking for one thing in this draft.
“Ballhawkers, ball players,” Cowboys Secondary Coach Maurice Linguist said. “Obviously, you want guys who can affect the ball. You want guys who can separate running backs or receivers from the ball. You want guys who can go get the ball.”
Alabama safety Xavier McKinney can go get the ball. The Crimson Tide’s leading tackler forced seven turnovers last year. He is a great tackler, smart communicator, team leader, and the Alpha dog of the Bama defense.
An Under Armour All American from Roswell, Georgia, he was Georgia’s Class 7A Defensive Player of the Year, intercepting seven passes in 2016. Two years later, he was the Defensive MVP in Alabama’s College Football Playoff Orange Bowl win over Oklahoma.
Just 21 years old, McKinney (6-0, 201) had 19 bench press reps at the combine and plays faster than his 4.63 forty time due to instincts and film study. He’s versatile enough to play deep safety or in the box as a nickel linebacker. Mature, confident, opinionated and yet accountable in his interviews. Reminds me of Darren Woodson in the way he carries himself as a team leader.
Pound for pound, he just might be the best football player in this draft, which is another thing the Cowboys are looking for.
“One trait,” said Cowboys Cornerbacks Coach Al Harris. “Be football players. Be football players. We can work with anything after that.”
And they can work with Minnesota safety Antoine Winfield, Jr., who flashed 4.45 speed at the combine. But what really stands out on tape is Winfield’s instinctive playmaking ability.
A unanimous 1st team All American in 2019, Winfield only played a combined 8 games the previous two seasons due to season ending injuries, but this 2-time Big Ten Distinguished Scholar is destined for a long career in the NFL. He has grown up around the professional game, and it shows in the way he handles himself both on and off the field.
The son of the three-time All Pro cornerback Antoine Winfield Sr., who was a 1st round draft pick and played 14 years in the NFL, had seven picks last year. At 5-9, 203 pounds, Junior has many of the same traits as Senior.
“My dad had a lot of heart and that’s kind of what I looked up to in him,” Winfield said. “It’s not how big you are, how tall you are. It’s about how much fight you have.”
Antoine Winfield and Xavier McKinney may be the two best ball hawking football players in The Big Green NFL Draft Scouting Notebook.
The Cowboys, picking 17th, should have a decision to make on McKinney, who figures to be a middle to late first round pick.
Winfield could still be available when Dallas picks at 51 in the second round, but don’t be surprised if he sneaks into the first round.