By Matthew Postins
The Dallas Cowboys continued their assault on the offensive side of the football in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft by selecting Baylor wide receiver Terrance Williams with the No. 74 overall pick.
The Cowboys followed that by finally addressing the defensive side of the football by taking Georgia Southern strong safety J.J. Wilcox with the No. 80 overall selection.
The Cowboys used the extra pick they acquired from the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday night to select Williams.
The Cowboys spent three of their first four selections in the 2013 NFL Draft on offensive players.
Williams entered the draft considered a second- or third-round pick by CBSSports.com, rated as the No. 73 player overall and the No. 8 wide receiver. The Cowboys, specifically owner and general manager Jerry Jones, said that Williams was in the Top 30 on their draft board.
Williams, 6-foot-2, 208 pounds, had a prolific career for the Bears. As a senior in 2012 he caught 97 passes for 1,832 yards and 14 touchdowns. In 2011 he caught 59 passes for 957 yards during current Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III’s Heisman Trophy campaign.
Williams, who went to W.T. White High School in Dallas, was a consensus All-American at wide receiver in 2012 and the sixth consensus All-American in Baylor history.
Williams gives quarterback Tony Romo another playmaker in his stable of receivers, which includes Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley. That doesn’t include All-Pro tight end Jason Witten.
Wilcox, 6-foot, 212 pounds, was a first-team All-Southern Conference selection at strong safety in 2012 and was second on the Eagles in tackles with 88 and contributed two interceptions. He helped the Eagles to another deep run in the FCS playoffs.
But Wilcox spent the first three years of his college career at wide receiver. He was also used as a running back and a kickoff returner, so he has versatility and athleticism.
Wilcox drew attention from scouts at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine, both of which helped improve his draft stock from what some believed was a fifth-round selection.
The Cowboys needed help at the safety position. They entered this draft with just two safeties that played for the Cowboys last season. Barry Church started at strong safety until he was hurt. Danny McCray took over his position, but was at times overmatched. The Cowboys released their starting free safety, Gerald Sensabaugh, in March to save cap space.
The Cowboys also have last year’s fourth-round selection, Matt Johnson, who missed all of last season due to injury; free agent signee Will Allen, who played in the Cover 2 in Tampa under Monte Kiffin, and Micah Pellerin, a first-year player out of Hampton.
Before the third round the Cowboys selected San Diego tight end Gavin Escobar with the No. 47 overall pick in the second round. The Escobar selection came on the heels of taking Wisconsin center Travis Frederick No. 31 overall on Thursday night. Jones said both players were in the Cowboys’ Top 30.
The belief is that Frederick, whom the Cowboys traded down from No. 18 to select, will compete with current centers Phil Costa and Ryan Cook, and guards Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau, for a starting role at either center or guard.
Escobar joins Witten and second-year pro James Hanna at tight end.
The Cowboys have one pick in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds on Saturday, with the fourth round starting at 11 a.m. CST.
Meet J.J. Wilcox
The Dallas Cowboys selected Georgia Southern strong safety J.J. Wilcox with their third round (No. 80 overall) selection on Friday night. Find out more about him below:
Height, Weight: 6-foot, 213 pounds.
Rankings: Williams was No. 97 on CBSSports.com’s overall player rankings. He was the No. 3 strong safety on CBSSports.com’s position rankings.
Workout Results: Running times: 4.51 40, 2.56 20, 1.55 10; 17 bench press reps (225 pounds), 35-inch vertical leap, 10-foot-4 broad jump, 4.09 shuttle and 7.02 cone drill.
What Cowboys are getting: A FCS product that really saw his stock go up during the All-Star game season. He only played strong safety for one season at Georgia Southern, but NFL scouts got exposed to him at the Senior Bowl. Wilcox earned All-Southern Conference first team honors as a safety, as selected by the league’s coaches. Before that Wilcox was a wide receivers for the Eagles, a perennial FCS playoff team. He picked off two passes last season and can add value as a kickoff returner. NFLDraftScout.com’s Rob Rang praised Wilcox’s athleticism, saying that the senior didn’t look out of place at the Senior Bowl. The big question, of course, is his lack of experience at the position. Rang points out that his overall technique and his ability to change speeds to keep up with NFL receivers needs work.
Postins’ Take: This is a reach for the Cowboys. This team sorely needs more depth at the position and they selected a player that is closer to being a project than being a backup on this team. There were more experienced safeties on the board when the Cowboys took him at No. 80. The strong safety in the Cover 2 must be able to cover, help with the run and guard the middle of the field. That’s a lot to ask from a player that has only been playing the position for a year. It’s hard to say if Wilcox’s experience as a wide receiver helps him in this situation. But, from here, he’s not a threat to either Barry Church or Will Allen, the presumed starters at safety in 2013. After picking three players that could or should start this season, Wilcox represents the first Cowboys selection that likely won’t.
More on Terrance Williams
Video (No. 19 for Georgia Southern)