Pick No. 58:
Juan Thornhill, Safety, Virginia
It wasn’t too long ago that I scouted Thornhill and later said that he would end up on the Cowboys no matter what in the second round. It seems my hot take in March could become a reality within a few days.
Thornhill was a national visit for the Cowboys as he was amongst 6 safety prospects to visit the Star. Thornhill possesses natural coverage ability and is athletic enough to play a rangy free safety if necessary. However, even though the Cowboys are looking for a safety, Thornhill might not be the guy they are looking for. Or is he?
The Cowboys love versatility with all their defensive backs. It’s why Byron Jones wasted some years playing safety but it’s also why they love Xavier Woods so much. Woods’ ability to cover while laying the boom is a big reason why the Cowboys didn’t feel the need to pay so much for a free agent safety. Analysts would believe the Cowboys are eyeing a box safety but Stephen Jones says otherwise.
Jones was recorded saying something along the lines of wanting his safeties to “find the ball.” From a production standpoint, Thornhill had 6 interceptions last season at Virginia. He had the most interceptions of any other safety in this draft. He fits the bill of what Stephen Jones wants, and last time I checked, he has a big say in who they draft.
However, here’s the problem. Thornhill might not be there at 58; he might not be there at the end of the first round. Thornhill possess average size but displays elite athleticism and ball hawking ability. Thornhill’s skills will give teams reasons to draft him earlier, especially if he can be the free safety in a single high look. In addition, he is a solid tackler so he could play strong safety even if he isn’t the “box” guy.
Fortunately for the Cowboys, Thornhill is another safety in a fairly top heavy safety class. It’s largely unknown how teams view Thornhill, but teams do have quite a few safeties available early in the draft: Adderley, Abram, Gardner-Johnson, Rapp, Savage, and Hooker.
If the Cowboys had the choice between any of these safeties I would hope they select Rapp, but draft day is crazy and completely unpredictable. Given what we know of this safety class, Thornhill has the highest chance of landing at 58. If the Cowboys get the chance, Thornhill should be the selection at 58.