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Potential Draft Picks: Morgan Burnett, S, Georgia Tech

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Georgia Tech S Morgan Burnett performs equally well against both the run and the pass.

The future of both Cowboys’ safety positions is very much uncertain. Free safety Ken Hamlin has an outside chance of getting cut, and SS Gerald Sensabaugh is a restricted free agent.

Second-year player Michael Hamlin joins Patrick Watkins and safety/cornerback Alan Ball as the backups. Teams rarely keep more than four safeties on the active roster, so not all of these players will be Cowboys in 2010.

Even if Dallas does not add another cornerback, thus making Ball fourth on the depth chart at that position, one of the four remaining names is likely to go. Michael Hamlin is the most probable to be released, followed by Watkins (despite his special teams productivity).

Ken Hamlin’s future may hinge on what the team does in the early stages of the draft. If a safety is chosen in round one, for example, that player may be asked to contribute right away. Yet another current safety would probably be cut, and the team may see no reason to pay Hamlin millions of dollars to sit.

Scouting Report

Burnett is a rangy, agile player who was given a lot of freedom at Georgia Tech to roam. They gave him this freedom due to his coverage abilities and excellent ball skills. Burnett goes up and attacks the ball as if he was a wide receiver, and he has displayed an above-average vertical leap.

At 6’1”, 210 pounds, Burnett has about average size, but he is very willing to come up in run support. He would be an immediate upgrade over Hamlin in that regard. His tackling form can suffer at times, but generally he plays under control.

Burnett’s versatility in defending both the run and pass gives him the capabilities to play both safety positions, a trait the Cowboys have frequently valued. Burnett is not slow, but does not have elite speed by any stretch of the imagination. Expect him to run around a 4.55 at the Combine. We don’t generally put too much stock in the forty, but it may be important for Burnett. If he can get into the 4.4 range, he should move up boards.

Still, Burnett has the requisite size and speed to cover tight ends and most backs. Lining him up against a slot receiver could cause problems, but he has a better chance to get beat deep due to his speed than underneath, as he is very quick. Thus, his short shuttle time should be more impressive than his forty.

Projection

Burnett is in a battle with fellow safeties Chad Jones (LSU), Taylor Mays (USC), and Nate Allen (USF) to be the third safety drafted behind Eric Berry (Tennessee) and Earl Thomas (Texas). If he secures this spot, which appears unlikely, he would be drafted after the Cowboys’ first pick but before their second. It appears that at least one of those safeties will go ahead of him, and we rate his chances of dropping to the Cowboys’ second-round pick at about 50/50.

If Dallas decides the versatility Burnett brings to the safety position makes him a good fit on the squad, don’t be surprised to see them make a move up the middle of the second to grab him or another safety they covet.

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