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Dallas Cowboys Potential 2011 Draft Pick: Chris Culliver, FS, South Carolina

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Jonathan Bales

While strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh’s future in Dallas is in limbo, there’s no way free safety Alan Ball will be starting for the ‘Boys in 2011.  Free agency looks like a strong possibility, with Michael Huff being heavily linked to Dallas.

Whether the Cowboys sign a veteran free safety or not, they should probably address the position at some point during the draft.  The position is so crucial in today’s game, and it’s been far too long since the ‘Boys had a reliable “centerfielder” on D.   If Dallas does sign a player like Huff, today’s feature would be a perfect prospect to bring in and develop behind him.

Scouting Report

Chris Culliver is a converted wide receiver who displays tremendous range at free safety.  Actually, I think he has the most range of any safety in this draft.  His athleticism and overall body control are outstanding, as evidenced in the video below.

Culliver may also be the best man coverage safety in this class.  He originally moved to cornerback (from receiver) before transitioning to safety.  His experience in the slot could be valuable for Dallas, particularly if Terence Newman is released.  Culliver’s ball skills are very good from his time on offense.

Culliver also adds value as a return man.  He is South Carolina’s all-time leading returner, using his superb speed (official 4.40 40-yard dash at the Combine–eighth-fastest at any position) to make plays.

The weakest part of Culliver’s game is his technique.  With little experience in the secondary, he is still working on properly reading plays.  At times, it appears as though he is playing like a robot, displaying enough hesitancy as to not allow his full athleticism to shine.  His instincts are average at best.

Culliver will also have trouble against the run in the initial part of his career.  He’s tall (six feet) but lean (197 pounds).  He doesn’t wrap up well and, if Rob Ryan wants his free safety near the line-of-scrimmage at all, Culliver probably isn’t his guy.

Nontheless, Culliver’s explosiveness is undeniable.  Unfortunately, the only film available for me to post is that below of his kick returns, but his athleticism is still on display.

Projection

Culliver is projected by most to get selected in the fifth or sixth round, but I think he will go earlier.  His upside is incredible, and free safeties with Culliver’s coverage ability (and potential) are rare.  It is possible he goes in the third round, but I think the fourth is more realistic.

Personally, I think Culliver is a third round talent.  His inexperience will hurt him, and Dallas isn’t in position to “waste” a third round selection on a developmental player.

If Culliver drops into the fifth round, though, there aren’t many players I would take ahead of him.  He will take some time to develop, but the upside he brings is exactly what you want late in the draft.  He’s somewhat of a high risk/high reward selection, but his return ability should at least bring him a roster spot and time to develop, wherever he goes.

Other Potential Dallas Cowboys Draft Picks in 2011

Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

Cameron Jordan, DT/DE, Cal

Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, UNC

Cameron Heyward, DT/DE, Ohio State

Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa

Tyron Smith, OT, USC

Brandon Harris, CB, Miami

Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA

Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor

Aaron Williams, CB, Texas

Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple

Corey Liuget, DT/DE, Illinois

Martez Wilson, ILB/OLB, Illinois

Casey Matthews, ILB, Oregon

Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois

Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

Brandon Burton, CB, Utah

Nick Fairley, DT/DE, Auburn

Jaiquawn Jarrett, FS, Temple

Ben Ijalana, OT/OG, Villanova

Drake Nevis, DT/DE, LSU

Dontay Moch, DE/OLB, Nevada

Brooks Reed, DE/OLB, Arizona

Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State

Sam Acho, DE/OLB, Texas

JJ Watt, DE, Wisconsin

William Rackley, OT, Lehigh

Allen Bailey, DE, Miami

Akeem Ayers, ILB/OLB, UCLA

Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville

Jeremy Kerley, WR, TCU

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7 Responses to Dallas Cowboys Potential 2011 Draft Pick: Chris Culliver, FS, South Carolina

  1. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    I hate to say this but CC looks like a slot WR and CB to me. The fact that no defensive FS video is presented along w/ his long legs, quick hips and excellent vision lead me to that.

    I think the Boys would do better w/ a guy at FS who has played some amount of it in the past (either in college or a FA FS). Ball was a CB convert, AOA is a CB convert and this guy would be the 3rd one they’d tried that with. Nothing that I’ve read or seen about him makes me believe he’s worthy of anything beyond PR/KR. And, with the new rule change, that would mean PR mostly.

    The Boys already have that in many different guys.

    CC will make a good PR/KR for some time someday – maybe even crack the starting lineup in 4-5 years as a CB or FS. But, he’s not worthy of anything above the 5th rd for Dallas as he’d either be the 3rd or 4th backup safety (behind whatever FA FS Dallas signs, Ball, AOA and possibly Church).

    Unfortunately, for a team that’s more complete in their secondary (some team like God forbid Green Bay or Indy), he’d be perfect 3rd or 4th round pickup.

  2. john coleman says:

    I would respectfully disagree TJ. He has ball skills, return skills, good hips and coverage skills. He also possesses 4.40 speed. That’s probably faster than anyone one our roster, other than McCann.

    As far as 3rd or 4th backup goes I’m not so sure. Church will never play FS and has yet to prove he can play SS. He is a 4.6 guy. Maybe he beefs up a little and can play nickel ILB. IMO he was fortunate to make the team. By the way, I’m basing that on what we saw him do last year. Because of his speed I don’t ever expect a big jump. Then there is AOA who I like, but he is an absolute unknown. I see him as Culliver with a two game headstart. I would expect Ball to be an emergency only FS and a spot slot/nickel/dime CB.

    I do think Huff is a strong possibility in FA.

    If Culliver can play CB or FS, even in a year, he would bring big value. As of now we have three CBs who “can” be good, a decent SS, and no FS. Then we have McCann, McCray, Church, AOA, and Ball as backups. I’m not real comfortable with that. Out of tthe backups McCann has a little po and Ball has played. AOA has po and is probably the wildcard. However I was not impressed with his return ability. He looked hesitant.

    With all of that said, I’m saying Culliver would be ok in the 4th and good in the 5th. The 3rd rd is too high for him.

  3. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Not a bad explanation jc.

    But if you get a chance, check out DCT’s video of AOA from last year. It’s essentially a duplicate of CC wrt returning ability in college. Once AOA got to the pros, I agree that he looked hesitant. How do we know that he won’t be better next year (you would expect that) OR that CC won’t be hesitant hist 1st year as well (that might be expected too)? The kid is fast, but so was Tyson Thompson. If you want a fast safety, look at Joe Lefeged (Rutgers) – ran a 4.45 at the combine at 220 lbs.

    I guess my point would be that Dallas needs to draft a FS who’s played it for some time (Rahim Moore or Quinton Carter) AND get a vet FS in free agency. That means Jerry Jones can no longer afford to try and find “diamonds in the rough” to fill his future FS spot. Dallas needs to bite the bullet and spend an EARLY round draft pick on the position (1st or 2nd round) – late round picks aren’t cutting it. Ball was a project – to be honest, I think it was worth a chance to see if it would work. It didn’t. AOA is a project. And, this guy would be a project. Plain and simple, Dallas needs a FS – not a converted WR then CB who is primarily a return guy and moonlights at FS.

    And, now that the return game is being de-emphasized by the rule change, guys who are primarily returners aren’t as valuable anymore.

  4. Nice debate on Culliver here guys. Tyrone sees his lack of experience as a negative..I think JC sees it as upside. If he has found some success there already without using proper technique, the sky is the limit.

    I will say I think there are some big differences between AOA and Culliver. You know I LOVED AOA coming out last season, and I of course haven’t been thrilled with what I’ve seen thus far (still really excited to see what he can do this season when healthy). What I loved in AOA was his return ability (of course) and his versatility (CB/FS). Versatility is huge for not only the team, but also the player, as it gives him more chances at success.

    With Culliver, I think his time at WR is a positive. It can help mentally, but he also moves like a WR. Once the ball is in the air, his skills are far superior to AOA’s (even though AOA was/is a playmaker, he did it with position and technique). Culliver isn’t in great position at times and doesn’t read and react as he should–yet. Can those things be taught? I don’t know, but if Culliver does ever learn proper technique, his athleticism and upside are even greater than what I thought of AOA.

    I’d still rate AOA as the better prospect, though.

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