The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys Potential 2011 Draft Pick: Marcus Gilchrist, FS, Clemson

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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 playmaking safety on D.  My current safety rankings look as follows:

1. Aaron Williams, Texas
2. Marcus Gilchrist, Clemson
3. Rahim Moore, UCLA
4. Chris Culliver, FS, South Carolina
5. Jaiquawn Jarrett, Temple
6. Deunta Williams, UNC
7. Quinton Carter, Oklahoma
8. Ahmad Black, Florida
9. DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson
10. Tyler Sash, Iowa

I did a feature on Chris Culliver a couple of days ago, and he is a developmental prospect I like a lot.  You can see that I like today’s feature, Marcus Gilchrist, even more than Culliver.  He has just as much upside (if not more), but he is less of a project.  Even if Dallas does sign a player like Huff, Gilchrist would be a perfect prospect to bring in and develop behind him.  Actually, I think teams should start two “free safeties” (or at least safeties who are interchangeable), but that discussion is for another day.

Scouting Report

Gilchrist reminds me of a lot of former USF free safety Nate Allen.  Both players are very versatile in that they can play safety, move into the slot (and cover as well as most cornerbacks), and pitch in on special teams.  Gilchrist is one of the few pure cover safeties in this draft, which is exactly what the ‘Boys need.

Unlike many other safeties who excel in the deep half, Gilchrist is not a horrible tackler.  He’s not a devastating hitter by any means–you won’t see Gilchrist wrap and drive a ball-carrier backwards.  He is a solid tackler, though, who doesn’t whiff on ball-carriers.  He uses excellent form and position to bring the guy to the ground.  Your free safety is generally your last line of defense, and Gilchrist is about as efficient as an open-field tackler as one might hope.  His angles to the football are superb, which is crucial when in the back of the secondary.

Gilchrist tackles well despite average (at best) size.  He is 5’11”, 190 pounds, which allows him to be extremely quick in coverage.  His backpedal, hips, and lateral quickness are all cornerback-like.  His speed is good (not great), but he is “quicker than fast.”  He has athleticism similar to that of Chris Culliver, but superior football instincts.  He breaks on the ball fairly well and is generally in proper position in coverage.

Gilchrist’s range, body control, and ball skills are all outstanding.  He attacks the football like a receiver (see the 34-second mark below. . .that play is ridiculous).  Despite displaying the ability to play cornerback, I think Gilchrist is best-suited as a free safety.  With the ‘Boys figuring to blitz more under Rob Ryan, you’ll see plenty of Cover 1 this year, which means the free safety is in a “centerfield” position.

Overall, I think Gilchrist will eventually be a starting safety in the NFL, but one who possesses cornerback and special teams potential.  He’s a personal favorite of mine (currently No. 35 overall on my Big Board).

Projection

Gilchrist is rising up boards.  Most draftniks are now projecting him to go in the third round.  Because of how highly I have him rated, I would be fine with the ‘Boys selecting Gilchrist there.  It is certainly possible Gilchrist drops to the fourth round, which would obviously be even better value, but waiting that long may not be worth the risk.  If the ‘Boys grade Gilchrist as I did, they need to grab him in the top of the third.

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

Chris Culliver, FS, South Carolina

 

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9 Responses to Dallas Cowboys Potential 2011 Draft Pick: Marcus Gilchrist, FS, Clemson

  1. Derek says:

    Hey, JB. I trust your football judgment more than anybody’s, but I think you should reevaluate your safety list. Rahim Moore is by far the best prospect; I think he’ll be a star.

    In your write-up on Moore, you criticized his size, but he has 10 pounds and an inch or two on each of the guys you put in front of him.

    Those guys, too, look way too much like Alan Ball out there – neither good corners nor safeties.

    Also, UCLA players always get drafted later than they should; I don’t know if it’s the East Coast bias or what. Look at Maurice Jones-Drew, Marcedes Lewis, Alterraun Verner, or anyone else from UCLA for the last 6 or so years.

    Moore will be a stud safety. I love how he plays centerfield; he take all the right angles and makes the plays look easy. And he’s a monster in run support. There’s one play in his Temple video where he’s 15 yards back, but he flies to the ball carrier to create a loss. He’s a complete safety who will get better in the NFL. He looks like a professional in college, and being one will turn him into an even better player.

    This Gilchrist guy, at least in this video, looks terrible in every aspect, especially run support. He’s small, tentative, and takes poor angles. You give him credit for that interception, but that was a very easy play for a safety to make. And, it actually looked like he didn’t get an interception in the end, too. The quarterback telegraphed that play from the start.

    I really want the Cowboys to draft Moore at pick 40. I’m glad he won your Sweet 16 anyway.

  2. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    I like this guy but not more than Rahim Moore. Couple of reasons…

    From what I’ve seen of him here, his reads are somewhat “slower” when seeing the run vs. pass. Lots of times he makes tackles probably 2-3 yards later than he could have. In the NFL, not only will the RBs be faster and more shifty but the O linemen will be downfield blocking w/ more consistency so his reads will need to be much quicker.

    Overall, he looks fairly decent (like a 2nd round pick as you have him).

  3. Derek–Fair points. I criticize Moore’s size because of his lack of fluidity. He isn’t a CB/S hybrid type–he’s a pure safety. Although he’s a fine cover safety, I think Gilchrist is far superior in that area. He has much better change of direction and lateral quickness, AND, even at a small size, I think he’s a better tackler. You see a guy who looks tentative and doesn’t hit hard. I see a guy who is a relatively sure-tackler and, despite the fact that he doesn’t knock people on their butts, he doesn’t miss much. I don’t mind small safeties IF they move like CBs, and Moore does not, IMO. Still, my “Sweet 16″ article did show you I think Moore is a real possibility.

  4. Ty–I have both players rated very closely, but I think Gilchrist’s upside in coverage is superior. Moore moves like a safety..Gilchrist moves like a CB but DOES have range when in zone. Not saying Moore doesn’t (he does), but Gilchrist’s looks greater to me. He;s certainly more instinctual than Culliver.

  5. john coleman says:

    I like this guy but not before the 3rd. I do feel the same as you JB concerning the skill set. We all need to realize that the FS is also the 4th CB in a pass happy league.

    IMO that is why we had the Ball experiment. Also I think Ball is OK physically, but has trouble with the mental part of being the centerfielder and QB of the D. He seemed to lack the understanding of positioning as relating to the other guys.

  6. JC–I would agree. I’m okay with the Ball experiment because it was for the right reasons. It didn’t work out, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad decision (others will disagree).

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