The Dallas Cowboys lucked out with cornerback Chidobe Awuzie falling to them in the NFL draft at No. 60, now what can they expect from him as a rookie?
After losing starting cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne in free agency, the Dallas Cowboys knew they needed to address the position in the 2017 NFL Draft. They did that by selecting three different corners, the first of which was Colorado’s Chidobe Awuzie.
Awuzie was selected 60th overall in a draft which many considered rather deep at the position. The pick seemed to generate mostly positive reviews for the Boys, but what can they really expect from Awuzie in Year 1?
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Well, in Dallas it wouldn’t be crazy to have hopes for a rookie to transform a position. They’ve seen it happen in recent years when Zack Martin took the starting right guard job as a rookie in 2014 and hasn’t surrendered it since. They also saw the same thing last season when both running back Ezekiel Elliott and quarterback Dak Prescott led the team to a 13-win season.
While expecting Awuzie to come in and fix the Cowboys maligned secondary in one season may be expecting too much, he will be given the opportunity. As it stands now, Awuzie would be, at worst, the third player on the depth chart behind veterans Nolan Carroll and Orlando Scandrick. That could put him in line to play the nickel cornerback role, which is something he excelled at while in the NCAA.
At 6-0 and 202 pounds, Awuzie is quick on his feet and plays press coverage extremely well. He’s also a solid tackler as evidenced by his 265 tackles throughout his career.
The lone knock on him though is he simply isn’t a ballhawk. In his four-year career Awuzie had just three interceptions, both of which came over his past season.
Dallas Cowboy Comparison
So what can the team expect? If Awuzie was to be compared to any recent Cowboys player it would likely be Scandrick. The shifty Scandrick has been a productive member of the Cowboys secondary since being selected in the fifth round out of Boise State in 2008.
Like the rookie, Scandrick is best suited to play the slot and has plenty of speed to stick with most receivers in the league. They’re also both similar in their lack of generating turnovers. Awuzie’s career high for interceptions in Colorado was two and that’s the same high for Scandrick who has just eight picks in his entire career.
A sure tackler, Awuzie also excels as a blitzing corner from the slot — which is a role Scandrick has really been able to shine in. Scandrick has 11.5 career sacks in such a role for Dallas, and Awuzie had eight over the past two seasons and nine in his career. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli could really have fun with these two together.
The bottom line is the Cowboys can expect a highly competitive corner with the ability to play inside and out. He’s a sure enough tackler to play safety. There will be growing pains for sure, but his athleticism and versatility coming in makes them a better defensive team than they were last year.