Cowboys LB Jabril Cox named draft’s biggest steal

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When the fourth round began on Day 3 of the 2021 draft, the Cowboys would end up doubling down on the linebacker position. After taking Penn State’s Micah Parsons with the No. 12 pick, the club circled back around to take Jabril Cox out of LSU, who many had as a second-round talent.

It’s no surprise he was considered a steal and according to ESPN, he’s the top undervalued pick on the draft’s final day who will make an impact in 2021. Mike Brenner of Pro Football Focus explains why.

“The fact that the Cowboys even drafted Cox should tell you how high they were on his services. The Cowboys took the LSU linebacker in the fourth round despite a relative logjam at off-the-ball linebacker, with Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, newly signed free agent Keanu Neal, and first-round pick Micah Parsons in the fold.

“Cox was the 45th-ranked player on PFF’s draft board and has earned coverage grades over 80.0 in each of the past three seasons between North Dakota State and LSU. He saw only 41 targets this past season, but Cox still picked off three passes and broke up four more. He may not play right away, but don’t be surprised when he locks down a starting role in Dallas.”

The coverage skills of Cox are his strong suit entering the NFL. According to PFF, Cox didn’t allow a single touchdown nor was he penalized in 352 coverage snaps in which he defended 41 targets. In 1,114 coverage snaps during his college career, Cox only allowed two touchdowns and recorded eight interceptions which made him falling to the fourth round a bit of a head-scratcher considering how teams need coverage linebackers to defend the pass in today’s NFL. However the Cowboys aren’t complaining.

Cox can also make plays against the run. He uses his speed (ran a 4.52 in the 40-yard dash) and quick change of direction to pursue plays from the backside and in space.

He’ll have to compete for snaps in a loaded linebacker room that features Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, Keanu Neal, and fellow rookie Micah Parsons. However, with his array of skills defensive coordinator Dan Quinn shouldn’t have a problem finding a role for him.

The linebacker position struggled in 2020 for the Cowboys due to injuries and poor play. With the selection of Cox and the aforementioned Parsons, the Cowboys are hoping that particular unit is a strength in 2021.

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