Eli Ricks could help Cowboys shore up CB while addressing other needs first
The Cowboys are in need of cornerbacks this offseason. Even with an addition or two in free agency, the team likely needs to draft one in the top 100 of April’s draft.
The Cowboys recent history doesn’t support the idea they’ll bring in a big money free agent to upgrade from the likely departing Anthony Brown to play alongside Trevon Diggs and Daron Bland. Diggs himself is entering the final year of his rookie deal, while veteran Jourdan Lewis enters the final season of his extension. It is possible they try to bring in a cap casualty free agent on the cheap from another team, but in the long run it is the draft Dallas uses to fill in their top needs.
Finding one that not only fits their defensive scheme, but is also versatile enough to move around the defensive backfield could be the key to securing this secondary for the future. Eli Ricks is the type of prospect that fits all those parameters.
Measurables and Stats
Listed Height: 6-foot-2
Listed Weight: 190 pounds
Games Played in 2022: 9
Jersey Number: 7
Impact Plays (2022): 0 interceptions, 4 passes defensed, 1 tackle for a loss, 97 yards allowed, 0 touchdowns allowed
Stat (20212): 8 solo tackles, 5 assisted tackles, 13 total tackles
Film Study Information
Games Watched: UCLA (2021), Texas (2022), Mississippi State (2022), Kansas State (2022)
Best Game: Mississippi State (2022)
Worst Game: Texas (2022)
The typical 6-foot-2, 200 pound prospect is a boundary corner, usually for Cover 3 defensive schemes. This is not the case for Ricks. He is talented enough to play man, zone, press, or off coverage, His off coverage is excellent due to his anticipation and route recognition. Ricks ability to mirror from the outside is good, but the fact he does it from the slot is special at his size.
He is physical when playing receivers downfield and tracks the ball well. He didn’t have many interceptions or pass deflections, but the film shows this ability.
Ricks will move around pre-snap to try and cause confusion, a technique often used by Dallas’ defenders. Opposing quarterbacks were held to a 41.8 QB rating when targeting Ricks, elite for a defender.
Durability is a concern. Ricks only managed to play a combined 14 games in his two years at LSU. He began his time at Alabama with a training camp injury as well and that was part of the reason why he didn’t start there for more than half the season.
He is also inconsistent.
For as skilled as Ricks is, he got beat more often than he should. It starts with some athletic worries. Burners who can get past Ricks will stay past him. He has recovery speed but will struggle with the explosiveness of a Jaylen Waddle type receiver opposite him. If he misses a press attempt or takes a false step against the wrong receiver it could end in a big play.
Ricks has all kinds of traits and abilities, but he is a Day 2 prospect because he has technique issues in need of coaching, and it is unknown how long it will take before he could be a reliable contributor.
Fit with the Cowboys
There are multiple reasons for the Cowboys to see Ricks as a fit. He meets the size and athletic profile the Dallas front office typically likes to draft. He has enough athleticism to not be a liability. He played at big programs, so the big Cowboys stage shouldn’t impact him.
Ricks has the versatility to not be strictly an outside corner prospect. If the team faces a rash of injuries he can move around in the defensive backfield and survive like Bland did last season as a rookie or Brown multiple times in his career. Ricks matches Quinn’s old Cover 3 scheme, but he might be even more valuable in the new one with his ability to play a plethora styles.
Dallas has many unknowns on their roster and if the front office needs to use pick No.26 on a receiver, or defensive tackle, then the Cowboys could get a moldable piece of clay for Quinn to coach up on day two.
You can find Mike Crum on Twitter @cdpiglet or at Youtube on the Across the Cowboys Podcast.