Juan Thornhill: Dallas Cowboys 2019 NFL Draft Fits

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Juan Thornhill
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - SEPTEMBER 22: Juan Thornhill #21 of the Virginia Cavaliers in the second half during a game at Scott Stadium on September 22, 2018 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images)

The Dallas Cowboys don’t have a first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, but that doesn’t mean they cannot find immediate contributors to their roster. The Cowboys have a strong overall team but have a glaring hole at safety. Fortunately for Dallas, Virginia safety Juan Thornhill has the skillset the Cowboys need and should be available near the end of the second round.

Dallas Cowboys 2019 NFL Draft Fits: Juan Thornhill

Juan Thornhill was one of the best defensive backs in the nation last season. Appearing in 13 games, the Senior recorded six interceptions, seven passes defended, 98 tackles, and 4.5 tackles-for-loss. He was dangerous with the ball in his hands, compiling 141 yards on interception returns. His ball-hawking mentality earned him First-Team All-ACC honors.

Thornhill, a former cornerback, is one of the best coverage safeties in the draft. Capable of covering tight ends, running backs, and slot receivers, Thornhill moves all across the defensive formation and always sticks with his man. He has a nose for the ball, as evidenced by his 13 interceptions in his three years as a starter. In a division where Zach Ertz exists, having a player like Thornhill can be the difference between crucial divisional wins and losses.

Based on his combine testing numbers, it’s easy to see that Thornhill belongs in his NFL. His 4.42-second 40-yard dash tested in the 92nd percentile, and his 44-inch vertical jump and 141-inch broad jump both tested in the 99th percentile. Thornhill has the raw speed to stick with anyone and the jumping ability to break up contested catches. These abilities show up in his tape and should translate to the NFL.

Possible Downsides

If Thornhill were a perfect prospect, then he wouldn’t be around when the Cowboys are on the clock. While he’s great against the pass, the Virginia native struggles to consistently defend the run. Even though he’s a willing run defender, he struggles to shed blocks and takes inopportune angles to the ball carrier. While he could improve with coaching, he’ll never be an elite run defender. His 6’0”, 205-pound frame is undersized for a safety and he could be pushed around at the next level.

Fortunately for Thornhill, it’s 2019. In today’s pass-happy NFL, stopping the pass is considerably more important than stopping the run. Let Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch worry about stopping the run – they’re more than capable of blowing up backfields without safety help.

Last Word on Juan Thornhill

The Dallas Cowboys need a safety, and Virginia’s Juan Thornhill is a perfect fit for the defense. The former cornerback is one of the best safeties in the draft against the pass. He generates turnovers and can match up against just about any pass-catcher in the league. Obviously, you wouldn’t want him covering Julio Jones on an island, but he’s more than capable of slowing down Zach Ertz in a double team.

Thornhill struggles against the run, but his ability against the pass easily justifies a second-round selection. The Cowboys have one of the best linebacker duos in football to go along with one of the best dual-threat defensive ends in Demarcus Lawrence. Stopping the run is somewhat overrated, to begin with, and the defense can already take away an opposing ground game.

This selection is the perfect marriage of talent and need. George Iloka was a smart signing, but he’s on a one-year contract and isn’t a long-term fix. Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods are replacement-caliber players, and Thornhill would be an immediate upgrade on both. Thornhill has the tools to a day one starter and helps fill arguably the biggest need on the Cowboys’ roster.

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