Dallas Cowboys rookie safety Donovan Wilson is proving the team’s scouting department right with his stellar training camp and preseason play so far.
The Dallas Cowboys have had to deal with quite a few unfortunate off-field distractions and contract situations this offseason, but on the field, this is a team ready to make a run in the NFC.
One of the reasons they are ready to make a deep run in the playoffs? Strong drafting.
The Cowboys’ scouting department has done a very good job identifying players who fit what they are doing on both sides of the football, and they’ve hit on a lot of late-round picks and undrafted players as well as their top draft choices.
At the beginning of the month of April, word got out that the Cowboys had strong interest in one specific late-round safety prospect out of Texas A&M named Donovan Wilson, who spent five years at Texas A&M after getting a medical redshirt in 2017 for a season-ending ankle injury.
One of the team captains at Texas A&M, Wilson proved early on in his collegiate career that he was a fiery playmaker on the back end of the defense, racking up 63 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, five interceptions, two sacks, and three forced fumbles as a sophomore in 2015.
His numbers took a slight dip in 2016, but Wilson was still productive and on track to finish out his career in 2017 strong. Then he had to deal with the ankle injury, and wound up coming back for the 2018 season.
He bounced back with another really strong season, finishing with 67 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, two sacks, and a forced fumble.
The Cowboys noticed Wilson’s productivity and fell in love with him early on in the process. This article by Mark Lane with ABC8 in Dallas goes in-depth on Dallas’ pre-draft work on Wilson, and in hindsight shows just how important this selection was for their team.
According to Lane, the Cowboys liked so much of what they saw on tape from Wilson — who missed his final game in college due to a sports hernia injury — that they had their safeties coach and defensive assistant go to his pro day with their scouts.
The Cowboys’ telegraphed interest in Wilson didn’t prevent them from being able to draft him, and they got him at a tremendous value in the sixth round (213th overall).
The way he’s performed so far as a rookie, it’s almost hard to believe he wasn’t at least a day two selection.
It’s still early, of course, but with Jeff Heath out nursing an injury, the Cowboys have started rotating Wilson in at safety with their first-team defense alongside Xavier Woods, and he’s done exceptionally well.
As a matter of fact, among all rookie defensive players, no one has a higher overall Pro Football Focus grade right now than Wilson, who has played 56 snaps in two games.
So far in preseason play, Wilson has been targeted in coverage twice. One pass was caught for a five-yard gain and the other was picked off.
He is certainly pushing all the right buttons and has been doing so for a long time with this Dallas Cowboys scouting department.
At this point, it would be a shock if we don’t see Wilson lining up with the Cowboys’ number one defense early and often in 2019.