New defensive coordinator Dan Quinn wields more than a little influence in the Dallas Cowboys‘ war room.
“There’s two corners in this draft that are over 6’4 — Cowboys drafted both of them,” The Athletic’s NFL Draft analyst Dane Brugler remarked Saturday.
Brugler is referring to the Cowboys’ sixth-round selection of towering South Carolina defensive back Israel Mukuamu, whom the team nabbed at No. 227 overall.
Mukuamu was the eighth and final defensive player chosen by Dallas during the three-day event, a new franchise record. The entirety of its 11-player haul can be found below.
Round 1: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Round 2: Kelvin Joseph, CB, Kentucky
Round 3: Osa Odighizuwa, DT, UCLA
Round 3: Chauncey Golston, DE, Iowa
Round 3: Nahshon Wright, CB, Oregon State
Round 4: Jabril Cox, LB, LSU
Round 4: Josh Ball, OT, Marshall
Round 5: Simi Fehoko, WR, Stanford
Round 6: Quinton Bohanna, DT, Kentucky
Round 6: Israel Mukuamu, CB, South Carolina
Round 7: Matt Farniok, G, Nebraska
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Mukuamu was a three-year contributor for the Gamecocks, totaling 64 solo tackles, 10 pass deflections, and seven interceptions across 22 games from 2018-2020. His best season came in 2019 when he notched a career-high four INTs and nine PDs.
The 21-year-old operated at both cornerback and safety at South Carolina, versatility that made him an appealing late-round target. Mukuamu told reporters after being drafted that he felt he could “go as early as [the] second or third round.” Below is his official scouting report, courtesy of The Draft Network.
South Carolina used Israel Mukuamu in a variety of ways including as a wide corner, in the slot, as a deep safety, and in the box. While he primarily played as an outside corner, he does have appealing traits that make him a versatile option at the next level that can serve as a matchup neutralizer against tight ends and big slots. For a team that features a slot safety and/or positionless subpackage defenders, Mukuamu is an intriguing option for those roles in addition to playing wide corner in zone coverage. Mukumua is long, athletic, rangy, and physical. He does well to stay leveraged in zone coverage, has good ball skills, and is aggressive driving forward. The concerns with Mukuamu stem from his high-cut frame and the challenges it presents in terms of flipping his hips and cleanly transitioning. In addition, his play dropped off in 2020 after two outstanding seasons, but that was primarily due to injury. Unfortunately, he simply wasn’t playing his best football at the end of his career and some of his allure has faded. With that said, focusing on 2018 and 2019, that tape and his physical traits indicate he can fill a meaningful and valuable role for an NFL secondary if they are willing to tap into his versatility and what he does well.
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Fit in Dallas
That aforementioned Quinn connection? It appears the former Seahawks defensive boss wants to recreate the Legion of Boom — replete with 6-foot-4 corner Richard Sherman clones.
Mukuamu, who boasts 34-inch arms, will slide into a revamped secondary that features Joseph, Wright, Trevon Diggs, Jourdan Lewis, and Anthony Brown. He’s likely to usurp the likes of Rashard Robinson and CJ Goodwin for defensive snaps and may surpass 2020 fourth-rounder Reggie Robinson.
“I’m just a do-it-all guy. …Whatever they ask of me, that’s what I’m going to do,” Mukuamu told Dallas media.
Israel Mukuamu told media he feels “more comfortable at cornerback” but will play whatever the team needs in order to “get on the field” as a Cowboy.
— Brianna Dix (@DixBrianna) May 1, 2021
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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL