The Dallas Cowboys used the No. 115 overall choice in the 2021 NFL Draft on LSU linebacker Jabril Cox — a record-setting selection.
For the first time in franchise history, reports David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys have used their first six picks on defensive players.
The team previously selected first-round linebacker Micah Parsons, second-round cornerback Kelvin Joseph, and third-round defensive linemen Osa Odighizuwa and Chauncey Golston and cornerback Nahshon Wright.
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A high school quarterback, Cox began his collegiate career at North Dakota State. He was named the conference Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-MVFC in 2018 after posting 9.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, and four interceptions (two pick-sixes).
Cox transferred to LSU in 2020 and continued displaying his playmaking prowess. The 23-year-old was all over the field last season, notching 37 solo stops, 6.5 TFLs, five pass deflections, three INTs, and one defensive touchdown.
A two-time FCS All-American, Cox is an explosive, sideline-to-sideline rover capable of manning deep safety or in-the-box linebacker. He projects as a “productive NFL starter,” according to his Draft Network scouting profile.
Jabril Cox enjoyed a standout high school career where he played multiple positions and starred in both football and basketball but didn’t receive much interest coming out as a recruit. He spent three seasons at North Dakota State where he was outstanding. After being named the Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year in 2017, Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2018, and being a two-time FCS All-American, Cox opted to level up and compete in the SEC before entering the NFL. Cox is an outstanding coverage linebacker that thrives in space. He is terrific in both man and zone coverage, making him an ideal matchup linebacker that can handle tight ends, running backs, and some slot receivers. He has terrific range, mobility, and his motor always runs hot. When it comes to areas of concern for Cox, run defense, playing through contact, and being consistent with being an assignment-sound defender are the primary areas that need growth. Cox profiles as a productive NFL starter that brings a rare coverage skill set to the table.
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Fit in Dallas
The Cowboys have spent the offseason remodeling their linebacker corps, acquiring former Falcons first-rounder Keanu Neal while losing Sean Lee to retirement. The team also retained Jaylon Smith for the 2021 campaign and faces a decision on Leighton Vander Esch’s fifth-year contract option.
Importing both Parsons and Cox indicates Dallas may choose to decline Vander Esch’s option. At the very least, the brain trust — owner Jerry Jones, vice president Stephen Jones, director of player personnel Will McClay and head coach Mike McCarthy — are keeping the cupboard well-stocked.
The Cowboys reportedly had a second-round grade on Cox, who should open his rookie season as a moveable chess piece for new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
“I’m just glad Dallas picked me and I can show the whole league what they missed out on,” Cox said after being drafted.
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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL