The Cowboys eschewed their defensive needs for an offensive talent too good to pass up — Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb — in Round 1 of the 2020 NFL draft.
In Round 2, they settled in to address a defensive hole.
The Cowboys selected Alabama cornerback Trevon Diggs with the 51st overall pick.
"I've always been a Cowboys fan, so when they called me, it was amazing," Diggs said in a conference call with reporters after he was chosen. "I'm extremely thankful for them taking a chance on me. I'm going to make the most of it."
He’ll help fill the void created when Byron Jones joined the Dolphins last month in free agency.
The Cowboys intuited Thursday night that defensive talent they liked would last until pick 51.
“I think we’ve got a nice group of players that very well give us an opportunity to do something on the defensive side of the ball if things fall right for us,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said late Thursday night.
Diggs’ brother, Stefon, plays receiver for the Buffalo Bills after being traded by the Minnesota Vikings this offseason.
“That’s like my dad, honestly,” Trevon Diggs said at the NFL scouting combine. “He was there for me when my father passed, so, he’s always taking care of me. I always ask him everything — 2 o’ clock in the morning, I’m asking him questions. … There’s a lot that he helps me with. He always helps keep me on cue.”
NFL DRAFT TRACKER: Live updates, analysis on picks from Rounds 2-3
The younger Diggs dabbled on offense at Alabama as a freshman—when he played offense, defense and special teams.
He moved full-time to defense in 2017 and started in 2018 until he broke his foot. As a senior, Diggs posted 37 tackles, eight pass deflections and three interceptions—including one returned for a touchdown.
The Cowboys will hope he improves the turnover-making abilities of a group that tied for worst in the league with seven interceptions last season. At 6-1, 205 pounds, Diggs’ length will help. So will his understanding of the game from multiple positions.
“I feel like that’s what I’m best at. That’s something I try to work on in practice, catching the ball, getting interceptions, getting turnovers," Diggs said after he was selected. "That’s something that was valued a lot at Alabama, so for me that was important. Get my hands on the ball, always be around the ball.
"I played wide receiver. I can attack the ball, go get the ball, so it’s like you got a receiver playing corner. I don’t want pass breakups. I want interceptions.”
Diggs joins a cornerback room including Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Anthony Brown and Maurice Canady. The Cowboys are switching defensive schemes under new coordinator Mike Nolan.
Head coach Mike McCarthy has insisted the scheme will fit the talent acquired.
“I think if you have a system of defense where you need a certain player to fit your scheme, you’re limiting your personnel department,” McCarthy said in a Jan. 16 sitdown with beat writers. “We know what a Dallas Cowboys football player looks like: the length, the athletic ability.
“Let’s get as many good football players as we possibly can. It’s our job as coaches to make sure our scheme boundaries are plenty wide enough to fit any excellent football players into our program.”
In the third round, the Cowboys selected Oklahoma defensive tackle Neville Gallimore, who could spell fellow former Sooner Gerald McCoy, who signed with Dallas in March, on the interior as he develops early in his career.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein
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