DALLAS — Everyone knew the Dallas Cowboys had interest in a South Carolina defensive back heading into the 2021 NFL draft with cornerback Jaycee Horn among the top of their wishlist for Round 1.
However, very few would have guessed that it would ultimately be Horn’s teammate and fellow cornerback Israel Mukuamu to land with the Cowboys with their No. 227 overall pick in Round 6 of the draft Saturday.
Mukuamu collected 86 combined tackles, seven interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, and 10 pass breakups in his 22 career games with the Gamecocks. Mukuamu also added a forced fumble in his time at South Carolina.
At 6-feet-4-inches and 205 pounds, Mukuamu would be a big cornerback for the Cowboys. It is possible the Cowboys would convert him to a safety at some point in his tenure with the team.
"Cornerback was real important to us," Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones said at the end of day two, "to get a good corner in this draft."
Dallas picked cornerbacks Kelvin Joseph in Round 2 and Nahshon Wright in Round 3. Adding Mukuamu gives the Cowboys another chance to provide depth and competition at a position that already features Trevon Diggs, Jourdan Lewis, and Anthony Brown.
"We want competition all the way through our building," coach Mike McCarthy said at the end of day two. "Especially, and most importantly, in the locker room. We are going to have an extremely competitive — hopefully OTAs — but more importantly a very competitive training camp.”
The Cowboys needed help in the secondary as the team was tied for the fifth-fewest interceptions in the league with 10 last year. The Dallas defense had the seventh-highest opposing passer rating as opposing quarterbacks combined for a 100.4 rating.
If playing time is hard to come by on defense, Mukuamu, a Moncks Corner, South Carolina, native, could find time to play on special teams as many late-round picks do to get their foot in the door and a place on the roster.
The 21-year-old former Gamecock graduated from Parkway High School in Bossier City, Louisiana, the same high school as LSU standout receiver Terrace Marshall.
Do you think Mukuamu will end up being the Cowboys’ annual late-round safety or will he stick at cornerback? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.