The Dallas Cowboys are expected to take a cornerback early in the 2021 NFL Drafts. Four picks in the top-100 should allow the Cowboys more than one opportunity to grab a defensive back that they like at good value. Many draftniks consider this to be a very solid corner class, too.
One player that has been the subject of a ton of discussion in the lead up to the draft is Virginia Tech corner Caleb Farley. There was one point in time that Farley was considered a borderline top-10 overall prospect in the class. Farley is an athletic ballhawk that starred in the secondary for the Hokies. He earned first-team All-ACC honors in 2019 despite missing two games.
In fact, the debate at one point the pre-draft process was who would be the better fit for the Cowboys: Farley or Patrick Surtain II? There was a legitimate discussion between the two. Farley has since been replaced with Jaycee Horn in those conversations.
Medicals play such a huge role in a prospects stock, though. Clean medicals can improve a player’s stock in some situations. An extensive injury history can drop a player from teams’ boards. A reported microdiscectomy procedure done in March has raised concerns around Farley’s back. It was the second back procedure that Farley has undergone in the last two years.
For reference, Tony Romo underwent the same procedure in 2013, and he never fully recovered to 100%. The lingering effects were seemingly always there until Romo retired following the 2016 season.
COWBOYS CAN’T AFFORD RISKS THAT COME WITH FARLEY
That alone should make teams hesitate from drafting the former All-ACC performer. Farley is oozing with talent and athletic ability, but the back injuries and procedures are nothing to gloss over.
There will always be questions about his long-term health. Even if Farley is expected to be ready for his rookie season after undergoing the surgery in March. Back injuries are always scary in a contact sport. That is especially true at cornerback, where defenders are consistently put in situations where they have to tackle and contest catches in the air.
More information regarding Caleb Farley’s medical history was released on Tuesday. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Peliserro detailed the injury concerns in an article on NFL.com. The story examines why Farley’s stock is one of the biggest questions in the entire draft.
NFL insider Ross Tucker screenshot an excerpt from the article and tweeted it out. The paragraphs included in Tucker’s tweet really shows how serious Farley’s medical history is.
— Ross Tucker (@RossTuckerNFL) April 27, 2021
In short, Farley injured his back while deadlifting — herniating his L5 disc and bulging his S1 joint. He has undergone two different back procedures in the last two years. The Virginia Tech corner recently irritated the S1 joint, which led to the second microdisectomy in March.
Rapoport and Pelissero also noted that Farley still has some weakness in one of his big toes. While the two NFL insiders explain that’s “normal at this stage of the recovery”, it has to be concerning that the nerve hasn’t fully recovered.
Add in a torn ACL and no film from the 2020 season, and it is becoming more and more difficult to ignore Farley’s medical-related red flags. Farley is one of the best defensive prospects in this class on tape, but the injury concerns are very real.
COWBOYS DON’T HAVE GREAT HISTORY WITH INJURIES
Furthermore, the Dallas Cowboys don’t exactly have a great track-record with taking injured defensive prospects. Dallas took risks by drafting both Jaylon Smith in the second-round of the 2016 draft and Leighton Vander Esch in 2018’s first-round.
Smith, of course, suffered a devastating injury during his final collegiate game. The Notre Dame product was seen as one of the best players in the entire draft class prior to the Fighting Irish’s bowl game against Ohio State. Unfortunately, Smith tore his ACL and suffered severe nerve damage. The injury made some question whether or not he would play professional football.
The Cowboys took a chance on Smith in the second-round, even though it was well-known that Smith would miss the entire 2016 season. Smith had a solid 2018 campaign, but he has otherwise struggled on the Dallas defense.
Vander Esch, meanwhile, entered the 2018 draft with a history of neck injuries that scared off some and raised concerns about his durability. As it turns out, LVE has struggled to stay on the field during his young career — playing just 19 games over the last two seasons.
Overall, the Dallas Cowboys just haven’t had a great deal of recent success in taking prospects with legit injury question marks. Dallas has too many holes, especially on the defensive side of the ball, to risk wasting a premium pick on a talent, but injured, player.
Caleb Farley could very well turn out to be the best defensive back from the 2021 NFL Draft class. He certainly is talented enough to do so if he can figure out how to stay healthy. The Dallas Cowboys need to let another team take that kind of risk.
Featured image via Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports