Chiefs news: Justin Cox, will he make the cut?


In my next series of chronicling undrafted prospects who could find their way on the Kansas City Chiefs opening day roster, we look now at defensive back Justin Cox, a product of SEC West-upstart Mississippi State.

Debating all week between whose odds I liked better to make the roster, Cox or Gardner Webb wide receiver Kenny Cook, the ultimate determination in opting for the defensive back over the wide receiver was purely numbers. With Sean Smith facing at least a two-game suspension, the Chiefs will have a depth issue that Cox could fill, at least on a temporary basis.

Simply getting off the bus or in shorts, Cox certainly fits the bill of what the Chiefs are looking for. He possesses the height Kansas City wants, standing at 6-foot-1 and tipping the scales just shy of 200 pounds at 191. Couple that with blazing speed, clocking a 40-yard dash at 4.36 seconds. Combined with solid athleticism, there are makings of potential of a solid defensive back.

Feb 23, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs defensive back Justin Cox runs the 40 yard dash during the 2015 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Cox, from what I’ve read from numerous scouts, and from the tape I tend to agree, projects best long-term at safety. He played safety for a majority of his senior season for the Bulldogs. However, he has spent the past two seasons playing corner for the Bulldogs in the ever-competitive SEC West. His biggest asset on defense is his speed, which is evident as field speed, and not just track speed. He possesses great recovery speed, and has a good break on a ball in the air.

The hope with Cox is that he’s a big ball of clay with speed that coaches can mold into a contributor. While coaches believe they can teach anyone to play football, Cox’s height and speed do provide at least a glimpse of hope there may be something to work with long-term.

The negatives for Mr. Cox are both numerous and glaring. Simply put, there are reasons why a guy goes undrafted, and level of competition isn’t one of them.

We will start with the fact that he was never a full-time starter at Mississippi State. In two seasons in Starkville, he broke up a total of seven passes and had two interceptions, one coming on a deflection. When I spoke of a guy who didn’t make many plays, this simply put is the proof. He recorded 52 total tackles in his two seasons for the Bulldogs, but only recorded a combined one tackle for loss in two seasons. For someone with his size and speed, and in that conference, you’d expect to see more.

Also, he doesn’t take the best angles to ball carriers, which may explain his tackle numbers, as well as his lack of plays made. While the athleticism stands out on film, so does the lack of lack of making plays. On more then a few occasions, he takes himself out of the play by taking a poor route to a ball carrier or receiver, losing the angle.

Cox could also use some help in tackling. He’s just not all that good with tackling. To play safety in the NFL, you need to show the ability to be at least somewhat dependable as a tackler, as many times, you are the last guy. Not sure Cox is ready to be that guy. Hopefully some coaching will help him with some of the basic and finer points of bringing a ball carrier to the ground.

Also, he was arrested and suspended his senior year, playing in only nine games. The arrest was for aggravated domestic assault. Police were reportedly responding to a complain of a burglary when he was arrested.  The domestic abuse charges were later dropped, and he pleaded to trespassing, but the concern obviously still stands.

In summation, I believe Cox’s best chance of making the team rests on his ability to play special teams, and fill a role while Smith is suspended. I certainly believe he’s a practice squad guy. He has a chance to start the season on the roster if he shows he can help on the back end of the roster early. Not sure I see that happening.

There are traits present to work with, and Justin does poses traits you can’t teach, which is height and speed. Whether or not the coaching staff can get anything from those traits remains to be seen. With the Chiefs facing uncertainty at safety position after this season, as both Husain Abdullah and Tyvon Branch are scheduled to be free agents, can Justin Cox show enough this season to compete for a safety position in 2016. Lets settle it on the field!