FRISCO, Texas (AP) — The Dallas Cowboys found a replacement at cornerback in the second round of the NFL draft last year after losing a starter in free agency.
They might be trying to do it again in 2021.
The Cowboys kept the focus on defense with their initial pick Friday night, taking Kentucky cornerback Kelvin Joseph 44th overall in the second round.
It was the first pick of a busy second day for the Cowboys, who had three third-round selections at 75, 84 and 99 overall. The middle pick came from Philadelphia in a trade down in the first round on opening night, when Dallas dropped two spots to No. 12 to take Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons.
Cornerback was arguably the greatest need on a unit that allowed the most points in franchise history while going 6-10 in coach Mike McCarthy's first season in 2020.
Dallas lost Chidobe Awuzie, a 2017 second-round pick, to Cincinnati in free agency this year after 2015 first-round pick Byron Jones signed an expensive contract with Miami in 2020.
After losing Jones, the Cowboys drafted Trevon Diggs out of Alabama in the second round last year. Diggs started 11 of 12 games as a rookie, missing four because of a broken foot, and led Dallas with three interceptions.
Joseph will have a chance to start alongside Diggs, although holdovers Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis will see playing time as well. Brown has been a starter for the Cowboys, and Lewis has played in the slot and outside.
Joseph tied for third in the Southeastern Conference and was 14th nationally with three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown in Kentucky's 34-7 victory over Tennessee.
"I feel like we're fixing to do a lot of damage," Joseph said when asked about Diggs. "We're both physical against tall receivers, and we're smart. We're playmakers so we're just going to put our techniques together and learn from each other."
LSU suspended Joseph for the bowl game during the 2018 season for a violation of team rules. He transferred to Kentucky, sat out 2019 and played the first nine games last year for the Wildcats before opting out of the final two games of the coronavirus-altered season.
"I transferred from LSU for more exposure and stuff like that while accepting my consequences," Joseph said. "As far as me sitting out the game, I was apologizing to my teammates for not being there for them. Just having to learn everything and not do it again."