Category: Defensive Back

DB Justin Reid, Stanford

6’1” – 204 lbs. – 4.55

Profile: 

  • Has pro bloodlines; brother Eric most recently played safety for the San Francisco 49ers. Functioned as essentially a nickel defender at the college level; took snaps closer to or further from the line of scrimmage, but typically lines up across from an opposing slot receiver rather than as more of a traditional deep safety or box safety.

Positives:

  • Has good size for a pro defensive back; checks all the boxes from a physical perspective. Has good instincts and a conservative on-field temperament, minimizing big plays and mental errors. Footwork and balance in his backpedal is sound. Offers plus route recognition and impressive hips for a player of his size, allowing him to anticipate what opposing slot receivers are trying to do and stick with them despite his lack of ideal top-end speed. When working in press coverage, can place his hands and use them to stick with opponents. Doesn’t bite on double moves or give up too much separation at the route stem. Teams generally avoided throwing in his direction, and exhibited good ball skills to make plays when in-phase. Looks like a pretty good tackler who takes solid angles in pursuit and can break down in the open field; more of a reliable wrap-tackler than a big-hitting enforcer. Was also asked to do some limited blitzing off the edge.

Negatives:

  • Although he has the type of size and athleticism to potentially play as more of a typical free safety or strong safety, he’s a bit of a projection there because of his lack of snaps, meaning he might need to begin his career as a nickel defender. Will get grabby with opponents from time to time and may have to resort to that sort of tactic if he’s forced to cover legitimate deep threats in man coverage at the pro level. Can get caught in traffic when trying to cover drag patterns across the middle of the field. Most of his work was against opposing receivers as opposed to tight ends.

Summary:

  • A very consistent nickel defender with an impressive combination of size, instincts, and fluidity which should allow him to see significant snaps as a rookie. Could potentially handle a variety of roles but requires some projection to a traditional safety position given his limited snaps in deep coverage, at least during the games reviewed. A high-floor prospect with a skillset well-suited to the modern game and who should receive plenty of consideration in the first round of the draft.
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DB Jessie Bates III, Wake Forest

 6’2” – 195 lbs. – 4.55

Profile: 

  • Tall, long-limbed free safety who typically lines up deep as a traditional safety for his team, but who also has plenty of experience shading over and covering slot receivers.

Positives:

  • Has a good frame for the position, although his build is a little bit thin. Plays with a conservative temperament and adequate instincts to avoid giving up big plays over the top of the defense; avoids overcommitting and leaving himself out of position. Puts himself in good position to make tackles on plays into his area. Looks to have pretty good balance and footwork in his backpedal and was asked to do so frequently. Keeps himself in position to make open-field tackles as the last line of defense, and uses wrap technique. When working in coverage, has a pretty good feel for route developments underneath and wasn’t targeted very often in the games reviewed, although the cushions he gave would have made him susceptible to short throws underneath. Does a good job of locating the ball and using his length to break up throws when targeted. Has additional value as a punt returner, having proven a dangerous option in college.

Negatives:

  • Doesn’t have the type of physicality teams look for; a little bit soft. Tackling production is not quite where it should be given his adequate athleticism and instincts; tends to be a pile-inspector if other players are in the area, and an ankle-grabber who lets some ballcarriers slip through his grasp when he’s the first man on the scene. A lot of his work in coverage came in off-man against slot receivers as opposed to traditional cover-one or cover-two shells, but may lack the speed, hips, and burst to handle a man coverage role at the next level. Plant-and-drive is average. Often gets the worst of it when trying to enforce over the middle of the field because of his below-average functional strength.

Summary:

  • Has the height, length, and diagnostic skills teams look for in a free safety, but may not appeal to every team because of his lack of reliability as a tackler, something which can be traced back to his lack of functional strength and his somewhat soft game. Additionally, he was not asked to do a lot of deep zone work at the college level, so it’s reasonable to ask how well he’ll adjust to that sort of role at the next level, especially because he may not have the athleticism to play in the slot as much as a pro as he did in college.

 

DB Terrell Edmunds, Virginia Tech*

6’0″ – 217 lbs. – 4.47

Played running back in high school, but originally attended college as a cornerback. Redshirted in 2014, then transitioned to Tech’s Rover position the following year. Started eight of thirteen games as a redshirt freshman, thirteen of fourteen as a sophomore, and ten games as a junior before declaring for the draft. Excellent bloodlines; father Ferrell was a pro tight end, and brother and teammate Tremaine is a projected first-round pick in this year’s class. Has excellent size and bulk for a pro safety, with a particularly well-developed upper body. Versatile prospect who lines up all over the formation and could provide a defensive coordinator with some flexibility in designing their defense; can play in the box, can cover in the slot, can line up over bunch formations, and can function as more of a traditional high safety. Good athlete who has enough speed to play in deep zones or cover slot receivers across the middle of the field; however, speed is somewhat constrained by technical issues with his footwork, such as turning away from receivers instead of into their body. Instincts are just adequate; can be a little bit slow to process, resulting in him getting to the sideline slightly too late to provide safety help over the top. At times will let receivers get behind him by biting on play fakes or failing to get enough depth in his drops; consequently, looks more comfortable playing in the box or in man coverage in the slot. Has the speed and closing burst to get in front of receivers in man coverage and break up passes, although he is inconsistent in terms of making the plays he’s able to get to. Needs to do a better job of getting his head around to locate the ball so he can capitalize on the opportunities his length and athleticism present. Pretty good tackler who can cover a lot of ground and has the size, length, and technique to bring down ballcarriers in the open field. Only missed three tackles in nearly three-hundred snaps against the run this past season. Not the physical enforcer some teams look for in their strong safeties but plays with discipline in his run fits and doesn’t take unnecessary risks when flowing to the ball. Understands run fits and can help set the edge. Underwent shoulder surgery this past season which will require further investigation. Has all of the physical and athletic tools to develop into a versatile starting safety, but instincts and technique are in need of additional polish.

DB Derwin James, Florida St.**

6’2″ – 215 lbs. – 4.47

Had a highly productive freshman campaign, then missed the remainder of his sophomore season after tearing the meniscus in his left knee the following year. Rebounded to have an excellent redshirt sophomore season, then declared for the draft. Massive, long-limbed strong safety who really looks the part. Takes most of his snaps close to the line of scrimmage; usage is more like an outside linebacker than a safety. Even on the snaps which he takes from the slot or further off the line, he’s typically playing downhill, which is clearly his strength. Very aggressive, physical defender who can provide emotional leadership and help set the tone defensively. Exhibits speed and explosiveness in his movements, with impressive ability to diagnose plays and pursue ballcarriers as a sideline-to-sideline player. Looks very good flowing to the ball; doesn’t shy away from taking on blocks and has the power to jolt opponents. Uses his length and physicality to his advantage; has a wide tackling radius and uses reliable hit-and-wrap technique. Takes a lot of snaps off the edge as a pass-rusher and possesses the speed, explosiveness, and length to generate pressure and finish his rushes. The obvious question about his draft status is whether or not he will be able to handle the coverage responsibilities typically expected of a safety, or whether he will have to convert to linebacker at the pro level. Was only functioning as a typical high safety or working in the slot on a few snaps per game; also took some limited drops into zone coverage from the box. Doesn’t seem to have a great feel for route developments and gives up enough separation out of breaks to be thrown at when working in man coverage. Looks more comfortable in zone, especially when he is able to keep the play in front of him and read the quarterback’s eyes, given his explosiveness when planting and driving on a spot. Has some upside as a potential matchup for opposing tight ends, as he could potentially leverage his length and physicality to disrupt opposing releases at the line of scrimmage. Also has enough pure athleticism to stick with running backs on wheel routes out of the backfield. Looks bound to be one of the first defensive players chosen by virtue of his size, aggression, and physicality, although some elements of his game are difficult to evaluate because of his unorthodox collegiate role.

DB Kyzir White, West Virginia

6’2″ – 218 lbs. – 4.60e

Brother is former first-round pick Kevin White. Spent two seasons at Lackawanna College before transferring to the Mountaineers. Stepped into the starting lineup in his first year at West Virginia and reprised that role this past season, enjoying two highly-productive campaigns to close out his college career. Has plus size for a pro safety, with a thick build, especially in the lower body. Splits his snaps between lining up as a deep safety and, more often, playing as more of a big nickel (“Spur”) defender opposite opposing slot receivers. Pretty consistent cover man whose responsibilities tended to involve working in either man coverage against opposing slot receivers or in shallow zones. Has a controlled and technically-sound backpedal, if not a particularly quick one. Able to use his strength to get physical at the line of scrimmage. When working in man coverage against opposing receivers and tight ends, exhibits a conservative temperament, allowing some completions but keeping opponents in front of him to avoid giving up big plays down the field. Does a good job of keeping himself in position to limit yards after contact. Work in deep zones was a little bit more limited by virtue of his defensive role, but overall temperament and feel suggest that he should be able to handle cover-two responsibilities. Ball skills were difficult to evaluate based on the games reviewed but broke up nine career passes and intercepted three balls this past season. Not particularly fast but plays with good instincts and discipline, allowing him to end up around the ball often and rack up a lot of tackles. Navigates through traffic effectively. Does a good job of using his arms and hands to play off of blocks and flow to the ball; attacks opposing blockers with intensity. Able to funnel opposing ballcarriers back inside to his teammates. Explosive into contact to help set the tone, providing plenty of thump; however, could wrap up more consistently. Also has some experience lining up on the edge and rushing the passer; flashes a good closing burst to finish his rushes with sacks and hits on the quarterback. Requires some imagination to project to a deep coverage role and will need to time well to solidify his draft stock, but does what he does very well, offering teams a big, physical safety with good instincts, reliable tackling, and a responsible style of play. Those traits could eventually make him a starter at the pro level.

DB Marcus Allen, Penn St.

6’2” – 215 lbs. – 4.60e

Started the final seven of thirteen games played as a true freshman, then all twelve, fourteen, and eleven games played in the three subsequent seasons, respectively. Team captain who looks the part with excellent size, length, and bulk for a pro safety. Plays with the aggressiveness and physicality to help set the tone defensively. Typically lines up well off the line of scrimmage as more of a deep safety, but will also come down and cover receivers in the slot at times. As a pro, athletic limitations may force him to play in the box more often relative to those other responsibilities. Backpedal looks fundamentally sound in terms of overall balance and footwork. Has just average athleticism and is often late getting to the sideline as a single-high safety. Can get drawn in by play fakes and misdirection and lacks the elite speed to recover. Also doesn’t always get enough depth when working in zones. Consequently, ball skills are difficult to evaluate; had just one career interception over fifty games played at the college level, with eleven passes defensed. When playing in the slot, has the length and physicality to disrupt opposing slot receivers within five yards, although he may lack the speed and quickness to stick with receivers on routes. At the college level, exhibited a tendency to get grabby after being beat off the line. Could be a penalty machine if given extensive man-coverage responsibilities, although he does have the size to potentially work against opposing tight ends. Physical defensive back who likes to come up and support the run but isn’t a consistent form tackler; more of a hitter who doesn’t always use his arms well, but flashes the ability to break down and wrap in the open field. Instincts are better when he’s able to come up and play the run  than when he’s asked to work in coverage. Has enough pop to serve as an enforcer over the middle. Able to take on blocks and force runners back inside. Has some blitzing ability, with some explosiveness when playing downhill; was able to create pressure even as a deep blitzer. Offers nearly four years of starting experience in a major program, with the size and physicality teams look for in the position, but coverage limitations and spotty tackling form could relegate him to a backup role.

DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama*

6’0″ – 204 lbs. – 4.46

Was a major contributor for the Tide over the past three seasons, foregoing his senior season in order to declare for the draft. Has excellent size and length which should allow him to play either cornerback or safety. With Alabama, played all over the defense: as a cornerback, as a safety, as a “star” (replacing the strongside linebacker in nickel packages), and as a “money” (replacing the middle linebacker in dime packages). This past season, took a lot of snaps in one of the latter two spots, often lining up as more of a linebacker or in coverage on an opposing slot receiver; versatility is a major plus, having also been responsible for making adjustments in the secondary. Fast, energetic defensive back who flies around the field and possesses the athletic gifts to handle virtually any conceivable responsibility on the field. Despite his height and long legs, has a controlled backpedal with good balance and quick feet. Uses his length well to press opposing receivers at the line of scrimmage and disrupt their releases. Best when he’s allowed to use his explosiveness to plant and drive on a ball that’s been thrown in front of him, but also has the speed to turn and run down the field with opposing receivers and running backs in man coverage. Patiently makes his reads, picking up opposing running backs on delayed releases into the backfield when working in zone coverage. Has plus ball skills to make plays on the ball or intercept passes, using his length well; also dangerous with the ball in his hands, having scored four touchdowns on intercepted passes over the course of his career. Responsibilities as a typical boundary cornerback or high safety were a little bit limited this season; most of his overage was in the slot, which leaves a little bit of his projection to the imagination. Can play a little bit narrow and upright when working in zone coverage. Faster and more fluid than quick-twitch. Exhibits some ability to play off of blocks, with a willingness to come up and defend the run, although he is not a forceful or particularly reliable tackler. Also an accomplished blitzer who closes quickly and was able to generate a lot of pressure by virtue of his varied alignments. A blue-chip prospect with the size, length, athleticism, intelligence, versatility, and pedigree to be one of the first players selected this year.

DB Quin Blanding, Virginia

6’2″ – 207 lbs. – 4.63

Started all of the Cavaliers’ games over the past four years, recording forty-nine starts in total and winning first team all-conference honors in each of the past three. Works predominantly as a high safety with zone coverage responsibilities, but also takes some snaps in coverage against opposing slot receivers. Has an excellent combination of size and length for the position and should be viewed as a potential fit for either safety role at the pro level. Fast, fluid defensive back who looks comfortable turning and running with opposing wide receivers down the field, and who was trusted to do so on a regular basis at the college level. Has enough speed to stick with opponents across the middle of the field. Size is more than sufficient to cover opposing receivers and possibly some tight ends. However, made some mistakes on reads during the games reviewed, leaving opponents open for easy catches. Has a tendency to get drawn in by misdirection, creating opportunities for passes over the top. When in position, exhibits the soft hands needed to secure interceptions; picked off ten passes over the course of his collegiate career. Length allows him to bat down passes when in-phase. Likes to come up and play the run, and looks better when he’s able to mix it up with opposing ballcarriers. Possesses good speed and a closing burst in pursuit. Length gives him an impressive tackling radius; is a reliable open-field tackler who choose appropriate angles in pursuit, if not the type of enforcer who can intimidate opponents over the middle. Was also used as a blitzer from deep on occasion; looks fast when planting and driving on a spot. A likable prospect whose physical and athletic attributes are desirable for a pro safety, and who is the type of reliable tackler that teams look for in their last line of defense. Could be a little bit more disciplined when working in coverage to prevent opponents from threatening the defense over the top, which may cause some teams to view him as more of a strong safety whose ability to come up and make tackles in the run game should be accentuated. Looks like a mid-round pick as an experienced prospect with a high floor.

DB Ronnie Harrison, Alabama*

6’2″ – 207 lbs. – 4.60e

Rotated into the defense and played on special teams as a freshman, then spent the past two seasons in the starting lineup before declaring for the draft. Well-built safety with an excellent combination of height, bulk, and length; really looks the part of a pro defensive back. Did a little bit of everything for the Tide: lined up as a high safety in cover-two looks, came down and played in a robber capacity, and covered slot receivers in man coverage. Has a desirable on-field temperament in terms of his motor and overall level of aggression; the type of player who can help set the tone defensively. Loves up to come up and deliver hits in the run game, with the speed to get involved in the play from his position as a high safety. A physical enforcer type whose greatest value in the passing game is his ability to intimidate opponents who run patterns over the middle of the field. Has a pretty good feel for route developments underneath and enough explosiveness to drive on a spot and punish receivers with big hits over the middle of the field. Has the speed and fluidity to work in man coverage, and leverages his size, length, and physicality to disrupt opposing receivers when playing in the slot. May have to tone it down a little bit at the next level in order to avoid penalties, but should be able to stick with some receivers and looks like a good candidate to draw interest from teams looking for a bigger safety to work against opposing tight ends. Intercepted seven passes in college. Angles in pursuit can leave something to be desired; will get too aggressive, take a risky path to the ball, and let some opposing ballcarriers through his grasp. A better hitter than form tackler who could break down and wrap up more consistently given his role as the defense’s last line of defense. Aggressiveness can also cause him to be exploited in the passing game; loves to come up and make tackles against the run, so teams have been able to drawn him in with play-action and misdirection and create one-on-one opportunities further down the field. Also blocked two kicks during his collegiate career. Offers a desirable combination of size, physicality, and versatility which should allow him to be one of the first safeties off the board, but will need to take better angles in pursuit and break down more consistently.