FanPost

BTSC 2019 Post-Combine Big Board (Safeties)

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Terrell Edmunds, last year's #1 pick began to come into form at the end of 2018. At least enough to predict that he will, with the expected Sophomore Leap, be a rangy Strong Safety who can excel as a Dimebacker a 3-Safety Big Nickel package. If we take all that as a given the 2019 roster will look like this:

A pattern emerges! The team has very good depth for the SS/Dimebacker role. That is a doubly good thing because the Big Safety look is how the Chargers shut down the Ravens' vaunted running attack in the playoffs. Pittsburgh will definitely make use of that package. But there is a real hole is at Free Safety, and a particularly bad one if Sean Davis gets hurt. Morgan Burnett would be the obvious backup but he's lost a step over the years and made 'trade me' noises a few months back in response to playing more Dimebacker than he wanted to in 2018.

Could Edmunds step in for Davis in a pinch, letting Dangerfield or Marcus Allen play in the box? [Brow wrinkles]. Perhaps it would be best to let him swallow the Sophomore Leap before piling on more.

Could one of the Corners move over to Free Safety? Brian Allen is certainly big and fast enough, but that is not a small difference. Is there any reason to believe he could handle such a complicated set of new duties when Corner alone has been too much so far? Probably not.

So the bottom line is that Pittsburgh could really use a fast, rangy Free Safety who can back up Sean Davis and also play the Cover-2 role when the team moves to a Big Nickel look.The following table breaks the Safeties down into two categories to highlight that distinction: those who are physically able to play Free Safety behind Sean Davis and those who are pure in-the-box thumpers. That dividing line costs us several of the best talents in guys like Taylor Rapp and Johnathan Abram.

In the ideal world we would subdivide further to illustrate the Safeties with good coverage chops as well as good range, and also those who can play single-high FS in addition to the Lite version required for Cover 2. But that's too much for this forum, especially when so many of the better prospects can do all- or most of the above. Read the text for more detail. And make sure to share your thoughts in the Comments section! I haven't exactly skimped on my review of the Safety prospects but I will admit to giving them less focused attention than you've seen with the pass catchers, ILB's and Corners. That makes the hive mind input all the more vital.

And so without further ado...

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2:01

FS Nasir Adderley, Delaware. 5'11¾", 206. A tremendous small school prospect who projects to be a very good center fielder, but only a center fielder. His calling cards are tremendous range and some of the best ball skills in the draft. Showed good processing speed too even if it was against lesser competition. Daniel Jeremiah compares him to a young Eric Weddle, which is high praise. Stood out at the Senior Bowl in multiple ways, including overall human intellect. This goes to a Steelers-oriented, gif-supported scouting report that ends with a Round 2 grade. This goes to the NFL.com scouting profile. Here is the page of Draft Network scouting profiles.

2:01

SS/FS Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Florida {Meeting at Combine}. 5'10⅞", 210 lbs. He tested okay (top 50% SPARQ score) which actually disappointed fans who see boatloads of speed, C.O.D. skills and range when they watch the tape. It makes for a difficult evaluation in some ways because 2018 saw a vastly improved player who'd suddenly learned how to tackle and to take good angles, neither of which appeared on the 2017 film.He's still inconsistent but now gets a universal Round 2 grade with the exception of those who see him breaking into the late 1st. It helps that he has some notable coverage chops, center field range, and is supposed to be a top notch human being who adores the game of football. Here is an early January scouting profile from Jon Ledyard. This goes to the enthusiastic NFL.com scouting profile.

2:01

SS/FS Deionte Thompson, Alabama. 6'2", 196 lbs. He profiles as an ideal Free Safety with great speed, range, leadership, and an overwhelming desire to come downhill and make the hit. But he is also a 1-year starter whose rawness, overeagerness, and willingness to gamble got ever more exposed as the 2018 season progressed, and that has led to declining stock as the draft process moves forward. He, Sean Davis and Terrell Edmunds would eventually give Pittsburgh unbelievable depth and flexibility in the secondary for years to come but he might take a year or two to get there. Big Nickel could easily turn into the Steelers' favorite package! This gif-supported scouting report from February is as harsh as any you can find, and concludes with a Round 4 grade based on the rawness issues and gambling errors. The NFL.com scouting profile is exactly the opposite and awards one of the highest Safety grades for the entire class. Here are the Draft Network scouting profiles.

2:12

SS/FS Juan Thornhill, Virginia. 6'¾", 202 lbs. A ballhawking safety with excellent range, great hands and a surprising adeptness at playing the box. Drops because he's not the best coverage guy, though his athletic profile (97th percentile SPARQ score!) suggests someone who'd be ideal in the Cover 2 sub package role and adequate as a depth player behind Davis. Dropped an easy interception in the Senior Bowl game and had a tough week overall in which he looked slower than his film suggests. Could it be limitations on his ‘instincts' and processing time, as hinted at in the Draft Network scouting profiles? Or perhaps the footwork issues and/or athleticism questions raised by this Steelers-oriented, gif-supported scouting report from early February? The NFL.com scouting profile suggests that it may be due trying out Safety for the first time in 2018. Note that he will turn 24 right at the start of the 2019 season, which makes him a bit older than Pittsburgh prefers..

2:24

SS/FS Amani Hooker, Iowa. 5'11⅜", 210 lbs. The Draft Network scouting profile describes a do-it-all instinctive safety with every asset but pure athletic talent ("super-limited athlete" was one painful description). Enter the Combine and a SPARQ score worthy of the NFL's 80th percentile and everyone goes scurrying back to see what's what. This pre-Combine, Steelers-oriented and gif-supported scouting report agrees, but ends in a Round 2 grade based on the whole player. So Cover 1 center fielder may be out, but Cover 2 should work easily because he has also a great football IQ. Indeed, Hooker was such a living highlight reel in college that he might want to start worrying less about the "flash" and more about the "right". He has a dynamic impact on the game, but his excess aggression can gets him into trouble. Lance Zierlein's NFL.com scouting profile has him as the #4 ranked Safety overall.

3:01

SS/FS/CB Darnell Savage Jr., Maryland. 5'10¾", 198 lbs. A savage hitter (pun fully intended) who is exceptional in the box - almost like a mini-linebacker - but a bit vulnerable in coverage even though he ran with the Corners at the Combine and put up a 90th percentile SPARQ score to boot with exceptional scores in all the movement drills. Plenty of (sub 4.4!) speed and suddenness to play center field too, excellent ball skills, and what seems to be a high football IQ. The Draft Network scouting profile page concludes that his ideal role would be as a Cover 2 Safety that would fit Pittsburgh's needs. This gif-supported, Steelers-oriented scouting report from February praises his aggressiveness but suggests he will need to dial it back. The NFL.com scouting profile views him as a cover-capable Safety with Cover 2 chops, which may be just what Pittsburgh wants if you think about it.

3:12

SS/FS Marquise Blair, Utah. 6'1¼", 195 lbs. One of the more intriguing developmental projects of the draft, Blair is a height/weight/speed project who seems to have a number of significant but coachable flaws in his game. He is eager and physical in the box but takes inconsistent angles and tackles with inconsistent technique; has great range but looks vulnerable in man coverage; very aggressive in the box but plays overly cautious as a center fielder... You get the idea. Interviews will be key because Safeties require such high football IQ's to do the NFL job. Injury bit in prior years but fine in 2018. Lance Zierlein's NFL.com scouting profile is especially complimentary, saying that despite a slender frame "he's long and rangy in coverage, and embodies the mindset that defensive coordinators want from their units." A solid top 40% SPARQ score at a bigger than expected weight does nothing but support the argument that he could be a great puzzle piece for a Pittsburgh team that needs a backup for Sean Davis.

3:12

SS/FS Sheldrick Redwine, Miami. 6'0", 196 lbs. A tremendous athlete (94th percentile SPARQ score) and former Corner who can play both Free and Strong Safety. The athleticism is real, with especially good explosion and speed results, but it did not always show up on tape. The NFL.com scouting profile notes that he is a former Corner with good hands and aggressiveness, but dings him for relatively slow processing (to be expected from someone new to the position) and consistency issues. This goes to a February scouting profile from our sister site for the Cowboys, which ends in a Round 4 grade. This gif-supported February scouting profile from a Raiders POV also ends in a Round 4 grade.

3:24

SS/FS Will Harris, Boston College. 6'1", 207 lbs. A fluid and rangy athlete who can fly over the field and, as a converted WR, has fantastic ball skills as well. He was one of the major athletic achievers of this class with a top 20% SPARQ score that centered heavily on movement skills. The NFL.com scouting profile adds that he has some ability to cover TE's and perhaps some of the oversized slot WR's, but then downgrades him significantly for a variety of processing issues that come under headings like "poor instincts". Translation: he has a safe floor as a special teams player, but will have to grow a lot before he earns defensive snaps and even more before he approaches the "boom" potential his pure athletic talents would support. He stood out well at the Shrine Game.

4:01

CB/FS Mike Jackson, Miami. 6'⅝", 210 lbs. Is he a cover-Safety who might lack the C.O.D. to play Corner, or an undersized Safety who needs to bulk up and become a good tackler without the ‘for a Corner' proviso? He is directly on that line and the grades reflect whether the particular author believes his press-man skills will be good enough to survive the COD deficits. Have a look at the spider chart of his performance to see how a prospect in the 95th SPARQ score percentile can be said to have real athletic concerns. The NFL.com scouting profile leans toward seeing him as a future Free Safety, while the Draft Network scouting profiles page leans toward preserving the question marks. Either way he could be a good backup for Sean Davis.

4:01

CB/FS Iman Lewis-Marshall, USC. 6'⅝", 207 lbs. but with very short (30⅝") arms. Another prospect who straddles the line between being a cover-capable Safety who lacks the instant COD and recovery speed to play Corner, and being a Safety who needs to work on his tackling skills. Another one who profiles similarly to Sean Davis in a lot of ways. Here is the NFL.com scouting profile. This goes to a very fun 2017 article on how he is now a 7-position player. Here is a gif-supported scouting report from just before the Combine.

4:16

CB/FS Kris Boyd, Texas. 5'11½", 195 lbs. Feisty, aggressive, savvy and in-your-face with coverage built on basic technique. The drawbacks? Reviewers differ distinctly on whether (a) his COD skills are good or barely average, (b) his speed is good enough to avoid getting burned deep, (c) his tendency to grab when he's beat can be cured, and (d) his are only okay or Ike Taylor bad. All agree that he has an excellent football IQ, supports the run as well as many Safeties, and would fit best in a zone-heavy defensive scheme. This one's in the eye of the beholder for sure! The Combine definitely helped his stock by proving good speed (4.45), overall athletic talent (SPARQ score in the NFL's 87th percentile), and no particular athletic holes. A stream of Senior Bowl penalties and a poor practice week significantly lowered his stock. The NFL.com scouting profile considers him a good enough prospect but limited to zone coverage schemes and with even better prospects as a Safety.

4:16

SS/FS Marvell Tell III, USC. 6'2", 195 lbs. All the physical talent you want but he takes terrible angles, isn't a particularly good tackler when he arrives, and people report a tendency toward lackadaisical play. Interviews will make a big difference.

4:16

FS Jalen Thompson, Wash. St. 6'0", 190 lbs. Another Safety who'd fit Pittsburgh well as a backup, Thompson lacks only that special ‘extra' that turns a Safety into a Corner, and that special ‘oomph' that lets a Free Safety excel closer to the box. He'd also rate higher if his tackling was anything better than awful, but that's also something a coach can fix.

5:01

SS/FS Tyree Kinnel, Michigan. 5'11", 215 lbs. A decent prospect with nice size, aggressiveness levied by patience, and the ability to cover most RB's and TE's, Kinnel has starter potential if he can work on his angles and tackling ability.

5:01

CB/FS Jamal Peters, Miss. St. 6'1¾", 218 lbs. Peters has the length and athleticism you want in a CB but lacks the technical understanding to fully capitalize on it. Being much rawer than Artie Burns was, and a 4.63 dash at the Combine (ouch), should keep his stock in the lower rounds. The NFL.com scouting profile argues that he has solid developmental potential, including the physicality to move to Safety if he has to.

5:01

FS/CB Ken Webster, Ole Miss. 5'10⅞", 203 lbs. A SPARQ score wunderkind (99th percentile), Webster blew up the Combine but emphatically failed to blow up the playing season. The NFL.com scouting profile grants his physicality and tackling, but has severe complaints about his coverage skill. But with that native athletic edge... perhaps he could be a free roving Safety or a tackling Nickel Corner?

5:16

FS Ugochukwu Amadi, Oregon. 5'9⅜", 199 lbs. He's got great leadership skills and some decent coverage ability, but the athleticism falls in the bottom 15% from a SPARQ perspective and only some okay (4.51) speed and long arms made it that high. The NFL.com scouting profile sees him as more of a special teams player with Safety upside, but one who's likely to find a home in the right situation because of all the intangibles.

6:01

FS Lukas Denis, Boston Coll. 5'11", 185 lbs. A ballhawking center fielder with good range but a reputation of being a bit gun shy when it comes to delivering the lumber and issues wrapping up on tackles. Those problems showed up in spades at the Shrine Game.

6:01

SS/FS Malik Gant, Marshall. 5'11⅝", 206 lbs. A walk-on whose versatility earned starting snaps right away. Gant's length allows him to cover oversized slot receivers and TE's; he has the toughness to play downhill as a box guy; and he's shown the processing skills to play center field and zone. Gant is one of those guys who's just around the ball. The big knocks on him, other than raw skills and level of competition, are his slender frame and some highly questionable athletic testing (bottom 6% SPARQ score). The Year 2 player will be a lot bigger and tougher than anything he will show as a rookie. Here is a February scouting profile from Jon Ledyard.

6:16

SS/FS Cua Rose, Arkansas Tech. 5'10", 180 lbs. Rose is the type of Safety worth a chance in the later rounds. On the plus side he may be undersized but he has the "stuff" to play in the box; ball skills for days; the technique and ability to man guys up; and enough pure athleticism and speed to play single high. That gets balanced against the size limitations, the extremely raw processing skills from an NFL perspective, and the lack of experience against top competition. Boom or bust; high ceiling versus chasm level floor; etc.

6:16

SS/FS Zedrick Woods, Ole Miss. 5'11", 205 lbs. His tape consistently shows a slow footed box safety with good experience and discipline held back by very poor athletic skills. The Draft Network scouting profiles and the NFL.com scouting profile both agree on this. So how the heck did he run a 4.29 dash and compile a top 20% SPARQ score with a well balanced athletic profile on everything but height? Something doesn't add up, but the testing alone makes him worth a Day 3 flier.

Thumpers Who Could Not Back Up Sean Davis

2:12

SS Johnathan Abram, Miss. St. 5'11⅜", 205 lbs. Possess all the assets you look for in a between-the-hashes Strong Safety enforcer: size, speed, ferocity, and both the ability and willingness to bring the lumber when he arrives. "All gas and no brakes!" Yes, his eagerness can cause him to miss the tackle completely, and yes, he has sometimes been a hair slow to read and react to the situation, but those are coachable flaws. Interviews will matter a lot, especially since the Steelers would see him as a somewhat lesser version of Terrell Edmunds. Maybe more Keanu Neal? Here is the Draft Network scouting profiles page. This goes to the NFL.com scouting profile.

2:24

SS Taylor Rapp, Washington {Meeting at Combine}. 5'11¾", 208 lbs. He's shown all the assets you want except the range to play center field. His coverage skills are good enough for TE's, RB's and quite a few WR's; he takes good angles toward tackles in space and in run support; he packs a truly nasty attitude when he arrives on the scene; and balls somehow like to find him. Taylor Rapp is everything that Marcus Allen and Jordan Dangerfield are, except better. But weren't we hoping to get someone who could add depth behind Sean Davis? He did not run a 40 but put up some very noteworthy times in the C.O.D. drills. These links go to the Draft Network scouting profiles, the NFL.com scouting profile, and a Steelers-oriented, gif-supported scouting report from February. This goes to a nice, if fluffy, human interest backstory article.

4:16

SS Jaquan Johnson, Miami. 5'10⅜", 186 lbs. He's a bit on the small side but only physically. Jaquan Johnson is one of those do-everything team leaders and overachievers who just make plays while floating all other boats that much higher. If his body holds up he will be an inevitable fan favorite and secondary anchor for whatever NFL franchise he lands at. But that's not a small "if" for this kind of living missile. This Steelers-oriented, gif-supported scouting report ends with a Round 5 grade based on viewing him as a pure box Safety. The Draft Network scouting profiles also views him as a likely phenom for special teams who will have trouble finding snaps in the actual defense.

5:01

SS Antoine Brooks Jr., Maryland. 5'11", 210 lbs. This fascinating September scouting profile makes Antoine Brooks sound like a Safety version of Mike Hilton; a player who's quicker than he is fast, plays with great intensity, and doesn't fit any single positional label. Maybe Nickelback?

5:01

SS Jontrell Rocquemore, Utah State. 6'1", 210 lbs. A big, aggressive safety who excels in the box but has the sort of athleticism questions that suggest he may be limited to that role. Good ball skills. Man coverage abilities sufficient to handle most TE's and RB's, but lacks the loose hips to hang with slippery WR's.

5:16

SS Mike Bell, Fresno St. 6'2¾", 210 lbs. Long even for someone of that height, with no particular flaws except those going into the world's worst SPARQ score (bottom 0.2% - ouch). This goes to The Draft Network scouting profiles page. Here is the NFL.com scouting profile, which saw nothing like those athletic limitations and ends on a pretty solid grade.

5:16

SS Mike Edwards, Kentucky. 5'10¾", 204 lbs. Another solid box Safety with average athleticism who could easily have a nice NFL career but at this point is a lesser prospect than Marcus Allen was in 2018.

6:01

MACK ILB/SS B.J. Blunt, McNeese State {Meeting at the Shrine Game}. 6'1", 220 lbs. Sometimes an article just nails it: "Blunt was such a delight to watch this [Shrine Game] week. Everything he does in practice and the game is at full-speed and exploding with energy. While he is undersized for the linebacker position and a transition to safety is inevitable, there is no denying his nose for the football... He may be from the small-school ranks and have tweener traits, but I am not betting against Blunt finding a role in sub-packages in the NFL while also being a dominant special teams performer. He has an infectious personality and love for the game that was obvious."

7:01

SS Tanner Muse, Clemson. 6'2", 225 lbs. Darned close to being a linebacker when it comes to size, but he's played a lot of single high Safety too and has a reputation for high football IQ. Great things were expected in 2018... and then they didn't happen. What's the deal?

7:16

SS D'Cota Dixon, Wisconsin. 5'10", 204 lbs. A fly-around-the-field tackler, team leader and communicator with issues as he moves beyond the box. A fine player but no more than a potential backup for Edmunds and a lesser prospect than Marcus Allen was last year. He put up a hideous bottom 2% SPARQ score.

7:16

SS/ILB Chase Hansen, Utah. 6'2⅞", 222 lbs. A box Safety in college who, according to the Draft Network scouting profiles, is likely to be more of an undersized ILB in the pros. A decent but definitely a developmental prospect. He will be a 27 year old rookie.

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