There’s a reason why people are talking about the DB’s in this draft. Depth, talent at the top end and throughout the first three rounds. Some diamonds to find in day three. It’s an ideal opportunity for a team (see: Seahawks) to reload and try to rekindle some of that magic on defense.
Two players I watched yesterday were Colorado safety Tedric Thompson and Houston cornerback Howard Wilson.
Thompson jumped off the screen. He’s a really instinctive safety with the closing speed to make big plays in the passing game. That shows up with his seven interceptions in 2016 and 16 PBU’s. That’s as many PBU’s as cornerbacks Tre’Davious White and Adoree’ Jackson, and one more than Kevin King and Coredrea Tankersley.
He looks like he’ll have a great vertical at the combine (more on that in a moment). He frequently just goes up and gets the ball. Combine that with his ability to shift through the gears and close, read and react and play the ball. He’s ideally suited to be a rangy single-high safety.
Give him a lane to the ball carrier and he’ll get there. Throw it deep? You’re taking a chance against this type of speed. On the mid-range throws he’ll break on the ball and make a play with instinct and athleticism. It’s very difficult to fit throws into small windows at the second level with Thompson lurking. His field awareness is also good, putting him in a position to make plays and deceive quarterbacks.
This is kind of what we saw from Earl Thomas at Texas. He had eight picks in his final season in college. While Thompson will find it difficult to match Thomas’ level in the NFL — as a backup worthy of being developed over time, there are worse projects the Seahawks can take on.
It’ll be very interesting to see just how athletic he is. Tedric’s brother Cedric was a recent 5th round pick by the Dolphins and managed a 4.48 forty, a 40.5 inch vertical and a 10-2 in the broad jump.
A similar performance could put Tedric on Seattle’s radar. Getting a supremely athletic, productive developmental free safety could be a consideration, especially with Thomas missing games for the first time in his career in 2016.
It’s this type of prospect that ultimately makes this draft so intriguing for safety’s. You’ve got the big names (Adams, Hooker, Peppers, Baker) and then a second and third tier including Obi Melifonwu, Justin Evans, Tedric Thompson, Marcus Maye, John Johnson, Shalom Luani and Eddie Jackson. It doesn’t stop there, with other names to monitor before the combine.
Houston’s Howard Wilson is intriguing for a couple of reasons. Firstly, he looks like he has long arms. We know the Seahawks have a cut-off point of 32 inches. Secondly, he takes the ball away.
The Seahawks, for whatever reason, have struggled for turnovers in the last couple of seasons. Adding players with production in this area (forcing turnovers or completing them) could be a priority. So how about this stat — Wilson averaged an interception every 15 targets at Houston. He had five in total in 2016.
He’s not the biggest player at 6-1 and 185lbs but he has the potential to add weight and could end up like Byron Maxwell (6-1, 203lbs). At the moment he’s not too far off Jeremy Lane for size (6-1, 190lbs) and it stands to reason that the Seahawks will look to push Lane this off-season after a relatively middling 2016.
Wilson’s a good looking athlete so a strong combine shouldn’t be an issue. If he can add weight he might be a legit outside corner option. And while he won’t necessarily be an immediate starter outside, he could be a project for two years down the line where you’re looking at a productive core player.
It’s hard to determine what his range will be. There are so many cornerbacks and potentially as many as 20 could go in the first 3-4 rounds. Wilson could be a mid-round target especially if the Seahawks don’t add a CB in rounds 1-2.
I’ve posted highlight videos for both players below. Check them out. This is a good year to think about adding players to the secondary:
Other quick notes
— Here’s an interesting quote on Obi Melifonwu courtesy of an anonymous NFL personnel executive: “Overall, this is the best group of DBs we’ve had in several years. Specifically, I love the safety depth. I keep watching one good player after another. The UConn kid (Obi Melifonwu) was a revelation at the Senior Bowl.”
— Why isn’t Zach Cunningham in Daniel Jeremiah’s top-50 board? NFL.com colleague Bucky Brooks looked into it: “While scouts frequently view players in different lights, I found it interesting that Cunningham didn’t make the cut despite the buzz that’s been surrounding his name throughout the fall. I recently had an AFC scout tell me that Cunningham “might be the best inside linebacker in the 2017 class” when it’s all said and done. When I challenged him on that assessment, he told me that he wasn’t alone based on his conversations with other scouts in the Southeast. Wow.”