In the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft, the Browns are going to have to go hunting for complimentary pieces to their Free Agent haul of the recent weeks. One of the position rooms that Andrew Berry has re-tooled this off-season has been the Safety room.
In part two we looked at Jordan Fuller, Terrell Burgess, Brandon Jones, and Geno Stone. We have also discounted that the Browns will take one of the top 2/3 Safeties (McKinny, Delpit or Dugger) as the needs at Offensive Tackle is too great, but I have taken a look into the later rounds to see what may lay in store for Cleveland in this solid deep Safety class.
College: West Virginia/XFL
Kenny Robinson will be a quiz question in a few years time…. “Who was the first person to be drafted to the NFL directly from the XFL?”. A ball hawking free safety that has amassed 9 Interceptions in 28 games spanning his time in West Virginia and his 5 games in the XFL with the St. Louis Battlehawks he is a see it get it type of midfielder. In the XFL (standard considered) he was the stand out defensive back by a million miles. He totalled 21 tackles and 2 INTs in his 5 games and turned heads with his aggressive patrol over the middle.
He originally started his collegiate career at West Virginia and played in 23 games grabbing 7 INTs. As a true freshman, he took 2 of those grabs back to the house. He also showed his prowess early with 3 PBU as a Freshman and 4 PBUs as a Sophomore.
His collegiate career had a blip at the end where he was allegedly dismissed from West Virginia for Academic reasons and this accelerated his decision to go to the XFL. He had a valid reason for turning pro without this though as his mother was diagnosed with cancer and money for her treatment was needed. People fighting for their loved ones is an intangible quality that is hard to top. Obvious questions will be asked about the standard in the XFL and if this is a case of big fish in a small pond syndrome. For me the XFL is an adults game and he faced and picked off a former NFL clipboard QB in Matt McGloin of the New York Guardians & Ohio State Championship winning QB Cardale Jones.
His tape is going to be a different watch for a lot of scouts but they will see an easy athlete that hits hard. Concerns will surround scheme fits for him considering his limited College career and also the fact that the XFL schemes were vanilla and basic. Either way he is a novelty and different evaluation and one I think that will definitely get drafted maybe in day 2.
College: Georgia (Senior)
With a father that played 12 years in the NFL and an uncle that played multiple years also JR Reed has the DNA of an NFL footballer and a great pro. He played a year at Tulsa prior to moving to Georgia and after sitting out 2016 he assumed the free safety role and the role of leader in a team that was primed to reach championships under Kirby Smart.
The word that you hear about JR Reed is savvy. This not only refers to his businessman like approach to how he plays the game but also that he is one of the oldest prospects in this class born on 11th March 1995 as per his Wiki page. That makes him 25 and that is a factor that needs to be taken into account when grading his potential at the next level. In perspective Karl Joseph is 26 and 16 months older but has 4 years production in the NFL. Age aside, where does Reed fit in in a backfield? Looking at his snap count in 2019 he played 267 snaps in run defense and 478 coverage snaps. His lined up 446 times as a free safety with 112 as strong and 169 in the slot.
He graded very well in the last 2 years as a safety, lets not take away the level of his play on a top-tier team. His 2018 grade was 89.0 and he graded 81.0 in 2019. He has a disregards for his body when hitting people over the middle like Karl Joseph hence the comparison of age above also. Like Joseph he is coming into the NFL as an all rounder. His lack of explosion will be a factor in reaching his ceiling.
Jr Reed has seen a lot of football so he knows how to react. At the next level he will be diligent and will be scheme/assignment focused but you may never see the smash plays from him . He will be a pros pro and that’s not a bad thing. He will do everything you ask of him and will most likely provide depth in the DB room. His 199 total tackles in Georgia and his label as a leader and man of great influence is very attractive also. It will be interesting if his age is a hindrance in his improvement of if him reaching the NF when hitting his physical prime will allow him to explode on to the scene.
College: Utah (Senior)
Senior DB out of Utah, Julian Blackmon, has more of a sample set as he was a 3 year starter. The first 2 years of his career were at corner where he was ineffectual getting blazed on the outside for yards and TDs. In 2019 PFF graded him as a 89.6 as he hauled in 4 INTs and 4 PBUs but this correlated with a move to Free Safety and was a bit of a roll of the dice by the coaching staff due to his inconsistency on the perimeter. In the past year he played 208 runs defense snaps as opposed to 418 cover snaps. He recorded 38 solo tackles, and lined up almost exclusively as a free safety with 485 snap, 80 snaps at strong and 51 in the slot.
Like his teammate Terrell Burgess, he has performed a lot of duties since setting foot on campus but unlike Burgess he has not really mastered any of them. Even with a very encouraging coverage grade in 2019 he is still a bit of an enigma. The reason for this is in run defense he is sub par and also has no real history of laying a man out over the middle. His tackling and play strength is poor and this was even the case at corner.
Saying that its not all bad about Blackmon, he has fantastic range due to his length and size and he can get all over the field. He makes plays on the ball everywhere. All he really wants to do is track the ball but this has lead to him jumping routes at times. At the moment his evaluation is a bit incomplete. The jump in production after moving to deep safety is intriguing but the tape he put up in ’17 & ’18 in coverage will give front offices pause for thought. If you have time to immerse him solely in the free safety role he could grow to be a very good asset due to his ability to get all over the field in coverage. However, you need to be comfortable in the fact that that is all he will be.
The Browns will be busy in their draft room scouring the talent for safeties in the event that Karl Joseph cannot stay fit and to relive Sendejo of his role as he progresses in years. It is an area that has the most “band aids” over it this year and one I hope they will attack in the draft. Looking at the 10 safeties I have catalogued, there is some good talent deep in this draft for what the Browns want. Getting them at draft value and to fit their scheme is the key.