The 2020 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Big Board will be rolled out over the course of four weeks by position, featuring players to watch and a breakdown of what NFL scouts look for through the eyes of Collegiate Bowl Director of College Scouting, Dane Vandernat.
Today, we feature safeties:
THREE TO WATCH
Brandon Jones, Texas: Blessed with prototypical size and speed, Jones could be in the mix for first-round consideration. He showed plenty of grit and toughness last season, playing through a high ankle sprain for most of the season, while flashing his cat-like quickness and ability to cover a tremendous amount of ground. His aggressiveness is a plus, as Jones has shown the propensity to come up with a handful of momentum-changing plays. In addition, his experience and maturity are two traits that evaluators are going to greatly appreciate. In 10 games last season, Jones logged 70 tackles (5.5 for loss), two interceptions and two fumble recoveries. His combination of size, speed, range and tackling ability are rivaled by very few players in the nation.
Javon Hagan, Ohio: A team leader and captain, Hagan has been a tremendous asset, lining up at multiple spots on the field. He serves as a physical presence against the run and sheds blocks well, which has contributed to his 214 career tackles. Hagan demonstrates excellent change of direction ability, along with quick recovery speed, and does an excellent job baiting the quarterback. In fact, he has placed a heavy emphasis on improving his hands during the offseason, even staying after practice and doing wide receiver drills in hopes of increasing his interception total this year. If Hagan proves to put it all together, it could mean hearing his name called come April.
Kyle Dugger, Lenoir-Rhyne: A versatile player, Dugger is capable of playing strong man coverage and is a surefire tackler in the open field. He’s known to have a strong work ethic and passion for the game, as he began playing football at the age of four. During the spring, NFL teams clocked Dugger at 4.41 in the 40. He possesses a true nose for the football, is constantly creating turnovers (three interceptions, three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles in 2018) and has returned three punts for a touchdown in his career. With those type of intangibles, plenty of scouts will be sure to visit the campus of Lenoir-Rhyne, which hasn’t had a player selected in the NFL Draft since 2000 (John Milem/49ers/Rd5).
Safety is a hybrid position that is not always easy to project due to the limited opportunities one might receive in college to make plays on the wider hash-marked field. Certain NFL schemes will prioritize body types or speed if they designate a “strong” or “free” safety, while other schemes will merely play left/right. Regardless of scheme, safeties are instrumental in both phases of the game as they will be assigned a gap each play versus the run, and it is their job to either cover or play a supporting role in the coverage of receivers in the pass game.
Safeties must be smart players who can communicate pre-snap with teammates in sorting out coverage responsibilities versus tricky offensive formations. They also must be tough guys who are willing to fly up toward the line of scrimmage (LOS), while playing gap-sound run defense. Scouts are looking athletes who can cover man to man or have the range to cover ground in zone versus the pass. Finally, safeties must be sound tacklers who are in many cases the last line of defense. Ball skills to intercept a pass or the ability to time up the blitz to be a force behind the LOS are additional traits that can help a prospect find a home in the NFL.
2020 NFLPA COLLEGIATE BOWL BIG BOARD: SAFETIES
|First Name||Last Name||School||Position||Height||Weight|
|Jovante||Moffatt||Middle Tennessee State||S||6-0||210|
|Alize||Ward||Stephen F. Austin||S||5-10||190|