FS/SS Evals: Dime/Box/Nickel/Slot

Several of the guys above have rocketed up the rankings and my suggested Round values in my Top 200 list are now fairly out of whack. Abram is likely a 1st round pick now, or at the very least Top 5 within 2nd Round. Hooker is likely to fall in the 2nd, Edwards is most likely a 3rd or early 4th simply due to lack of measurables, so not far off my original ranking. Jaquan Johnson might surprise and get picked in the 4th or 5th but he’s a limited player athletically and lacks ball skills and instincts needed to make big plays. Could fall despite being a very solid and reliable player up on the line and making open field tackles.

This group is a bit of a mishmash but generally fits together based on roles, especially for where our defensive schemes are likely headed. Sub package guys who come in for nickel and dime situations play a valuable role in general, but for the Browns could be critical. Our new DC Steve Wilkes plays a ton of Zone and loves to use 5 and 6 DB’s behind his front 7. We still need to see it all in action over the course of the season to be sure where he is going to settle in, but I believe that EVERY move made so far this off-season was to prepare us to spend heavy draft capital on Safeties and Corners in the Draft. We are woefully unprepared to play those schemes with our current personnel and depth. His desire for hybrid S/CB/LB types is not going to be satisfied unless we carefully target guys in this Draft.

Not only do we not have good overall depth at either secondary position, but we lost Boddy-Calhoun as our slot CB and we don’t have any depth players that can play at a high level nor do they demonstrate much in way of ball skills. Wilkes values versatility, tackling, blitzing and turnovers in his secondary guys. He loves the Zone Blitz or Fire Blitz which he will use disguise to confuse the QB and drop a pass rusher into coverage and let a DB blitz off the edge in his place. The Zone blitz was developed to counter the Run & Shoot offense specifically and still works well against spread offenses. Unfortunately read-options became much more prevalent to counter the Zone blitz! Classic NFL scheme evolutions…

Done properly, Wilkes used this scheme to great effect in Arizona. Since our LB group is weak, he will have to use a ton more nickel and dime sub-packages to achieve what he was able to in Carolina where had Kuechley and other high quality Linebackers to blitz, man cover and pressure. Right now I don’t believe we have many of the secondary player types that Wilkes needs for his favored scheme. We definitely lack the linebackers unless Genard Avery transforms into a Luke Kuechley type player.

In this group below, getting Johnathan Abram would be an absolute miracle and would represent the type of elite skill sets Wilkes needs in a Big Nickel box Safety/LB hybrid. He is NOT going give you coverage reps, but he’s going to be a great hybrid player. Hooker looks like the perfect Browns pick if we want to double down on that hybrid type thanks to his elite instincts and ball skills. If we go CB with our 2nd Round pick (Julian Love please!) then Hooker is an excellent Safety prospect to draft in Round 3 if he drops. Mike Edwards is that mid-round lunch pail guy who represents very high quality depth and plays his sub-package role to perfection. He’s undersized and that’s the only reason he’s not an early 2nd Round pick. His college production was incredible and demonstrates excellent balls skills.

GOOD: Classic Big Nickel defender. Very productive college player who excelled in the box and shallow Zone coverage. Huge hitter who can explode into the ball carrier with legitimate burst. Forces fumbles with his massive collisions. Has excellent change of direction skills play off man as well. Really improved ball skills in his final year.

BAD: Shorter than you might like. Instincts for extended time in coverage might not be there. Has to wrap up rather than just smash into opponents.

BOTTOM LINE: In the hybrid Safety/LB role that Steve Wilkes is likely to run, Abram would be a dream to draft and put into place. He is a thunderous hitter, can run and cover, has speed to burn and is still developing his instincts for coverage. Upside is fantastic for a player who is ready to start today in the NFL. Potential Pro Bowl caliber player if he is put in the right schemes and takes well to coaching.

Even though he bounced around a lot before landing at Miss State, Abram managed to be very productive and showed off his raw skills for blitz penetration, run defense and open field ball skills. He is quite frankly a multiple role-playing stud who Dorsey and Wilkes would have a blast working into their Zone schemes. Dude is gonna ball out for someone, it should be us! Could potentially land in the late 1st Round, but most likely a 2nd Round pick.

Stats Courtesy of Sports-Reference

GOOD: A hybrid do-it-all Safety who makes elite plays based almost entirely on instincts and anticipation. He is not a bad athlete by any means, he simply is not as fluid or smooth in his movement skills like other kids in this draft. But that fact has not stopped Hooker from making plays once he was delivered to his best role. The team created a hybrid Star position his final year which is when his production caught fire. A heat-seeking missle as a tackler. Makes plays on the ball that other players could only wish for. Absolutely built physically for the NFL already, with extremely strong hands and arms to get opponents in his grasp and that’s all she wrote.

BAD: Can be wildly over-aggressive coming into the box. Falls victim to cutbacks and missed tackles because he is coming in out of control. Needs to slow down and gather himself to make the right play. If you want to be picky he is a little shorter than you’d like and his wingspan limits his tackle radius for the next level.

BOTTOM LINE: In this stellar Safety class Hooker is one of the best. He’d be an amazing addition to our team and would fit perfectly into the hybrid role that Wilkes is presumably running. He can set a tone for the Defense and his elite football IQ makes him a coach on the field.

Unlikely to sneak into the bottom of Round 1, but I would be shocked if he makes it out of Round 2. Technically excellent value no matter where he is taken in the Top 50.

Stats Courtesy of Sports-Reference

GOOD: Versatile and productive, likely a Big Nickel in the NFL. Has elite instincts and ball skills. Strong, tough and gritty player who plays much bigger than his frame might suggest. Excellent winning attitude that shows up in his play every day. He wants to own the ball and consistently puts himself in position to do that. Has good but not great play speed, but has burst to make up for it. Moves fairly well laterally.

BAD: Not always in great position in coverage. Gets called for holding when he finds himself behind the play. Burst is ok, but not enough to keep him in phase with quick/fast receivers. Has trouble shedding blockers due to his undersized frame and lack of hand strength.

BOTTOM LINE: Edwards was a fantastically productive Safety at Kentucky and that will continue in the NFL if he is put in the proper role to cover his deficiencies. His lack of size cannot be changed, but he can play to his strengths in the Big Nickel hybrid role. He is a valuable depth player and borderline starter that represents exactly the kind of player the Browns need more of on Defense. Good value starting in the late 3rd, excellent value starting anywhere in the 4th Round or later.

Stats Courtesy of Sports-Reference

GOOD: Johnson leaves a mark, both on the field and on his opponents. A passionate and natural hitter. Comes into the box looking to turn back ball carriers with explosion and power. Great natural leader and vocal team mate. Has only decent lateral agility has nice burst and short area quickness, making him very reliable in coverage. Versatility to play down on the line and get dirty with blockers, plus man and zone coverage.

BAD: Radically undersized for the role. Lacks length in both height and arm length so his tackle radius is going to be pretty compromised at the next level. Can’t shed, needs to work around blockers. Lacks instincts needed to be in the turnover sweepstakes.

BOTTOM LINE: Johnson is going to win you over with his attitude on the field and off. He is going to play that quality depth role for your team where he might not make a lot of splash plays, but he’s also not going to miss tackles and allow big plays. Confident, consistent and reliable are the things he brings to the table. Good but not great speed is made up for with solid burst and quickness. You will need to scheme him to protect him from bigger blockers but he’s going to reward you with solid play all the time.

Very little production in his stat line as would be expected. Could get picked up in the 5th Round, but I would wait until the 6th as his value would be excellent there.

Stats Courtesy of Sports-Reference

GOOD: Best friends with Jaquan Johnson, he’s very similar in level of production and likely draft status. Strong, sure hitter, doing great work in the box with surprising authority. Looks to strike. Versatile to play Zone and in the box and potentially as a blitzer. Has played both CB and Safety at Miami. Good to great speed and quickness. Brings power into his tackles like a kid with his size should. Excellent ball skills.

BAD: Not great in coverage, sometimes a liability. Does not possess the instincts required to play a lot of man. Despite being a good athlete and having adequate speed, does not have a natural feel for positioning and trail requirements. Lacks a sense of urgency in coverage so plays to far off and allows catches then makes the tackle. May not trust himself yet technique wise.

BOTTOM LINE: What Redwine lacks in coverage skills may be at least partially fixable with coaching and reps. Will give you more than adequate depth player skills to keep you in the game and might make a splash play here and there. Has some upside but needs to figure out his technique issues to ever be trusted as a starter. Need to be comfortable that his lazy work in coverage is not motivation problem.

Average overall production as you would expect. Started to put it all together late in his college career and stats reflect it. Excellent value in the 6th Round or later.

Stats Courtesy of Sports-Reference