Jordan is back with his 2021 NFL Draft steals. With the offence done and dusted, he’s moved onto the defensive side of the field. First up is a crucial part of stopping both the run and the pass. We are of course talking about the Safety position.
Paris Ford, Pittsburgh (RS Junior, 6′ 0″, 190 lbs)
Paris Ford is a versatile safety who has shown an ability to play in many positions successfully, including at slot cornerback. Ford reads the field well, especially in the run game. He gets himself in position to stuff Running Backs, breaking through gaps and the outside. One thing that does stand out in his game is bad angles when a receiver gathers the ball and heads upfield. At times, he gets too far upfield and can’t get back across in time to make the tackle. He does have good instincts though, and gets in position to make plays on the ball. At times, he has dropped interception opportunities. This can be worked on in the NFL, though.
The versatility and leadership that Ford shows is going to be something NFL teams fall in love with. There are undoubtedly parts of his game that need brushing up. At the moment he could be a 3rd Round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, but may climb further up the draft board by the end of April.
James Wiggins, Cincinnati (RS Senior, 6′ 0″, 205 lbs)
There is so much to like about James Wiggins. He is an explosive and physical athlete. This is seen when breaking out of his transitions to get to the ball carrier and making plays on receivers. Wiggins has great timing, especially when challenging for thrown balls. His long arms are a blessing. Many times he has been able to bat the ball away or make an interception thanks to his reach. Wiggins does have injury concerns. After a fantastic 2018 year, he missed the whole of the 2019 season with a torn ACL, and some of 2020 with an arm injury.
Although he bounced back in 2020, concerns will be there for NFL teams. This is one of the main reasons why he will fall outside the 2nd Round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Wiggins could be a valuable pickup in the draft.
Tyree Gillespie, Missouri (Senior, 6′ 0″, 207 lbs)
Tyree Gillespie is a good sized athlete on paper, but plays much bigger. Gillespie is aggressive in everything he does when he steps on the field. This is shown when making big hits on runners, but this can sometimes backfire. Instead of wrapping up a runner and finishing the tackle, he seems to be most concerned with causing the hardest hit he can on his opponent. This leads to missed tackles. Gillespie’s angles are efficient, and so is his closing speed. His cover game is solid, and his awareness of how plays will develop is exceptional.
There are some limitations on how you could use Gillespie in the NFL. As a box safety, his qualities really stand out. He is a very smart footballer who would be a great addition to many teams in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Aashari Crosswell, Arizona State (Junior, 6′ 0″, 196 lbs)
NFL teams looking for help in the backfield when it comes to the passing game may be taking a long look at Aashari Crosswell. His top asset is his ball hog qualities. Crosswell puts himself in great coverage spots to make plays on the ball, whether that is with interceptions, break-ups or making key tackles. There are question marks on his tackling ability, which will show up in the NFL when coming up against bigger and more physical players.
After having a great 2018 season and a decent 2019, Crosswell left the Sun Devils in 2020 and declared early for the draft. It appeared as though he had been beaten out as a starter. This could be a potential red flag for NFL teams. Crosswell is a good player in the passing game, but he will have to squash any concerns teams may have of him in the lead up to the 2021 NFL Draft.
JaCoby Stevens, LSU (Senior, 6′ 1″, 216 lbs)
Like many Safeties, JaCoby Stevens has the versatility to line up in many positions. Stevens has had solid reps at linebacker, on the edge, and in the slot. Some of these roles might be a step too far in the NFL, but he will not shy away from work. Stevens is effective as a box safety. In the run game, his closing speed helps him wade through traffic to get to the ball carrier and make plays. Stevens is also solid in press coverage and makes effective tackles in the open field.
JaCoby Stevens has limitations. The box is where he thrives, and that’s where he should be getting his reps. Stevens has line-backer size who can play both roles. This, and his special teams ability, should get him picked up on Day Three of the 2021 NFL Draft. In a few years time, that could be looked back on as a steal.