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Seattle to Officially Host Cal S Chris Conte

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Why is that guy walking in the background not watching the game? Despicable.
Why is that guy walking in the background not watching the game? Despicable.

Cal Safety Chris Conte has a private workout scheduled with the Seahawks (date TBD). Conte is another potentially targeted free safety that I suspect will be brought in and evaluated at both safety positions but looked at as a possible corner as well. I could be way off base, but given that cornerback is a big need spot for the Hawks and free safety is much less so with Earl Thomas being drafted last year, I don't know if the Hawks spend an mid round pick on another free safety. I suppose they could be considering him at strong safety as well although he'd have to gain at least 10-15 lbs to work there. Obviously, depth is key in the NFL and if Earl Thomas / Kam Chancellor / Lawyer Milloy / Whoever gets hurt a capable backup behind him will be important, but a guy like Conte could potentially play multiple spots.

The 6'2, 200lb Chris Conte was recruited and brought in to Cal as a big, physical cornerback out of high school. He played corner for the Golden Bears the first three years of his career there with little game time action, then switched to free safety his senior year where he excelled - earning First Team All Pac-10 Honors. He ended his college career with 157 tackles, 4 of them for a loss, 2 interceptions, 11 pass breakups, one fumble recovery, one forced fumble and one blocked kick for a TD. At the combine he recorded a 4.52 in the 40 and benched 225 18 times. He has a 35.5 in vert.

 

He has been hailed for his open field tackling but lacks a lot of game experience - he was a reserve corner for the first 3 years of his career. You could say he lacks experience as a negative but also that he has hidden potential as a positive. I don't know either way - here is what the scouts at CBSSports had to say about him:

Positives: A former cornerback with good balance, agility and speed for coverage. Improving instincts for the position, showing better awareness as he gained experience. Reads the quarterback's eyes and has the range to get to the sideline. Long arms and good timing to break up the pass. Reliable open-field tackler. Breaks down in space and can make the one-on-one stop against smaller, quicker athletes. Takes good angles in pursuit.

Negatives: Developing instincts. Will take a false step toward the line of scrimmage when he reads run and can be caught out of position on play-action. Adequate ball skills. Has only two interceptions over his career. Has only one season as a starter and played behind an aggressive pass-rush.

It should be noted that CBS has him very highly rated, graded as high as the 3rd round and have him as their 3rd rated safety in the class. NFL.com has a very different view of Conte.

Overview:

Conte has enough size and speed coupled with the mentality you like to see. Probably never becomes a starter, but could be an effective reserve safety and special teams cover guy. Only started for one season in college so potentially has more development left in him than most other draft prospects. Is currently a liability in coverage. Doesn't have the experience or instincts in zone coverage to be counted on to erase a deep half or the lateral quickness and acceleration to hold up in man coverage. Shows the ability to develop into a productive run supporter. Conte could be a seventh-rounder or priority free agent.

Strengths:

Conte is a bigger safety prospect with good speed for his size. Will line up over slots and disrupt their release. Possesses a wide radius for breaking up passes. Diagnoses the run quickly and comes up with some physicality. Displays the ability to shed blocks. Has some long range speed.

Weaknesses:

Lacks experience. Awareness in coverage is not adequate. Doesn't anticipate breaks, bites on play action fakes, and will roam out of position in zone coverage. Struggles to mirror in man coverage. Will not comes down with the tough interception. Doesn't possess explosive short-area burst in coverage or run support. Will tackle high at times.

Kind of strange CBS has him as a third rounder and NFL has him as a seventh rounder or priority free agent. Either way, not a ton needs to be necessarily taken from this other than the Hawks are indeed turning over every stone - not just looking at players based on need (safety not the biggest need spot on the roster by most accounts) but on a pure talent level. Good to see.