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Draft on tape: Is Delaware’s Nasir Adderley the answer at safety for the Seahawks?

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Earl Thomas is done in Seattle. I know, that’s still a very painful sentence to read and it was tough writing it too; but the truth really does hurt. The front office tried to trade him for a 2nd round pick last offseason. Thomas has missed time in each of the last three seasons through injury. The relationship is seemingly broken beyond repair.

Without Thomas, Pete Carroll got creative last year with his scheme, playing more two-high coverage and disguising things better. Ultimately, the Seahawks’ safety group became more interchangeable and versatile, defying the prototypes of the “strong” and “free” monikers.

The coverage schemes were in some ways more passive. For Seattle’s defense to be at its most dominant, having a true center fielder to cover the deep middle third of cover 3 is preferable. Thomas’ prescient range is generational and at a Hall of Fame. What if John Schneider tried to give Carroll more range back there? What if he wanted to upgrade the hesitancy and bad tackling of Tedric Thompson? What if he wanted to add more team speed on the back end?

In each draft, there are a small amount of safeties that meet the “rangy enough for NFL single-high” requirement. Last year, for instance, Derwin James, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Jessie Bates flashed it. In their rookie seasons, only James showed the sideline-to-sideline, arm-beating talent. The draft before, Malik Hooker hinted at that too.

2019’s safety class is particularly weak, and there are only two prospects whose tape shows sideline to sideline potential in the pros. Deionte Thompson and Nasir Adderley are the two players we’ll be looking at this week in “Draft on tape.”

Nasir Adderley

Adderley is a former 2-star recruit who played FCS football at Delaware. His production and play-style soon got on draft radars, resulting in a 2019 Reese’s Senior Bowl invitation. Nasir, whose cousin is Hall of Fame defensive back Herb, is now receiving serious hype. Daniel Jeremiah ranked him as his 27th prospect and said he “should be a quality starter immediately in his rookie campaign.”


Adderley’s ballhawking, playmaking nature is a big factor behind the praise.


The 21-year-old’s (birthday in May) ability to transition smoothly with fluid hips, lateral agility and burst meant he could break quickly on throws. The guy is twitchy. Meanwhile, the path he took to the ball when it was in the air was optimal, which meant he always got close from deep zones in college. His coverage awareness in terms of understanding whether he was the over-the-top or underneath layer, and whether he should play with inside or outside leverage, was always excellent.

Schematic mirage

I feel, though, that the hype with Adderley has descended into an uncontrollable overdrive that is ignoring important contextual factors and flaws in his game. Plays like the pair featured below show that the coaching staff had great schematic faith in his ability. But they are not indicators of true range. Instead, Adderley is sprinting at the snap to a hit a spot in what is a cover 2—he played in two-high schemes far more than single-high. He takes another nice path to his landmark, but this isn’t center field stuff.

Delaware, at times, even shaded Adderley’s middle of field assignments strongly to one side.

FCS comp

Observe just how terrible the arms of FCS quarterbacks are in every facet. Adderley’s baiting of quarterbacks was fine at the FCS level. Just like how he got away with biting on double moves, getting too upright in his pedal and not having clearly defined landmarks, the level of talent couldn’t punish Adderley.

Senior Bowl Adjustment Process

The Senior Bowl highlighted the adjustment process that will face Adderley at the next level though. Tyree Jackson’s MASSIVE arm got in behind Adderley, with the safety assigned the deep middle of the field. With the corners in press trail coverage, Adderley had to stay over the top instead of covering the intermediate crosser.

Adjusting to quarterback eye manipulation will take time, as this was Adderley’s main key in college. Not repeatedly getting looked off is going to be tricky. He also will need to work on his route and concept recognition, something he rarely had to do at Delaware.

The man-to-man coverage drills, particularly in press, were a struggle for Adderley too—despite him playing cornerback two years ago.

My takeaway, after watching him also get reps inside the box, was that Adderley is a single-high guy only.


You may wonder why I didn’t say Adderley could play two-high, given the step up he will face covering the deep middle third. The issue with playing him as a two-high safety to negate the required coverage room is that his run-fit responsibility would become more important—he would be required to fill the alley aggressively.

Adderley was slow keying run or pass in college, and his tackling overall was patchy. The main issues were: a lack of pursuing in relation to the near hip; a lack of footwork; and a lack of wrap. Running backs going off tackle gave him serious issues.

Still, his closing speed and “want” allowed him to savagely punish receivers catching over the middle of the field.


It’s tricky to know how the league rates Adderley. He measured in with 30-and-6/8-inch arms at 5ft 11, 195lbs. That size is okay, despite twiggy lower legs. In terms of the 40, he looked rapidly twitchy in practices, meaning I’d expect him to run in the 4.4s.

The first-round talk around Adderley feels extreme, but it’s coming from some of the most plugged-in sources. Given the weak nature of the safety class and deep make-up for other positions, perhaps his value will be inflated.

When factoring in the challenge of transitioning from FCS football, and that technique, to the pros; Adderley isn’t first-round worthy. But he’d be a super intriguing draft pick from Seattle some time on Day 2. Carroll would be brilliant for helping Adderley reach his lofty ceiling.