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.”
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.
Nasir Adderley is going to be a “riser”. pic.twitter.com/1zxwe780UL— ryan (@StillRyanFive) December 30, 2018
They’ll talk-up Adderley’s ball skills, I think. pic.twitter.com/VKo8Dl5ggp— ryan (@StillRyanFive) December 30, 2018
Reminder that Delaware safety Nasir Adderley is a round 1 talent - pic.twitter.com/JmVPStULlZ— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) January 20, 2019
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.
Adderley's range is very intriguing. He covers serious ground, even from the opposite hash mark to sideline. Film is from Delaware's 2018 games against Towson, Elon and North Dakota.— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) January 30, 2019
The path to the ball, burst and fluidity is lovely. The last play the best example of that. pic.twitter.com/BNc5gVAQFb
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.
Plays like this are wild schematic faith from coaches, but not "pure" range. He is sprinting there on the snap, the CB nestles cover 2/palms style.— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) January 30, 2019
This is why I feel some of his range is a "schematic mirage". Oh and FCS QBs have terrible power.
Love his path to the ball tho! pic.twitter.com/dk1O8AcItQ
Delaware, at times, even shaded Adderley’s middle of field assignments strongly to one side.
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.
The level of comp is relevant— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) January 30, 2019
It saw Adderley get sloppy with his backpedal height and sinking at cuts. It also resulted in him baiting QBs and not having well-defined landmarks. Finally, his man is raw.
There's a big adjustment process, as the Senior Bowl week and game proved. pic.twitter.com/G9ToJ6bBOe
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.
On that Tyree Jackson play-action heave, Nasir Adderley got caught biting on the intermediate crosser and didn't stay over the top of the deep option, despite his corners being in trail.— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) January 26, 2019
Adderley will get looked off and NFL arms will take him by surprise. Adjustment process.
The man-to-man coverage drills, particularly in press, were a struggle for Adderley too—despite him playing cornerback two years ago.
Such a step up in competition would require an adjustment period for Adderley.— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) January 23, 2019
Towards the end of the day, as the Raiders got into a full scrimmage, he found himself in the slot and played crossers in man well--funnelling with outside leverage towards the MOF safety. https://t.co/ZcE6yRaGa6
In press: Adderley showed a physical jam which won the LOS, but he was overly eager to open his hips to run downfield rather than staying square— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) January 23, 2019
This gave up the slant inside
Post-practice, Adderley conversed with scouts from the New Orleans Saints and the Los Angeles Chargers. https://t.co/sVQS0wYKg7
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.
His tackling is full of willing and he punishes WRs over the middle.— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) January 30, 2019
He has a tendency to bounce off RBs due to a lack of wrap and favors a low dive where he must keep his head up better.
Most of his misses require better near hip pursuit and more footwork/steps, less lunging. pic.twitter.com/YWaKxpy6lI
Still, his closing speed and “want” allowed him to savagely punish receivers catching over the middle of the field.
Fantastic rep from Anthony Johnson and Nasir Adderley there. Johnson catching well away from his frame on the intermediate crosser. Adderley showing his closing speed from single high and delivering a tough hit. Johnson doing well to hang on.— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) January 26, 2019
Buffalo wide receiver Anthony Johnson uses his hands to stay clean on the release and creates separation in his break with nice use of route angles for this big gain #SeniorBowl pic.twitter.com/wWtEhq1kfz— Titans Film Room (@titansfilmroom) January 26, 2019
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.