As we delve further into the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason, our attention has begun to shift towards the draft. Like we’ve done all offseason; these reports will cover the prospects of the 2015 NFL Draft, placing an emphasis on those who could help the Steelers the most.
Both safety positions have question marks attached and there is no question that the Steelers need to upgrade their secondary. Today, we look at versatile safety Durell Eskridge.
#3 – Durell Eskridge/ S Syracuse: 6027, 208lbs
-Long, lengthy build – could grow into frame and add muscle
-Plays fast and physical
-Doesn’t over run players, stays in front
-Plays perimeter run well, takes good angles
-Great route recognition, shows flashes of ability to diagnose and react to plays quickly
-Tracks ball well downfield
-Played both free and strong safety
-Takes sharp angles
-Needs to bulk up, add strength
-Has trouble shedding blocks
-Tackling needs improves, poor technique at times – needs to not duck his head while tackling
-Needs a quicker twitch, slow to react
-Some missed tackles due to diving instead of using proper form
-Lacks quickness, burst from reaction
-Not consistent through games
-Played in 37 total games, started 26 (14 at FS, 12 at SS)
-125 career solo tackles, 7 for losses
-12 career passes defended
-Majored in Child and Family studies
-4.63 40-yard dash time at NFL Combine
-High character, has Syracuse coaching staff’s praise
-Injury History: Fractured wrist and torn ligament in ring finger before 2013 season, hip and finger injuries in 2014 kept him out of spring camp, had right shoulder surgery after 2014 season – preventing him from performing in weight room drills at the combine
-Blocked a punt in 2012
Eskridge’s best bet on being a successful safety in the NFL is to bulk up. His biggest flaw is his poor block shedding. He rarely disengaged with a blocker, causing him to be unable to make tackles. Bulking up and getting stronger should improve this, along with some technique. When he engages an offensive player, he tends to try and disengage using just his arms, not using his legs whatsoever. Coaches will notice this and help correct it. It is easily noticed that Eskridge has a high ceiling and great upside. He is great tracking the ball in the air, a sound tackler and has the size for the position.
Eskridge’s ability to tackle and take great angles is what makes him a good safety. Here, he diagnoses the toss play instantly and reacts. He quickly makes his way to the ball carrier and makes the tackle on the perimeter. This play shows his instincts and you love to see him avoid blockers to make the play.
One aspect that I like about Eskridge is how he is a downhill running safety who breaks down and keeps himself in front of ball carriers. Here, in both GIFs, he shows that he is quick to the ball while keeping good form. Fun to watch.
Really dislike how Eskridge dives at ball carriers at times instead of keeping his form. As shown in the above GIFs, he has good tackling form, but here he dives at the quarterback instead of staying in front of him. Instead of a six yard gain, it’s a touchdown.
In the first GIF, you could see Eskridge rolled up into the box as a strong safety. He quickly recognizes the screen pass and demonstrates his speed and sharp angle to take down the ball carrier. Next GIF, Eskridge is in man on the slot receiver, but quickly recognizes the screen. He engages his man, sheds and makes a great tackle. This is what you like to see from your safety.
Play recognition, a strong suit of Eskridge’s. He sees the handoff and shoots the gap to lay a hit on the running back. Love the aggression and physicality from the lengthy safety.
His biggest flaw on display here, block shedding. He has a lengthy frame that he could bulk up and grow into, but until then, he will have some issues with this. Here, he recognizes the swing pass but cannot disengage from the blocker, resulting in a missed opportunity and a first down for the offense.
Reading the play, Eskridge sees the swing pass develop and initiate. He flies to the ball carrier, without losing his balance, makes the tackle. Love the quick reaction and the little time it takes him to get to the ball carrier.
Another missed tackle dude to diving, but he did keep himself in front of the defender. Was not his initial responsibility but you have to wrap the defender up, Eskridge does not.
Eskridge’s assignment is to read the tight end, then go to the curl-flat. The tight end blocks – resulting in Eskridge flowing to his assignment, eyes on the quarterback. The quarterback doesn’t see Eskridge fly and the pass is picked off or a pick-six. Great athleticism displayed, would love to see this more often.
Eskridge was difficult to gather an opinion on. With such length, it is easy to see why the Steelers and the Syracuse product share mutual interest in each other. Growing up in a harsh neighborhood, Eskridge escaped the shootings and drug filled life that surrounded him, finding an outlet in football. He declared early for the draft to provide for his mother and family. Eskridge was praised for his leadership and character by his coaches.
With both safety positions holding up question marks, one would like to believe that the Steelers are in the market for a safety, and a versatile on at that. Nearly half of Eskridge’s were split between free and strong safety. Steelers love versatile players and they love to have safeties that can play both spots effectively. Mike Mitchell had an underwhelming first season in the black and gold, also claiming he was hampered by a hamstring injury all season. With Troy Polamalu retiring, the Steelers will look to Shamarko Thomas to take over the reins. Thomas is filled with question marks and doubt, but will probably be given the chance to show his value at the strong safety position. Drafting Eskridge would provide young depth to both safety positions now held by primarily special teams soldiers and newly re-signed veteran Will Allen.
Given Eskridge’s frame and upside, I could see the love in the kid. His high character just sweetens the deal even more. His flaws are all correctable, and his versatility is very much desired in Pittsburgh. Who wouldn’t like to see a 6’3” safety run down the field looking to explode on special teams until his time is called upon?
Projection: Late 4th-5th
Grade: 4th for upside/versatility
Games Watched: 2014 vs. Notre Dame, 2013 at Northwestern, 2014 at Clemson
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