From now until the 2019 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.
#4 Darnell Savage Jr./S/5’11 199 lbs
- Comes downhill quickly
- Physical, big hitter
- Crashes down against the run quickly and aggressively
- Can play as slot corner
- More comfortable in off coverage when in the slot
- Diagnoses routes quickly which leads to many jumped routes
- Instinctive, ball hawk
- Very fluid motion, can move well laterally which gives good range
- Physical at the top of routes
- Overly aggressive at times
- Prone to missed tackles
- Has a tendency to lead with the shoulder rather than wrap up
- Can get beat vertically
- Can get caught staring into the backfield
- Will struggle against quicker, faster receivers in the slot
- 2018: 52 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss, 4 interceptions
- Career: 182 tackles, 9 tackles for a loss, 8 interceptions
- 2018 Second Team All-Big Ten
- 2017 Honorable Mention All-Big Ten
- 37 starts as a safety
- Has had a pick six in back to back seasons
- Invited to 2019 Senior Bowl
Darnell Savage Jr. plays exactly how you would expect him to play – like a savage. The first trait that jumps off his tape is his ability to come downhill and deliver a crushing hit. His ability to make plays on the football reveals itself next as Savage has recorded eight career interceptions with seven coming over the last two seasons. Along with his veteran experience, as the Maryland safety has made 37 career starts over his NCAA career, Savage rounds out well as he awaits the 2019 NFL Draft.
Savage has elite closing speed and comes downhill very quickly. His ability to process, lock on to a target and deliver punishing hits make him stand out. Savage plays hard and he plays fast, two important traits that a lot of teams will value in their safeties.
Athleticism is the name of the game in the NFL and Savage has a lot of it. His burst has already been covered but his ability to roam sideline to sideline is another great attribute he possesses. The Maryland safety moves well laterally and is never out of a play. Watch on the play above as he goes from one sideline to the other and makes a play in the backfield for a big loss. Again, another great angle to the football and great execution from the Senior safety.
The Maryland safety shows good ability to be fill in against the run thanks once again to his short area burst and processing speed. Watch him cover about 10-yards in two seconds on the play above. Savage is about 10 yards from the line of scrimmage but is able to meet the running back in the hole for maybe a gain of one. Savage always brings a physical presence to the football field and with his toolset, that makes him a capable defender against the run.
Now in coverage, Savage can be used in a variety of ways. He can be utilized in a center field role or cover two and with his sideline to sideline ability, he shows good range to get to the football rather quickly. Savage leaves little margin for error for opposing quarterbacks as over throws will likely end up in his hands. In my viewing of his film, I witnessed two interceptions come on plays like the one above. Savage hustles and covers a lot of ground and is able to get to an overthrown ball. The Maryland safety reminds me of a prime Ryan Clark as he roams the secondary.
Maryland was also able to use Savage in the slot and he showed a lot of success in those situations. The safety would often give his opposition a slight cushion which would allow Savage to process and react quickly on short to intermediate throws. That is exactly what happened on the play above as Savage makes an incredible play on the football and takes it to the house for a pick six. With his quick closing spend and aggressiveness, he is able to undercut the ball before the receiver even has a chance to decipher where the ball is. His athleticism and quick play also benefit him in off coverage in the slot as he can quickly catch up on crossing routes.
Now Savage’s aggressiveness does get him in trouble on a few occasions. He gets caught peaking in the backfield quite a bit. On the play above, he gets caught peaking in the backfield and is expecting run but this allows the Michigan tight end to slip past him for a big gain and a first down. The NFL team that drafts Savage is going to have to be able to live with his shortcomings as while his traits lead to many big losses in the backfield, they also come at a cost. That cost being the plays like the one above where his aggressiveness gets the better of him. Savage also struggles covering vertical routes as receivers with good to elite top speed can out run him in coverage.
As I mentioned earlier, like most aggressive players, Savage is going to come with his fair share of big plays. It shines against the run and in coverage as his ball hawk skills should lead to many turnovers. The team that selects him is going to have to live with the risk of a few breakdowns where Savage’s aggressiveness will get the better of him. Ultimately, it is a trade off that I think is worth taking as Savage’s athleticism and processing still leave him with high upside.
Projection: Late Day Two – Early Day Three
Games Watched: vs Texas, vs Temple, vs Ohio State