From now until the 2022 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I’ll be profiling a speedy safety who is an early entry into this draft.
#3 Nick Cross/S Maryland — 6001, 212 lbs.
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Nick Cross||6001/212||9″||31 1/2″||76″|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Good size and speed
— Experience playing deep and in the box
— Plays under control playing from the deep level
— Solid awareness of players in Zone coverage
— Speed and agility to handle TE/RB’s in Man coverage
— Good timing and acceleration as a blitzer
— Capable of shedding blockers in space
— Good wrap up tackler
— Willing to fill gaps in the run game
— Not a great fit for the single high safety
— Understanding of route combinations playing deep
— Range limited due to route understanding
— Angles to the outside are inconsistent
— Physicality not as impressive as you might like
— Limited ball production
— Minimal splash plays
— Career – 134 tackles, 88 solo, 5.5 TFL, 4 sacks, 5 INT for 55 yards, 10 PBU, 3 FF
— 2021 – 66 tackles, 44 solo, 3.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 3 INT for 55 yards, 2 PBU, 2 FF
— 2021 Pro Football Focus Preseason Second Team All-Big Ten
— 3x Honorable Mention All-Big Ten (2019, 2020, 2021)
— 29 games, 21 starts
— Majored in finance
The Steelers have obvious connections to Maryland football and are in need of a strong safety. Cross played primarily on the boundary side (the short side of the field) and was used as the deep safety, in Man coverage on tight ends and in the box.
Against the pass, Cross was used in a variety of ways. When playing deep he was used as the single high safety as well as in Cover 2, 3 and 4. As the single high he plays very deep and is good staying as deep as he deepest receiver. In Zone coverage, he has solid awareness in his area and shows good change of direction to break on and accelerate to routes in front of him. He has the athleticism to align in the box and shift to a deep coverage at the snap.
At Minnesota, he is in the near slot and makes a nice break on the slot receiver closing quickly to make the stop.
He was used in Man coverage in tight end and has the athleticism to run with just about anyone. In coverage he has a solid pedal and hip flip to stay in phase with them on deeper routes. He is willing to engage with the physicality in coverage and has solid ball skills one-on-one. Taking on blocker in space he uses good play strength to stack and shed to get to the ball.
At Ohio State, he’ll pick up the H-back out of the backfield and is in good position in the coverage downfield.
As a blitzer, they sent him from different places on the field. He would blitz in the middle from the box and showed agility to avoid the block attempts of running backs. His timing and acceleration was good from the deep middle and was also brought off the edge.
Vs Indiana, he will read the play and uses his speed to chase do the quarterback trying to leave the pocket.
Against Virginia Tech, he walk up on the edge and shows good acceleration to get the quarterback to get the sack and force the fumble.
Against the run, he was good overall and is wrap tackler. Coming from deep he was solid breaking down in space to come under control to make a play on the ball. In the box, he was solid reading the run and was willing to fill gaps.
Vs Virginia Tech, he reads the sweep coming his way and gets downhill quickly to get the stop at the line of scrimmage.
Vs Virginia Tech, on third down in the box he reads the QB draw and gets in to help make the stop short of the line to gain.
Here are three clips of him coming downhill under control and making the stop.
His understanding of route combinations was marginal as the deep safety. His range was adequate overall due to reading the routes. In the Indiana game, facing off with the tight end on outside he lost the physicality battle. Playing so deep he didn’t have a ton of ball production. His angles against the run to the outside were inconsistent leading to under/over cutting the runner. There was not as much physicality to his game as you would hope and I didn’t see a lot of pop in his tackles.
At Ohio State, he is on the near hash and seems to have eyes on the RB leaving the backfield and allows the receiver to get open behind him.
Vs Indiana, at the top of the screen he is one on one against the tight end and physicality at the top of the routed displaces Cross.
Overall, Cross as good size and speed and experience playing on different levels of the defense. He was uses deep in multiple coverages, in Man coverage on tight ends and as a box defender. He has solid ball skills in Man coverage and can stay in phase. He’s a good wrap up tackler and plays under control when coming from deep or filling in gaps. Areas to improve include understanding of route combinations, adding more ball production and his angles to the ball on the outside.
In the NFL he would be best uses a strong safety closer to the line of scrimmage keeping the play in front of him. Being uses as a robber could be a good option as well. He can be use in Man coverage on tight ends and running backs, as a blitzer and in the box to play the run.
There currently is a need at safety for the Steelers to play alongside Minkah Fitzpatrick so they will be in the market. He seems to understand what is asked of him and adjusts to where he is on the field. Aggressiveness seemed to take a step up near the line of scrimmage and he played more safely the farther he got from the ball. Just a junior, he may not start right away but he could be a replacement for Terrell Edmunds. My player comp is Justin Burris who has similar measurables and came into the league as a corner but has since switched to safety.
Projection: Early Day Three
Depot Draft Grade: 7.3 Raw Traits/Upside Prospect (4th Round)
Games Watched: 2021: At Ohio State, At Minnesota, Vs Indiana, Vs Michigan, Vs Virginia Tech