Jaiden Woodbey enters the NFL Draft process with a unique set of circumstances, with multiple stops making him one of the most uniquely versatile prospects in this year’s player pool. Playing both linebacker and safety in his three year career at Florida State, before transferring to Boston College, where he gained two more seasons of experience at safety, culminating his final season as an All-ACC Honorable mention.
In total, Woodbey finished a productive collegiate career with 210 tackles, 10.5 tackles for losses, two sacks, 14 passes defended, one forced fumble, three fumble recoveries, two interceptions, and a touchdown. Within his career, which spanned across five seasons, multiple injuries, and two ACC programs, Woodbey progressively developed a skill set to serve as a coverage capable, sub-package linebacker in the modern NFL.
While some players switch from linebacker to safety, or vice versa, in their transition from the collegiate level to the professional level, few players have experience, nevertheless, starting experience, at multiple stops in their collegiate playing career. Needless to say, Woodbey exits his five year college career with a proven, versatile skill set that few can match.
“I mean, I played both positions,” Woodbey said. “I started three years at Florida State. Two years I started at linebacker. One year I started at safety, and then both years at BC I started at safety. So, I played both my whole career.”
As for players at the next level that he studies and tries to emulate, Woodbey further commits to his versatile identity, listing one of the top off-ball linebackers in the league as well as one of the premier talents at the free safety position.
“Kevin Byard, a safety for the Tennessee Titans and Matt Milano, linebacker for the Bills,“ Woodbey said.
After playing at safety in both of his past two seasons at Boston College, Woodbey admittedly focused on gaining some weight ahead of East-West Shrine Bowl practice week, where he has played as a full-time, off-ball linebacker, competing against some high-level offensive lineman.
“I gained about eight, nine pounds, because they told me I was gonna play linebacker here,” Woodbey said. “So, I just wanted to not be skinny in the box, you know?”
In transitioning to the NFL, Woodbey hopes that coaches at the next level will take note of his versatility, as he believes he can continue to play at both linebacker and safety, depending on the scheme he winds up playing in at the next level. Whether playing as a hybrid dimebacker in sub-packages or wearing multiple hats on special teams, Woodbey is committed to contributing in every facet of the game.
“Yeah, definitely, the name of my game is versatility,” Woodbey said. “You know, so playing linebacker, safety, depending on what the scheme requires, I can do both. I played both my whole life, so I’m not scared to play either one. Even special teams, like, I feel like I’m really good at that, I take pride in that as well. So, I bring versatility in that aspect too.”
In transferring from Florida State to Boston College, where Woodbey played his final two seasons under head coach Jeff Hafley, Woodbey feels that he deepened his understanding of the game from a schematic standpoint. Hafley, who gained a reputation as a defensive back guru of sorts at Ohio State, where he served as the Buckeyes defensive coordinator, committed individual time with the talented transfer, helping him see the game from the eyes of a coverage wizard.
“He’s one of the smartest coaches I’ve ever been around, so he was able to slow the game down even more and just actually sit down and talk like full concepts with me,” Woodbey said. “I just felt like that was something that I was missing in my game. You know, I feel like Coach Hafley did it a little bit better. Not saying that FSU did it better or worse, but it was just, I feel like the situation was a lot better for me in the sense of gaining more football knowledge.”
Speaking of his time under Coach Hafley at Boston College, Woodbey was exposed to a variety of single high coverages, including the Cover 3 Match scheme which first became popularized in Seattle under Dan Quinn’s “Legion of Boom” defense. Interestingly enough, this makes Woodbey a solid scheme fit in Pittsburgh, who still run single high concepts at a high rate, relying on the otherworldly capabilities of Minkah Fitzpatrick while defensive coordinators across the league have pivoted back toward a two-high safety world.
“We ran a lot of Cover 3, Cover 3 Match, and Cover 1,” Woodbey said.
At the time of our interview, Jaiden was still waiting to receive a combine invite, although he was expecting to parlay a solid practice week into the coveted invitation to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The former defensive back told me he is aiming for a 4.5 40 time, which he believes to be realistically achievable given his coverage background and ability to play in space.
As for what he was looking to gain from an all-star week practice setting with some of the best players in the recent college football landscape, Woodbey was focused on proving that his versatile skill set belonged at the next level.
“Just prove myself right and learn as much as I can from these coaches and, you know, answer whatever uncertainty they have,” Woodbey said. “You know, just check all those boxes. I know I can play with the best. I have played with the best since high school. Even in college, not too many people have started at two different schools for five years, you know, let alone being a freshman and changing positions, so I know I can do it.”
While Jaiden Woodbey exits college with a unique, five-year path, which did not come without adversity, he enters the league a better player for it. Looking toward the NFL, I strongly believe that his athleticism and coverage ability will make him an attractive sub-package piece, capable of handling four-phase special teams duties as well.
Tweeners, once viewed as prospects to stay away from in the draft, have become assets in the modern NFL which is becoming more positionless each year. While many prospects look to change positions at the NFL level, few can point to a resume of All-Conference college production playing at multiple positions. While some teams still may struggle to find a role for Woodbey, the lucky team that does may find themselves with a player with a uniquely versatile skill set, capable of impacting the game from all three levels of the field.