From now until the 2023 NFL Draft, we will 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, we’ll be profiling Alabama DB DeMarcco Hellams.
#2 DeMarcoo Hellams/DB Alabama – 6010, 203
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|DeMarcoo Hellams||6010, 203||9||31||N/A|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— NFL size and frame to play either in the post or in the box, has experience at both spots
— Extremely willing tackler, comes downhill with violent intentions
— Consistently takes great angles to the football
— Loves to throw peanut punches at the football on tackle attempts, plays with a takeaway oriented mindset as a tackler
— Can disrupt receivers second level releases with powerful jams from off-coverage
— Provides great presence in zone coverage, high-IQ player who understands route concepts
—Plays high to low on routes in underneath zone coverage assignments, loves to force checkdowns, rally downhill, and tackle the catch for minimal yardage
— Multi-year starter on one of the best defenses in the entire college football landscape
— Closes to the catch point with physicality, makes receivers pay a toll and earn their catches
— Does a nice job of playing from the top shoulder to plaster in scramble drill
— Has shown solid ball skills when able to contest the catch point from in phase
— Elite open field tackler, shows great technique
— Has a knack for converting tips and overthrows into takeaways
—Has all of the tools to thrive as a box safety in a scheme that protects him from challenging man coverage matchups
— Great in coverage when able to play from a flat-foot read
— Has the skillset and frame to thrive in man-coverage matchups on TEs and RBs, should help him transition to becoming a full-time box-safety/dimebacker at the next level
— Played exclusively in the boundary at Alabama, where he had to cover far less ground given the spacing of college hashes (much tighter at the NFL level)
— Not a plus athlete, lacks long speed and short area quickness
— Lacks twitch in his breaks, can not quickly transfer weight to change direction and struggles to cover enough ground with his first step out of sink and drive motion
— Will occasionally miss tackles when he drops his head at the point of contact
— Pad level is a bit high in coverage
— A tad stiff in his transitions, has a tough time fluidly flipping his hips to turn and run
— Lacks the ideal range to function as a post safety at the next level
— Lack of suddenness in breaks makes often prevents him from beating throws to the catch point, making him more of a catch/tackle guy in coverage
— Lacks the long speed to recover and close to the catch point when he allows vertical separation
— Could stand to take better angles when closing to the top shoulder from out of phase, engages in foot races when he doesn’t need to, putting himself at a disadvantage
—Lack of athleticism likely restricts him to only playing in the box at the next level
— Is completely outmatched in coverage when asked to handle isolated matchups against true WRs, will be liability at the next level if asked to do so
— 261 tackles 7.5 TFLs 2.5 sacks 1 FF 1 FR 4 INTs 17 PDs
— 2022: 108 tackles 3 TFLs 1 sack 1 FF 1 FR 1 INT 8 PDs
— Led Alabama defense this past season with 108 tackles
— Named Reese’s Senior Bowl Defensive Player of the Week vs Mississippi State (2022), finished game with 12 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack, 2 PBUs
— Washington Post Metro Offensive Player of the Year in high school, catching 78 passes for 1,469 yards and 21 touchdowns, defensively recorded 91 tackles and 12 interceptions, three of which he returned for touchdowns.
— Consensus top ten athlete in his recruiting class, ultimately choosing Alabama over Louisville, Clemson, Kentucky, and Maryland
— Worked primarily as a special teamer as a freshman before gaining an extensive sub-package role as a sophomore, and starting full-time on the backend in his final two seasons at Alabama
Following the loss of Terrell Edmunds, who had steadily improved and become an extremely effective and reliable box safety and dimebacker in Pittsburgh, the Steelers are left with another starting spot to fill in the secondary. While Edmunds never truly lived up to his first round status, lacking the turnover production and splash plays to warrant the draft capital, his contributions will be missed, particularly in the run defense department, an area where the team improved mightily this past season.
Naturally, with safety being one of the more undervalued positions league wide, both in free agency and the draft, Edmunds is certainly replaceable, potentially on day three with options that offer similarly limited skillsets, with the ability to excel in specialized roles. One of these options is Alabama’s DeMarcco Hellams, who is extremely limited in coverage, but offers elite physicality, tackling technique, and ability to defend the run from within the box, among this year’s draft class. Similar to Edmunds, Hellams can struggle when asked to defend in space, but can thrive in coverage when tasked with “hook/curl” and “curl/flat” zone assignments, where he is able to play from a flat-foot read and trigger downhill with violent intentions.
Here, in a third and long situation, Hellams aligns in a two-high shell, responsible for the back out of the backfield in a man coverage assignment. At the snap, Hellams begins to work downhill, expanding to keep leverage on the back, taking a perfect angle to close to the near hip and deliver a violent stick to drop the back well short of the sticks.
Hellams should be able to handle man coverage matchups against tight ends and backs at the next level, a trait that defensive coordinators should lean on, protecting him from matchups where he will tend to struggle. While he struggles mightily In terms of open field tackling, few safety prospects in this year’s class rival Hellams consistency in technique. He led all Alabama defenders in tackles this past season, with 108, 67 of which came of the solo variety.
Lacking the proper explosion and quickness from his sink and drive motion, Hellams is rarely able to beat throws to the catch point, making him more of a tackle the catch player. That being said, his ability to close late to the catch point and punish receivers in the shallow and intermediate middle areas of the field makes him particularly effective in that capacity.
Here, once again working from a flat-foot read, Hellams patiently creeps downhill before triggering on a slant from #2, closing to the catch point, and stopping the receiver short of the sticks with a violent and fundamentally sound tackle. When Hellams is able to make contact with pass catchers in the open field, he leaves no room for extra yards, bringing his hips with him on contact and utilizing every bit of his 203 pound frame.
Equipped with a takeaway oriented mindset, Hellams is a sure tackler who will take calculated shots to jar the football loose and generate takeaways. While he only had one forced fumble in his career, there are countless instances on tape where Hellams throws a well-placed peanut punch on a tackle attempt or rakes at the football as the second or third man into a pile.
Here, playing from depth over the #2 receiver, Hellams quickly diagnoses the crack/replace, coming downhill, closing on the back’s near hip, and delivering a peanut punch while dragging the back to the ground. Feeling himself jar the ball loose, he quickly flips himself around and dives on the loose ball to secure the takeaway. I would certainly not be surprised to see him force fumbles at an increased rate with more work in the box at the next level.
Playing exclusively as the boundary safety in Alabama’s defense, which primarily operates out of two-high shells with split-safety coverages, Hellams was able to gain some short yardage work in the box, an area which he excelled against SEC competition. With Pittsburgh able to effectively operate from single high sets on early downs, in no small part due to the presence of Minkah Fitzpatrick, arguably the best post safety league wide, this is a trait that should be particularly attractive to the Steelers front office.
Here, Hellams aligns on the line of scrimmage in a stand up 9-tech (outside shade of the tight end), squeezing off the tight ends down block, and boxing the backs kick-out block to stay clean and make a nice leg tackle on the quarterback. This ability to effectively defend opponent run game from the box and make plays behind the line of scrimmage is the exact type of skill set that the Steelers will need to replace with the departure of Terrell Edmunds.
Similar in this next clip, this time Hellams aligns from depth as an overhang defender to the nub tight end set. At the snap, Hellams quickly diagnoses the pin/pull scheme, closing downhill to box the kick-out block from the Texas center, keeping his outside arm free and forcing Bijan Robinson out after a short gain. His strength and willingness to take on blockers who outweigh him by over 100 pounds is a great sign for his ability to play in the box at the next level.
Once again asked to take on a pulling offensive lineman, this time Kansas State’s right tackle, listed at 6’5” 310 pounds, Hellams once again playing as an overhang defender to the nub-tight set, quickly diagnoses pin/pull, widening to maintain leverage on the back. At the point of contact, Hellams attempts to throw his bodyweight into the right tackle, but is initially overpowered.
After absorbing the contact, Hellams shows a nice counter, spinning inside to disengage and free himself up for another tackle, holding Deuce Vaughan to a short gain. Among every defensive back that I have evaluated in this year’s class, Hellams is simply in a class of his own in terms of ability to function as a high-level run defender from within the box.
It is no secret that Hellams will struggle mightily if put into unfavorable matchups in pass coverage, just ask Tennessee offensive coordinator Joey Halzle, who entered his game plan on forcing Hellams to carry Jalin Hyatt vertically. Here, with Alabama operating from their base quarters coverage, Hellams is responsible for an isolated matchup vs Jalin Hyatt on any vertical release (anything that breaks beyond five yards).
At the snap, Hyatt stems vertically, forcing Hellams to open his hips prematurely and engage in a foot race to match the out and up double move. Unable to get hands on and disrupt timing, Hellams is easily stacked for an uncontested, explosive play touchdown. His stiffness in transitions and lack of long speed to recover from out of phase make him a liability when asked to play from traditional man coverage and pattern match assignments which task him with covering true wide receivers vertically.
Here, tasked with working as the post safety in a Cover 3 match scheme, Hellams is responsible for playing top down on all routes between the hashes. While Alabama’s slot defender is responsible for carrying #2 vertical, he is assigned to do so with outside leverage, as he should have help over the top and inside from his post safety.
At the snap, Hellams pushes to the post, but fails to gain proper depth and play with vision, leaving him slow to flip and turn, and once again forcing him to engage in a foot race with Jalin Hyatt, a matchup that he will lose every single time. Speaking from a pure football IQ basis, Hellams must realize that he will never be able to help the field side corner, and rather should help his outmatched slot defender against the Volunteers most dangerous offensive threat.
Ultimately, I strongly believe that DeMarcco Hellams is an NFL player, and moreover, one capable of flourishing in the right role as early as his rookie season. While his struggles in coverage and limitations as an athlete will prevent him from ever becoming an effective full-time starter in the secondary, I believe that he is ready for early down box snaps and sub-package dimebacker work immediately.
With his physicality and tackling ability, I also tend to believe that there is some untapped potential with Hellams as a blitzer, a role that he was seldom used in at Alabama, where he often operated from depth as a boundary safety. It will be interesting to see if he could potentially add some weight to his frame and fully embrace life in the box at the NFL level. Likewise, his effort and tackling ability should make Hellams an effective four-phase special teamer at the next level. He should be an impact player on kickoff units.
In terms of a player comparison, DeMarcco Hellams genuinely reminds me of a less athletic Terrell Edmunds. Both players excel in the box, are more than willing to throw their weight around in the run game, can function at a high level in shallow zone coverage and man coverage assignments dependent on personnel, and are limited in what they can provide when playing in space, particularly in the coverage department.
Likewise, if Pittsburgh is in the market to replace the single-high box safety and dimebacker skillset that they lost in Terrell Edmunds, Alabama’s DeMarcco Hellams presents a seamless fit that can be found somewhere on the latter half of day three. While many in the draft community will focus on what Hellams can’t do, a defensive coordinator who carves out a role which masks his weaknesses and accentuates his strengths could find themselves in possession of a high-level rotational player.
Projection: Mid to Late Day Three
Depot Draft Grade: 7.1-Rotational Player (4th Round)
Games Watched: vs Utah State (2022), vs Texas A&M (2022), at Texas (2022), at Tennessee (2022), at Arkansas (2022), vs Kansas State (2022), at Texas A&M (2021), vs Tennessee (2021), vs Ole Miss (2021), at Florida (2021)