2020 NFL Draft: Should LSU Safety Grant Delpit be Considered to Boost the Jaguars' Secondary?
As the 2020 offseason progresses, JaguarReport is going to be taking extended looks of some NFL draft prospects who could theoretically make sense for the Jacksonville Jaguars at some point in April.
In this version, we examine LSU safety Grant Delpit, a key piece to the Tigers' National Championship team in 2019. Should the Jaguars consider Delpit with the No. 20 pick, or should they look elsewhere?
A big-time contributor to the LSU defense for three seasons, Delpit carved out a role for himself early on. As a true freshman in 2017, Delpit played in all 13 games with 10 starts, recording 60 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, eight pass deflections, and one interception.
Delpit took his production to another level in 2018, turning in the best year of his LSU career as a sophomore starter. Returning as a starter, Delpit recorded 74 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, one forced fumble, nine pass deflections, and five interceptions.
In 2019, Delpit once again played a big role for the LSU defense and racked up accolades, even if his production slipped, but this could be attributed to a string of injuries in 2019. He recorded 65 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, one forced fumble, seven pass deflections, and two interceptions.
Despite the dip in production, Delpit did earn the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the best defensive back in college football each season. Overall, he was a first-team All-SEC in 2018 and 2019 and a consensus All-American in each year. He was also awarded the #7 jersey in 2019, one of the top honors LSU bestows on players each season and is the same number that current Jaguars Leonard Fournette and DJ Chark wore at LSU to display their place in LSU's program.
What Grant Delpit does well
The role that most likely fits Delpit at the next level is that of a single high safety who can also play in the slot. His size (6-foot-2, 213-pounds) makes him a worthwhile matchup vs. tight ends, while his above-average range makes him a valuable defender in coverage.
Delpit's size, length, and athleticism give him an advantage over many offensive targets because it allows him to impact the game in multiple facets. As a man coverage defender in the slot or in the red-zone, Delpit does a good job of using his physicality to re-route defenders and serve as a physical detour in the middle of the field. He competes at the catch point and has the size, strength, and aggression to jar the ball loose on contact.
In zone coverage, his recognition and reaction time serves him well. He is clearly a smart player who knows where he is supposed to be in coverage, and it translates to the field. Because of these traits, some strong anticipation in coverage, and enough speed to get to the sideline from the hash mark before the ball arrives, Delpit offers plenty of value as a deep safety who can patrol the middle of the field.
As a blitzer, Delpit times the snap well and isn't afraid to take on blocks while exploding downhill. He is eager mix it up physically, and he can set the edge as a force player or as an edge defender in the box. There are legit nickel linebacker possibilities for his future thanks to his versatile skillset.
Against the run, Delpit is sound in his run fits and more often than not is in the right position depending on his pre-snap alignment. He is helpful vs. mobile quarterbacks thanks to his above-average size and ability to explode downhill and into a tackle.
What Grant Delpit needs to improve at
While Delpit offers a ton of versatility thanks to his size and coverage ability, there are fair questions about his ability to be a consistent tackle in open space, which is a key trait for every safety.
Delpit has the ability to produce thumping tackles and decleat tight ends, wide receivers, and running backs, but there were a lot of instances in 2018 and 2019 in which he failed to bring down the ball-carrier when left one-on-one in space. Delpit's physicality and willingness to tackle aren't the issues at all, as his above strengths note but, for whatever reasons, the results don't always match this.
One reason for this could be Delpit's technique, which can vary from snap to snap. He will occasionally leave his feet to attempt a tackle, losing his balance and ability to bring power to his tackle. Other times, he will stop his feet and ruin his pursuit angles, putting him at a disadvantage in space.
In coverage, Delpit could stand to be more consistent when he is in man coverage outside of the red-zone. He is a fluid mover when flying downhill or moving laterally, but will sometimes take false steps when forced to flip his hips and run downfield with a target.
Overall, there aren't too many holes in Delpit's game. Instead, there is one glaring flaw that will stick in the minds of those who watch him, and will require improvement at the next level.
Delpit makes a lot of sense for teams who ask their safeties to play in a multitude of roles. His size and physicality makes him effective in the box when he is on his game as a tackler, while his range and length give him a lot of value as a zone defender.
For the Jaguars specifically, they will need to figure out how much they value Delpit's strengths vs. his inconsistencies as a tackler. He could play free safety, spend time in the slot, or be a split safety in Todd Wash's scheme, but the Jaguars already have enough problems when it comes to bringing down ball carriers in space.
Delpit would form an interesting duo with Ronnie Harrison at safety, however. Each player has similar strengths and could potentially be used interchangeably, which is an advantage for the defense because they can hide their coverages more when both safeties are used in a variety of ways.
Is Delpit worth the No. 20 pick? It depends on how the board falls. He could start from day one, but his issues with tackling will make it a bit more of a boom-or-bust pick.