The use of the word “tweener" is common with those who are fluent in football. It is a term used often to describe players who are a cross between a safety and a linebacker or a linebacker and a defensive end.
However, it now also applies to a cross between a safety and a corner, thanks to a redshirt sophomore by the name of Ar’Darius Washington (TCU), who declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.
No question, Pro Football Focus is high on Washington.
As PFF's Anthony Treash writes,
"We don't yet know the kind of defense we will see in Detroit with first-time DC Aaron Glenn, but one thing is for sure: They need more playmakers in the secondary, and that’s who they’d be getting with Washington.
Washington is the most instinctual safety in the class and has elite change-of-direction ability and strength. With the help of his many top-notch traits, he generated one of the three highest coverage grades among FBS safeties over the last two seasons."
I, on the other hand, am going to call for a "fair catch" on this one. I guess you can say I have very guarded optimism regarding Washington.
To begin with, a part of me always cringes whenever I hear the word “sophomore" used in the same sentence as NFL Draft.
I believe for a player this young to make the leap, the individual has to look like a man amongst boys and look like he has completely outgrown that level of competition. I don't see that with Washington. He did not dominate the college game statistically or on film.
By all rights, Washington could have had two, possibly three years of eligibility left on the college gridiron thanks to the pandemic. He is exactly the type of player who could have benefitted -- in terms of physical development -- from at least one more and possibly even two more years of playing collegiately.
If I was an NFL GM, I would want some questions answered regarding Washington.
Why is he coming out now? His production dropped from 2019 to 2020. His tackling production dropped off some, and he went from five interceptions in 2019 to zero in 2020.
Also, what is his driving motivation?
Washington is the classic “boom or bust” prospect. He is going to have to find exactly the right system to have a chance.
His size is also strongly going to work against him within the NFL scouting ranks.
I like him, but I do not love him.
He reminded me a lot of a nickel back I evaluated in 2019 in Brian Poole of the N.Y. Jets, only not as aggressive.
Poole was undrafted in 2016. NFL scouts generally want safeties 6-feet and above and 200 or more pounds, and Washington falls well below these numbers.
Safety Ar’Darius Washington, TCU - 5-foot-8, 179 pounds (a reported 4.6 40-yard dash time)
Grade: B - (Good player, but not elite; he's good enough to win with, however)
Kelly’s draft board: Fifth round to UFA
A physical safety in the body of a corner, with upper-echelon range and ball skills, who also is not afraid to stick his nose in and support. Good center fielder, who looks like he is very disciplined to his assignments on film. Showed he can drop back, read quarterbacks and make a play on the ball at the college level. Has some playmaker to him. Good range and playing speed. Will come up and bang backs and receivers.
I just do not know how long he can hold up full time against fully-developed men at the next level. It is possible, but not historically probable. Struggles when blockers engage. Best when left to roam free. Aggressive, but showed an average motor at times. Zero collegiate sacks. Sub-package player with special teams value, in terms of raw characteristics. Does not fit any of the boxes.
It is going to be a big jump -- and maybe too big for this Horned Frog to make it in the NFL. I am just not feeling it.
I can see someone like Bill Belichick or another contending team taking a flyer on Day 2, because of his raw athleticism, range and discipline.
He looks great on the highlight reels, and I like certain aspects of his game -- which is the driving force behind the hype.
I just do not see him as a starting safety in the NFL, because I do not think his body can hold up. Additionally, I am not sold on his motor, and there is no way he will project to corner, either, with a 4.6 40-yard time.
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