Prospect Profile: Washington Product Taylor Rapp Fits the Seahawks Safety Mold

Nick Lee

Being up in the Pacific Northwest, away from the rest of the sports world tucked in the little corner, sports fans up here tend to stick to their own. The Seahawks have shown that they are not afraid to draft and sign products of the college football team down the street, the Washington Huskies.

It helps that in the last four years or so, the Huskies have been arguably the best football team west of the Rockies. In recent years, Seattle has found several key players from Washington, including receiver Jermaine Kearse and, most recently, using a fourth-round pick on tight end Will Dissly.

This season, the Seahawks look to be more defensive-minded heading into the draft and the Washington Huskies are not short on defensive prospects. With only one safety spot locked up at the moment with Bradley McDougald capable of playing both free and strong safety, could the Seahawks draft a player like Huskies safety Taylor Rapp to challenge Tedric Thompson and Delano Hill for the other starting position?

Strengths

Rapp is one of the best pure tacklers in the draft, especially in the secondary. The Seahawks typically love secondary players that can offer run support and that remains Rapp's strongest attribute. He had at least 50 tackles in each of his three seasons at UW, including six sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss.

Rapp has no fear sticking his nose at the line of scrimmage against fierce runners and taking on big run blockers. His effort is relentless, even when he is outmatched in size and speed. He has the prototypical size you want in an NFL safety at 6-foot, 212 pounds.

He rarely gets caught flat-footed and has good balance, which is key in tackling or changing directions in coverage. He processes routes well and is a smart, instinctive football player who does not make the critical mistake or commit dumb penalties. He's very hard for opposing quarterbacks to fool, which should serve him well at the next level.

Weaknesses

Rapp can be classified as many things, but an elite pass coverage safety is not one of them. He likely won't make Seahawks fans forget about Earl Thomas anytime soon due to limited range, with his athleticism and speed mostly going linear.

His ball skills are limited, rarely making the big turnover play. Though he did have seven interceptions for the Huskies, including a pick-six against Stanford last year, there are safeties in the draft that fit the profile of "ball hawk" better than Rapp.

Rapp does not have elite speed. He registered a 4.74-second 40-yard dash time at Washington's Pro Day, which, at the NFL Combine, would have been fourth-to-last among safeties. To be fair, he is still recovering from a groin injury that kept him out of the Rose Bowl. His "football speed" will surely look better than his poor 40 time.

Rapp lacks the versatility of some other top safeties in his draft class, as he would be ill-suited as a single-high, center fielder type. His coverage skills were best suited as a split zone, Cover 2-type defense. He wasn't asked to play much man coverage at Washington. He's disciplined enough that receivers rarely got behind him, but often times, he had to play 20-plus yards off the ball to accomplish that, which could be a problem in the NFL.

Where He Fits in Seattle

As he's admitted before, McDougald fits best as a strong safety with his size and tackling abilities. Rapp fits a similar mold, so the Seahawks need to move some pieces around if they were going to have McDougald and Rapp both play safety. McDougald is more versatile at this point, so he could move to free safety.

Rapp, in his first few years, could also serve as the "big nickel" safety that is becoming more and more popular in the league.

If the Seahawks were just looking at the best safety available, regardless of fit in their scheme, Rapp should be under strong consideration. He projects to be an early day two pick, so the Seahawks need to accumulate more picks if they were to fall into such a scenario.

Though he isn't the same style of player as Thomas, Rapp was still one of the best safeties in college football on one of the best defenses in the country. He has the football skills and the brains to be an effective safety in the NFL and assuming the team plays him to his strengths, Seattle should take a long, hard look at him later this month.

Comments (1)
No. 1-1
ChaseRiddell41
ChaseRiddell41

4.74? No thanks. Slower than my grandma.


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