In preparation for the 2017 football season, NFLDraftScout.com will profile the top NFL draft-eligible prospects with a different player profile each day. The series will culminate with the preseason top-20 prospects in August.
|Class: Junior||Height: 6-0||Weight: 211||40-yard dash: 4.54||High School: Lewisville, Tx. (Hebron HS)|
Freakish junior running back Leonard Fournette is arguably the elite talent in all of college football so it goes without saying that he is going to dominate the coverage involving LSU football this season.
But the Tigers boast another likely top-10 pick on defense in fellow junior Jamal Adams, an instinctive and hard-hitting safety already drawing comparisons by some close to the program to former LSU (and current NFL star) Tyrann Mathieu.
And while earning comparisons to the great Honey Badger is quite the compliment, frankly, it isn’t enough. At six-foot, 211 pounds, Adams is considerably bigger than the 5-foot-9, 186 pound Arizona Cardinals standout and is a much cleaner prospect off the field than Mathieu was at LSU, as well. Whereas Mathieu’s repeated failed drug tests led to his suspension from LSU and his slip on draft day, the folks at LSU can’t speak highly enough about Adams, who was the first player of the Les Miles era to ever be named a team captain for a game (Louisiana-Monroe) as a true freshman.
The awareness, physicality, agility and natural playmaking skills, however, are all there with Adams and — in part because of Mathieu — NFL teams are placing greater value on the position than ever before. It is possible that with another terrific season, Adams and not Fournette could wind up being the highest-drafted player from LSU next spring — assuming, of course, the true juniors elect to enter the draft early as most anticipate.
The son of former New York Giants’ first round pick George Adams (No. 19 overall, 1985) and a dynamic all-purpose threat in high school, Adams signed with LSU amid great fanfare. He only started two games for the Tigers in 2014 but this is misleading as he was a critical part of LSU’s nickel package, seeing action in all 13 games. Adams finished the season with 66 tackles, including five tackles for loss (including a sack) and five pass breakups, earning Freshman All-American honors. Of these stops, 10 came on special teams.
Though his tackles numbers were similar last year as a sophomore (67), Adams emerged as a ballhawk, creating six turnovers with four interceptions and both a forced and recovered fumble. Adams also registered another five tackles for loss and six pass breakups.
Bent at the knees and eagerly inching forward towards the line of scrimmage pre-snap similar to the way centerfielders on the baseball diamond anticipate the ball being hit, Adams shows rare key and diagnosis skills. He is hyper-aggressive in run support, flying upfield and slipping past blockers to provide the Tigers with almost another linebacker at the point of attack. Belying his lack of starting experience, Adams shows impressive awareness to sniff out misdirection and is a terrific open-field tackler.
Unlike most defenders with his seemingly reckless, kamikaze style of play, Adams never seems out of control. He plays on the balls of his feet and has the flexible joints to change directions and accelerate fluidly. Already possessing good size for the position, Adams plays even bigger than he looks, offering an explosive pop on contact with most of his stops. Better yet, he is also capable of dropping low to take out the legs of ball-carriers threatening to turn the corner. Put simply, Adams has a large strike zone and he doesn’t miss often.
Mathieu, I mean Adams, is just as instinctive in coverage. His easy athleticism allows him to drop down and play nickel corner, covering slot receivers while keeping his eyes on the quarterback. Adams shows excellent route anticipation, breaking on underneath routes before some of the receivers he’s tasked with covering. Quarterbacks rarely challenge him but Adams gets involved in plays anyway by dropping his primary coverage responsibilities once the pass is thrown in a mad (but controlled) dash towards the ball.
Finding relative weaknesses to Adams’ game is difficult. He is slightly smaller than scouts would prefer at the position and has been supported by quality cover corners on the outside throughout his time at LSU. He shows great trust in his teammates, sacrificing himself to funnel ball-carriers back inside towards the rest of the defense rather than attempting to make every tackle on his own. In doing this, however, Adams appears to take very risky angles to the ball and can lose sight of it, at times. Often put in a position to “shadow” mobile quarterbacks, Adams can be a tick late in determining whether to rush upfield or drop back into coverage when they slide out of the pocket.
Adams’ strengths far outweigh his weaknesses and had he been eligible for the 2016 NFL Draft, he would have been a surefire first round selection, just like Fournette. Given that LSU has a new defensive coordinator this season (Dave Aranda), scouts will want to see how well Adams acclimates.
The smart money, though, is on Adams excelling once again and continuing LSU’s remarkable run of defensive backs to the NFL via early picks.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Top NFL Draft Prospects: LSU’s Jamal Adams is Honey Badger 2.0