Name: Montae Nicholson
School: Michigan State
Position fit: Strong safety
Stats to know: Ranked 50th in combined tackling efficiency among all draft eligible safeties.
What he does best:
- Explosive athlete; ran an official 4.42 at NFL combine and was a top performer in the broad jump as well.
- Good measurables in length and height at 6-foot-2 with 33 3/8-inch arms.
- Flashes his top end speed when attacking towards the sidelines on stretch runs or screen passes
- While a small sample size, he allowed just 30 yards after the catch on 17 catches allowed in 2016.
- Has the ability to locate and close effectively to the catch point when aligned in the box.
- Doesn’t recognize wide receivers blocking down on him well in the run game and can be caught up on their blocks at the second level as a result.
- Despite his explosiveness in workouts, he does not show the same level of aggressiveness on the field.
- When asked to cover in split safety looks receivers separate too easily at the top of their routes.
- Does not square up to the ball carrier; consistently over-runs plays and misses tackles.
- Graded fifth-worst among all safeties in coverage grade in 2015 .
- Despite his athleticism, his fluidity in space is not good enough to consistently be a single high safety in the NFL.
- Displays some hip stiffness when changing directions.
Player comparison: T.J. Green, Indianapolis Colts
Green was drafted much earlier than his college production warranted due to his size and testing numbers. As a rookie in Indianapolis in 2016, Green struggled with poor grades in both the run game an in coverage, and he has some developing to do to warrant his second-round status.
Bottom line: Nicholson meets all or most of the measurables that teams are looking for in a safety. He has excellent speed and explosiveness; unfortunately these traits do not transfer onto the field for him. His poor change of direction, fluidity and skills in deep coverage will force him into split safety looks at the NFL level and act as a strong safety more often than not. He needs to improve his tackling overall, but if he does improve in this area he is likely to be a special-teams contributor.