Surpassing expectations following the dismantling of the “Legion of Boom” last offseason, the Seattle Seahawks finished a respectable 11th overall in scoring defense and generated 26 takeaways in 2018.
In order to emerge once again as one of the league’s elite defenses, however, Seattle needs to continue overhauling its secondary after ranking 17th in passing defense last season. With safety Earl Thomas likely to become the latest high-profile defection for the Seahawks, the organization could turn to talented Delaware prospect and Senior Bowl standout Nasir Adderley as his long-term replacement roaming center field.
Despite playing against inferior FCS competition, Adderley exhibits NFL starter-caliber athletic traits on film. He’s rangy and covers ground in coverage quickly, allowing him to thrive as a middle of the field safety for teams that prefer to run Cover 1 and Cover 3 schemes. He’s instinctual and once he has a break on the football, he flashes superb ball skills and create turnovers, as he finished his collegiate career with 10 interceptions.
Adderley plays a physical brand of football and loves to be active defending against the run. He’s exceptional at sifting through traffic to make a tackle near the line of scrimmage, but as shown on tape time and time again, he’s not afraid to mix it up with blockers and holds his own against much stronger players. He flies to the football in pursuit and consistently puts himself in position to make a play.
Aside from being comfortable playing in the box, Adderley loves to smack receivers at the point of the catch in coverage. He’s a heavy hitter without launching himself into opponents while leading with his helmet, proving defensive backs can still smash receivers legally in today’s game using textbook technique. If you’re planning to make a catch going across the middle or down the sideline with him in the vicinity, you better keep your head on a swivel.
Teams will love Adderley’s overall versatility, as he played cornerback and single-high safety while also spending a fair amount of his snaps near the line of scrimmage for the Blue Hens. He also returned kicks and punts on special teams, taking a punt back for a touchdown against New Hampshire last year. Regardless of where he lined up on the field, he always made an impact for his team and should give his future defensive coordinator plenty of flexibility.
Adderley isn’t necessarily small for a safety prospect in the NFL, but he may need to add a bit more muscle to his 5-foot-11 frame to be successful at the next level. He weighed in at 195 pounds at the Senior Bowl in Mobile and was one of the lighter players at the safety position, which may deter some teams from picking him early.
Away from his size, Adderley doesn’t showcase many significant flaws in his game. However, he does have a tendency to leave tackles on the field, especially when he tries to go too low to bring down an opponent in heavy traffic. Though it’s not an issue that presents itself often on his game tape, he can get away from wrapping up ball carriers and sometimes he’s a bit too aggressive in pursuit, which also leads to missed tackles.
As one of the critical steps in evaluating a small school prospect, NFL teams will be closely monitoring how Adderley tests compared to his peers at the Scouting Combine later this month. His speed and quickness would seem to translate to the next level based on film observations, but if he has an underwhelming workout in Indianapolis, his stock could take a bit of a hit and potentially drop him out of the first-round discussion.
Where He Fits in Seattle
There’s a general consensus in the scouting community that Adderley and Deionte Thompson of Alabama will be the top two safeties selected in April’s NFL Draft. Both players could easily be well off the board before the Seahawks pick at No. 21 overall, but based on system fit, Adderley would seem more enticing.
While Thompson offers more length and comes from one of college football’s premier programs, Adderley holds the advantage covering sideline-to-sideline as a single-high safety and seems to have better ball skills. Coming from the FCS level will lead to some growing pains early, but he held his own against top prospects at the Senior Bowl and has never met a challenge he won’t take on.
Seattle has remained bullish on third-year safeties Tedric Thompson and Delano Hill, but both players were mid-round picks who have struggled with injuries and consistency since entering the league. If Adderley is still on the board when the Seahawks are on the clock, the front office will hard a tough time passing on a high-upside prospect who could fill Thomas’s vacancy at free safety for years to come.