Athletic enough to help in coverage on tight ends and running backs
Should be able to play quickly
Devoted to football
Experienced and successful against good college talent
Needs strength for defending downhill runs straight at him
Shouldn't play deep free safety
As a safety, he could have problems in man on receivers
Summary: In the passing-driven NFL, linebacker and safety play is critical even though both positions have been devalued in the NFL draft to an extent. Teams need linebackers and safeties who can help cover receiving tight ends, play-making receivers, and stop the run. Cravens is a linebacker-safety hybrid. He is a talented, versatile player who is well-suited for the current style of play in the NFL if he goes to a coaching staff that knows how to use him and puts him in position to succeed.
Early in his career, Cravens was more of a safety. He broke into the lineup as a freshman when he totaled 52 tackles with four interceptions, one pass batted and a forced fumble. Cravens recorded 68 tackles with 17 tackles for a loss, five sacks, three interceptions and nine passes broken up in 2014. In his final season, he totaled 86 tackles, 15 for a loss, 5.5 sacks, six passes broken up, two forced fumbles and two interceptions.
At his size, Cravens could play both linebacker and safety. If he plays predominately closer to the line of scrimmage, it might help him to add some weight for fighting off blockers. If Cravens plays more safety and coverage, dropping 10 pounds wouldn't be a bad idea.
Cravens has a real presence on the field and the reason for that is very instinctive. He is a smart defender who reads plays quickly and puts himself in position to make a lot of plays. He darts into the backfield to make tackles, flies around the middle of the field to break up passes, and is very disruptive for an offense. Cravens also is a good blitzer who has a nose for the quarterback. He has good ball skills in terms of interceptions, passes broken up and forced fumbles. Cravens is a pure football player and a play-maker.
On the negative side, Cravens is a tweener. As a linebacker or safety, he could struggle to defend downhill runs straight at him. While he is quick, Cravens doesn't have the speed to cover a lot of slot receivers or play the deep center field as a free safety. He will need to be protected from playing free safety.
For the NFL, Cravens could fit in a defense that is creative and moves him around from linebacker to safety. That will make it a lot harder for quarterbacks to diagnosis where coverage will be. Cravens has the speed and athleticism to cover in the middle part of the field and the strength to function as a strong safety. However, he may not have the coverage skills to be a deep center fielder and cover speed receivers downfield. Cravens will be a steady contributor in the run game and playing quality zone coverage in the middle of the field.
In the 2016 NFL Draft, Cravens looks safe to be selected on the second day.
Player Comparison: Lavonte David. I'm not a big fan of this comparison, but David could be the closest thing to Cravens. Both are undersized for linebacker, yet are excellent tacklers who fly around the field and are incredibly instinctive. David was a second-round pick, and Cravens could go in the same range.
NFL Matches: Pittsburgh, Carolina, Tennessee, San Diego, Miami, Tampa Bay, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Oakland, Indianapolis and Washington
On Day 2, Cravens could be in play for Pittsburgh. He would be a good scheme fit with the Steelers. They need to upgrade Will Allen, and Cravens would bring a physical presence back to the organization's defensive backfield.
At the top of the second round, the Titans could consider Cravens since they won't land Jalen Ramsey in the Round 1 after trading down with the Rams. San Diego lost Eric Weddle in free agency and may not land Ramsey in the first round. Taking Cravens early in the top of Round 2 would make sense for either team.
Staying in California, the Raiders have to replace Charles Woodson. Cravens would be a quality replacement for Charles Woodson.
Miami needs a safety to pair with Reshad Jones. The Bucs badly need to upgrade their secondary. They have to improve their corners and safety. Cravens would make sense for Tampa Bay in the second round.
The Colts and Redskins need help at both defensive back positions. In the second round, Cravens would make sense for Indianapolis or Washington.
A few picks later, the Panthers could consider Cravens. His athleticism and hard-hitting would fit well in Carolina's defense.