DeShon Elliott Scouting Report By Charlie Campbell
Natural free safety
Dangerous interception threat
Downfield coverage skills
Excellent ball skills
Plays the ball well
Good route recognition
Will come downhill and deliver a hard hit
Can make open-field tackles
Skilled in zone coverage
Can play the deep center field
Reacts quickly in coverage
Tracks the ball well
Reads the eyes of quarterbacks
Has some size
Could struggle with NFL speed receivers
Has some tightness
Not an elite athlete
Summary: Every year in college football, there are some breakout players who have huge seasons. Last year, Elliott was one of those prospects. He didn't do a lot as an underclassman, but Elliott was one of the most dangerous defensive backs in the nation during 2017. It can be difficult for NFL teams to find good free safeties who can be impactful players in pass coverage ,and Elliott fits the bill. He could end up being one of the top value picks in the 2018 NFL Draft.
As a freshman, Elliott had only 13 tackles with a breakup, but had two interceptions in backup duty. In 2016, he totaled 30 stops with four breakups and an interception. The junior exploded in 2017 with six interceptions, 63 tackles and three passes broken up.
For the NFL, Elliott has good size with excellent instincts. He fits as a free safety for the pro game, and some team sources have told me that they've given him a second-day grade. They say that Elliott lacks elite athletic ability and the speed to be a first-round pick, but he makes plays in coverage and is a willing participant against the run.
In the ground game, Elliott will come downhill and lay some lumber on ball-carriers. He lines up in the deep part of the field and closes quickly even though he doesn't have elite speed. Elliott should be a quality contributor as a run defender.
In pass coverage, Elliott is a special player. He has excellent instincts to jump routes and get in position to make plays on the ball. Elliott keeps plays in front of him, and that led to him making some interceptions on overthrows of receivers in the middle of the field. Elliott has soft hands and is a natural at creating interceptions. He plays the ball well and is helpful at covering big receivers along the sideline. Elliott's small amount of tightness and lack of speed and athleticism cause him to not be projected as a safety who can cover slot receivers. There are concerns in the scouting community about Elliott's speed and his ability to cover downfield against pro speed receivers. Thus, Elliott can be a real asset in coverage, but he has to be used in the right way.
In the 2018 NFL Draft, Elliott is likely to be a third-round pick. He could go as high as Round 2, and he shouldn't go lower than the fourth round.
Player Comparison: Glover Quin. Quin (6-0, 207) was one of the steals of the 2009 NFL Draft, and the Houston Texans were smart enough to draft him in the fourth round. He has become one of the better free safeties in the NFL and is a steady defender in pass coverage. Quin has been to the Pro Bowl and led the NFL in interceptions in the 2014 season. When the Texans were in salary-cap hell, the Lions wisely signed Quin. Elliott's coverage skills, instincts and ability to take the ball way remind me of Quin.
NFL Matches: Los Angeles Chargers, Dallas, Carolina, Indianapolis, Tampa Bay, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Washington, Tennessee and New England
On the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft, there are a lot of potential landing spots for Elliott. The Colts have a trio of second-round picks, and Elliott could form a talented young tandem with Malik Hooker.
Tampa Bay could use a safety upgrade next to Justin Evans. Elliott could be a nice addition to improve one of the more vulnerable pass defenses in the NFL.
There has been some talk of the Patriots drafting a safety in the early rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft, and Elliott would be a great fit in New England's defense. He could be a good fit for the Patriots' high second-round pick that they got from the 49ers.
Cincinnati has shown interest in adding more talent at safety, and Elliott would be a good fit for the Bengals. Washington could consider looking for a safety upgrade, too. The position isn't a screaming need, but Elliott could be in play for the Redskins if he's the best player available.
Los Angeles would make a lot of sense for Elliott. The Chargers have had a hole at safety since Eric Weddle departed in free agency. Elliott would give them an enforcer on the back end of their defense.
Dallas also is in need of a safety upgrade after losing Barry Church in free agency. Elliott would be a nice fit for Rod Marinelli's scheme.
Carolina could target Elliott in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. The Panthers' safeties are ancient need to be upgraded. Elliott's ability to also play some dime linebacker could help the team eventually replace Thomas Davis.
The Titans have one good safety in Kevin Byard, but Johnathan Cyprien was a disappointment. Elliott could be an upgrade and form an excellent tandem with Byard.
San Francisco could consider a safety in the first round, but if the organization addresses another position, Elliott would make a lot of sense for the team if he gets to its second-round selection. Eric Redi is a free agent, while Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward are in the their last year of their contracts. Both of those latter safeties were picks by the previous regime. The 49ers will probably revamp their safeties for their new scheme, and Elliott could be their strong safety.