Darnell Savage Scouting Report By Charlie Campbell
Rangy free safety
Can start at nickel corner
Covers a lot of ground on the back end
Makes plays on the ball
Put together well
Deep centerfielder to prevent big plays downfield
Disruptive defender on the back end
Ability to diagnosis plays quickly
Special teams contributor
Not an interchangeable strong safety
Can't be the eighth man in the box
Misses some tackles
Not twitchy at corner
Summary: It has been a slow built, but Darnell Savage has finally become a hot prospect for the 2019 NFL Draft. Savage is having a great leadup to the draft, and part of that was an excellent NFL Scouting Combine, where he ran a 4.36-second time in the 40-yard dash. Of all the prospects for the 2019 NFL Draft, Savage could be the leader for the most pre-draft visits, as there are 10 teams and counting that are hosting him. He has to chance to go much higher than expected.
Savage broke into the starting lineup as a sophomore and totaled 59 tackles with an interceptions. He then showed improvement as a junior, recording three interceptions with 59 tackles and eight breakups. Savage played really well for the Terrapins in 2018, almost helping them pull off an upset over Ohio State. Maryland's defense did a nice job in the early going of holding the Buckeyes' play-makers in check, and Savage was a key part of that. In 2018, Savage totaled 52 tackles with four interceptions and two passes broken up.
Savage has a special skill set with the ability to contribute as a free safety and nickel cornerback. In the deep part of the field, he is good in zone coverage, possessing the potential to be a true single safety. He can play the deep center field and cover a lot of ground to shut down long gains. With his good instincts, speed and athleticism, Savage is an asset to prevent big plays downfield and keep offenses from scoring quickly. In coverage, he is a very disruptive defender, covering up receivers, tipping passes, and creating turnovers. His instincts are superb, leading him to make a lot of big plays. With his vision and closing speed, Savage is dangerous to jump routes and create big plays for his defense.
Savage also is put together well with the ability to tackle downfield. He is not an eighth-man-in-the-box run-defending strong safety, but that is not a big deal because NFL defenses are in nickel 70 percent of their snaps, so Savage's coverage skills will be needed. On top of being a true free safety, Savage can play nickel corner on slot receivers. His 4.36 speed allows him to run with receivers, and he has enough fluid athleticism to run with wideouts downfield.
I think Savage is going to become a good starting free safety and could end up being a Pro Bowl player. After the first-rounders go off the board, Savage is my choice for the best second-day value pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. I think Savage is going to be an excellent pro and an impactful starter in the NFL. He is a safe bet to get selected in the opening round of Friday night.
Player Comparison: Antoine Bethea. There are a lot of similarities between Savage and Bethea. Both are rangy free safeties who make big, clutch plays for their defenses off of instincts and speed. Bethea (5-11, 206) and Savage are almost identical in size. At the combine in 2006, Bethea weighed in at 196 and ran the 40 in 4.39 seconds, almost identical to Savage. In the NFL, I could see Savage having a long productive career like Bethea has had.
NFL Matches: Los Angeles Rams, New England, Arizona, San Francisco, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Tennessee, Houston, Indianapolis, Dallas
The Rams could consider Savage late in the first round after losing Lamarcus Joyner in free agency. Arizona and San Francisco could be options for Savage at the top of the second round. The Cardinals have to replace some veterans they lost in free agency, and D.J. Swearinger might not be viewed as a long-term player. San Francisco needs more talent at safety.
Tampa Bay made a mistake passing on Derwin James last year, and the Buccaneers need a safety to go with Justin Evans. Staying in the NFC South, Carolina needs a safety to pair with Eric Reid, and it would be surprising if the Panthers pass on Savage if he gets to their second-round pick.
In the AFC South, Savage has a few landing spots. The Titans could use a strong safety to pair with Kevin Byard. Houston signed Tashun Gipson in free agency, but he has been a liability in coverage for a few teams, and Savage could be a long-term safety to go with Justin Reid. Indianapolis could use more talent at safety, and Savage could form a nice tandem with Malik Hooker.
Dallas has a need at safety, and Savage would be an excellent value for the Cowboys in the second round.
The Patriots have some old safeties and could stand to get younger. Savage could be in play for New England at pick No. 32.