Juan Thornhill Scouting Report By Charlie Campbell
True free safety
Covers lots of ground
Makes plays on the ball
Tracks the ball well
Reads quarterbacks' eyes
Could play some nickel corner
Could play some man coverage on tight ends
Decisive to attack downhill
Not an interchangeable strong safety
Can't be the eighth man in the box
Summary: Recently, I was speaking with an area scout, and we agreed that it is relatively easy to find strong safeties for the NFL. Every year, the SEC produces some run stuffers and physical defenders for the middle of the field, and that kind of safety also routinely comes out of the other conferences, especially the Big Ten. However, finding a true safety who can cover and lock down the deep part of the field is much more difficult. Safeties who can cover are often turned into corners, so finding a true free safety to be a deep centerfielder is a challenge. Thornhill is one of those rare free safeties and could be a very good value pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Thornhill went under the radar during his collegiate career due to playing for Virginia, yet he turned in three excellent seasons. As a senior, Thornhill recorded 98 tackles with six interceptions and seven passes broken up. In 2017, he had four interceptions with 12 passes broken up and 63 tackles. That came after he notched three picks, seven breakups and 45 tackles in 2016.
Some team sources feel that Thornhill is the second-best safety in the 2019 NFL Draft behind only Mississippi State's Johnathan Abram. There are many reasons that some are so high on Thornhill. The first attribute that really jumps out at evaluators are his instincts. He is a smart player who finds the ball. He reads a quarterback's eyes, is able to quickly diagnosis routes, and uses his speed and athleticism to get in place to make plays.
Along with his instincts, Thornhill shows good range. He covers a lot of ground in the deep part of the field and possesses the speed and athleticism to get to the sideline from the middle of the field on deep throws. Thornhill has nice hands and high points the ball well. He is a threat to pick off 50/50 balls, and in his pro career, he could produce some nice interception totals.
Thornhill is a true pass-coverage free safety who could serve as a single high safety and a reliable centerfielder to lock down the deep part of the field. He also could handle some man coverage against slot receivers and tight ends. Thornhill's pass-coverage skills are tough to find.
In the ground game, Thornhill has some issues with missed tackles from time to time. Still, he will flash sometimes, firing downhill to make some good tackles in space. He is a willing tackler, and some of the missed tackles can be coached out of him with NFL expertise. Some team sources say that Thornhill's willingness to tackle is encouraging for him to improve that issue, and he is not one of those defensive backs who avoids tackling or is hesitant to get physical. After some time getting coached in the NFL, Thornhill's tackling could no longer be a liability.
In the 2019 NFL Draft, Thornhill could be a second-round pick. I believe he could end up being a really good starting free safety in the NFL with Pro Bowl potential.
Player Comparison: Marcus Williams. Team sources compared Williams to Thornihll, which makes a lot of sense. Both are free safeties who cover a lot of ground and have ball skills. They also have similar builds and issues as tacklers. Williams was a second-round pick, and Thornhill could go in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
NFL Matches: Oakland, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Green Bay, Kansas City, New England
The Raiders should not have a need at safety, but former general manager Reggie McKenzie took a few busts at the position. Obi Melifonwu was cut, and Karl Joseph is more of a rotational backup. Thus, Oakland needs a long-term starter.
Carolina needs a free safety to pair with Eric Reid, and Thornhill could be a great fit for the Panthers on Day 2 of the 2019 NFL Draft. Staying in the NFC South, Tampa Bay made a mistake passing on Derwin James and need a safety to go with Justin Evans. Thornhill could make sense for the Bucs on the second day of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Green Bay traded away HaHa Clinton-Dix and could use a safety to go with Josh Jones.
Eric Berry has had an inspiring career overcoming injuries and illness. Kansas City could use an upgrade next to Berry and get ready for the end of Berry's career.
The Patriots have some aging safeties and could use some youth at the position.