The free safety class in the 2015 Draft was subpar to say the least. This upcoming bunch of safeties in the 2016 class is a slight upgrade and headlined by Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey and Clemson’s Jayron Kearse. Another name to consider is free safety Jalen Mills out of LSU.
A versatile safety with 45 career games under his belt as an LSU Tiger. Let’s place Mills under the microscope and observe the defensive back.
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Weight: 196 lbs
Strengths: Versatility in playing/starting at the free safety position, along with spot duty at cornerback…..Ability to stick to the hip pocket of receiver and apply textbook pass breakups….Shows consistent range….Instincts/football IQ is one of his better skills and will only get better…..216 tackles, eight tackles for loss, and 18 pass deflections in his four season at LSU….Has underrated athleticism….Better hitter than most would think….Natural cover technique to get his head turned around and play the ball in the air.
Weaknesses: Tackling needs some polish, open field tackling is key for a free safety…..Tentative at times in run support….Even with his good instincts, Mills will show a slow reaction from time to time….Few off-the-field issues….Also struggles with fighting off blocks.
Bottom line: Mills is definitely an intriguing prospect. A few months back, I wasn’t as high on Mills as I am now. Yes, he needs work. His tackling must get better, his read-and-react skills must get sharper, and his run support help must be more sudden. Those are three coachable deficiencies. Mills has the ability to be a third corner on nickel packages as well as offer aid in dime packages.
Starting off at corner early in his career has a major part in his game now as you can see the natural cornerback in him. Can he convert fully into free safety over time? Absolutely. Expectations should be manageable at this juncture but if Mills can reach his potential, the only competition for best free safety in the 2016 class would be FSU’s Jalen Ramsey.