It could be debated that the 2016 NFL draft class has shortage in talented defensive backs or that there too many of them that do not receive enough recognition as they deserve. Either way you may think of it, this year’s draft class holds an unbelievable amount of talent along all positions including defensive backs.
There aren’t too many big names that are going to wow the blinded fans once they get pass Jalen Ramsey, Vernon Hargreaves III, and William Jackson (I pray that you know who that is).
Because of that, fans should definitely get used to hearing about guys like Zack Sanchez from Oklahoma, Harlan Miller from SE Louisiana, and Jonathan Jones from Auburn.
But there is one guy in particular that I feel could be in play to outshine them all and that’s Doug Middleton from Appalachian State.
Player Career Summary:
One of the Appalachian State’s unquestioned leaders, Middleton is an fifth-year senior who has started 17 consecutive games and has been one of the few cornerstones of their defense.
201 total tackles, eight interceptions, and 13 pass breakups.
Automatically when you watch film of Middleton, you get the sense that his ability to track the ball is amazing. He has always had a great feel for the open field and puts himself in great positions to make a play. Of course you like to see defensive backs intercept each pass thrown his way but I take more from his game with his ability to backpedal at a smooth, natural pace. It sounds easier than what people think.
He has above-average skills in run support and I would like to see him utilized in a 3-deep defense in order to use ability to play deep and low. There weren’t too many times where you’ll see Middleton chasing his opponent down field and if he did then they weren’t going far.
One of the great things that I liked about Middleton is that his body type and athletic ability all say corner but he is great at playing free safety. There are going to be many teams that look at his speed, strength, and size and will try to make the transition to corner for him.
I personally believe that his skill set fits playing the boundary because of high football IQ and athletic ability.
Though I don’t blame this on Middleton but he hasn’t played many elite receivers to judge how he fared out. He can dominate teams for a few game stretch but sometimes, like many young defensive backs, he gets caught looking in the backfield which causes him to lose track of his assignment.
His backpedal is smooth and natural but his ability to break out of it and come down field is a bit concerning. If there is any knack on corners from small schools is that they can they come in and out of their breaks instead of relying of the natural abilities to make a play on the ball.
His senior year was interesting because he didn’t record one interception. That’s not something I hold against defensive back, but teams will still interested to see why. I don’t think he should play in schemes that try to make him a run-first corner or a box safety. Those aren’t his strong points regardless of what his measurables say.
Draft Projection: 6th-7th rounder