TJ McDonald   S   USC

TALENT BOARD ROUND  1

 

STRENGTHS

TJ has the size, speed and athleticism to play his position at a very high level for the team that drafts him.  He has the size and speed to cover those pass-catching tight ends that have been causing teams problems the last few years.  Inside the red zone, he has the instincts, football intelligence and strength to be used in zone coverage on the outside if need be.  TJ is very smart and understands down and distance; in third down situations, he is always around the ball.  He shows the ability to flip his hips and stay in coverage; he shows no hesitation to make a tackle in the open field.  TJ has the instincts, football intelligence, size, speed and overall athleticism to be an excellent safety for the team that drafts him.  

 

CONCERNS

TJ has to mature on the field to become the leader his instincts and football intelligence suggest he can become.  He is one of the worst tacklers that I have seen in a long time, but he does make the tackle.  He propels himself into his opponent head first with no attempt to wrap up.  He goes for head shots on receivers instead of looking for interceptions. He is a penalty and one serious tackling incident away from leaving the field and never playing again.  He leaves his feet to make just about every tackle I see him make except for the ones in which the opponent is running right at him. He doesn't wrap up or bring his feet and his head is always down when he goes low.  He is a perfect example of what the NFL is trying to outlaw. TJ has to become more of a form tackler or he will commit a lot of penalties and hurt his team, not to mention himself and other players.    

 

BOTTOM LINE

Some are going to suggest that TJ is not fast enough to be an elite safety in the NFL.  I believe that's wrong.  His instincts and football intelligence allow him to make up a step or two on every play.  He is the type of player who could be a coach on the field, but he has to learn to tackle better and become more mature on the field.  You can't lead if you get hurt and/or cost your team in penalties.  Your teammates lose respect for you and you become the target of ridicule in the film room.  I believe TJ has the ability to be an excellent NFL safety and leader for his team if he can become less of a headhunter and more of a team player.  If TJ runs under 4.5 in his pro day, he will move up to elite status in this draft.  If I'm a playoff team looking for a good safety in the first round, I'm thinking real hard about drafting TJ -- that is, if he lasts to late in the first round.  I would think with his instincts to be around the ball on every play that teams like the Steelers, Ravens, Bears or Packers, would love to draft him.

 

Drew "The B.S. Detector" Boylhart

Dec/2012