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2024 NFL Draft: Georgia safety Javon Bullard scouting report

Georgia’s defense in 2023 under Kirby Smart wasn’t quite the historic unit it was in 2022, but it was still pretty darned good, and one reason it was pretty darned good was the work of safety Javon Bullard, who allowed just 14 catches on 26 targets last season for 119 yards, 68 yards after the catch, no touchdowns, two interceptions, five pass breakups, and an opponent passer rating of 34.0.

This in a season where he went from a primary box/slot/blitz player the season before to an outstanding free safety and slot defender. That’s not exactly easy to do, but Bullard did it, and this speaks highly to not only his NFL transition, but also his versatility within that transition.

The 5-foot-11, 198-pound Bullard should also be an asset in any defense where coverage switches are the order of the day, and that includes just about any intelligently-designed defense these days.

PLUSES

— Underwent a radical change in deployment last season from 14% deep in 2022 to 83% in 2023 (from 12 to 362 reps at free safety) and didn’t miss a beat.

— Has the transitions, trail ability, and downfield speed to hang with quick receivers on vertical routes.

— Can erase receivers over the middle and in short areas; his quickness to adjust is fine. The tape example below of Bullard shutting Florida receiver Ricky Pearsall down in press slot is really impressive; press slot is tough for most defensive backs to get right. 

— You have to go back to 2022 to see it, but he’s a highly effective blitzer from the edge with speed off the snap, and determination to get home.

— Brings true sideline-to-sideline speed to the field, and the acceleration to close shows up over and over.

MINUSES

— Bullard has far too many “Ole” tackles on his tape where he flat-out misses his target. Seven missed tackles last season.

— Has good recovery speed in space, but tends to need it too often. He’ll need to be more aware of his landmarks in the NFL.

— Struggles at times with his backpedal and turn, though he’s got the athleticism to tie that up.

— Ball skills are inconsistent; if he gets that going, he could be a major interceptor.

Bullard is a guy where you really have to watch his last two seasons because what he was asked to do was so different. As much as any safety in this class, he brings a full array of skills, and it’s all on tape. I’ll be fascinated to see how his NFL team uses him.

Story originally appeared on Touchdown Wire