NFL draft profile: No. 5 — LSU S Jamal Adams, natural-born leader and tone-setting hitter

LSU safety Jamal Adams
6-foot, 214 pounds

Key stat: Adams started the past 24 games for the Tigers and collected 143 tackles, 10 passes defended, five interceptions and 12.5 tackles for loss.

LSU’s Jamal Adams is a natural-born leader and should make a fine NFL safety. (AP)
LSU’s Jamal Adams is a natural-born leader and should make a fine NFL safety. (AP)

The skinny: Adams’ father, George Adams, was a first-round pick (19th overall in 1985) of Bill Parcells and the New York Giants and spent six seasons in the NFL with the Giants (where he won Super Bowl XXI) and New England Patriots. Jamal left the state of Texas as a prep star and went to LSU, where he earned the starting nickel role as a true freshman in 2014. Adams then moved into a starting safety role in 2015 and started the following two seasons, earning second-team All-SEC honors as a sophomore in 2015 and the same honor as a team captain in his junior season of 2016, even though Adams was named a first-team All-American as well.

Adams declared early for the 2017 NFL draft and will turn 22 years old in October.

Best-suited destination: Adams certainly can play in a split-safety role in the NFL but will be best utilized as a box safety, where he’s more likely to be a better playmaker. He also has lined up frequently in the slot and can ably cover tight ends and backs. One team we spoke with said it discussed two options for Adams: ask him to bulk up a bit and serve as a pseudo-linebacker or even to drop a few pounds and turn into a physical corner. Among the teams that could be especially interested in Adams’ services include the Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins, Jacksonville Jaguars, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets and Los Angeles Chargers.

Upside: Extremely serious, football-first player. Driven to be great. LSU coaching staff and support staff raved about his work ethic, film study preparation and locker-room influence. Tone-setter. Outspoken leader on and off the field in college and shouldn’t take too long to assert himself as a pro. Will earn veterans’ respect quickly. Made defensive calls for Tigers the past two seasons, held secondary together and held players accountable. Great football instincts, football IQ and nose for the ball. Can be seen calling out plays based on formation and tendency in games. On the first play against Alabama, Adams can be seen running to where he knows QB Jalen Hurts is going with the ball, which leads to an INT:

Watch as LSU’s Jamal Adams reads the play off the snap and picks off a pass against ‘Bama. (Draftbreakdown.com)
Watch as LSU’s Jamal Adams reads the play off the snap and picks off a pass against ‘Bama. (Draftbreakdown.com)

Big hitter who aims to send a message. Tries to blast through opposing offensive players, especially early in games. Closes fast on passes and arrives with urgency. Times his hits beautifully. Takes good angles to the ball and will short-circuit the intermediate passing game. Disguises coverages well and will rotate at the last moment, still able to be in position to carry out his responsibilities. Smart and focused. Reads the eyes of quarterbacks and will react in a hurry. Seemed like Adams had read Lane Kiffin’s play sheet minutes before kickoff, reacting to plays before they happened. Sniffs out screens and trick plays quickly. Wasn’t penalized a single time last season, which is remarkable given his physical style.

Regularly covered the slot in all three seasons in Baton Rouge and looks natural. Best in off coverage and has fluid hips and can shadow quality tight ends — shut down Ole Miss’ Evan Engram, one of the NCAA’s TE leaders in receptions. Long arms (33 3/8 inches) serve him well to disengage and battle with tight ends. Extremely versatile defender and made several key plays on third and fourth downs and also in the red zone. Also was one of the best special teamers in the country, lining up as a jammer and gunner on the punt teams and has the temperament to cover kickoffs very well in the NFL. A high-floor prospect who will contribute in some way. Has had a clean medical history.

Downside: Will whiff on some tackle attempts and let runners slip through his grasp. Misses while going for knockout blows but also can be dragged downfield when trying to tackle from behind (see Florida game). Will overrun some plays in run support and give up room for cutbacks. Too aggressive reading quarterbacks’ eyes and can be stung by play-action. Got away with some extra contact downfield at times that could be flagged more often in the NFL with touchy referees and vague pass-interference and defensive holding rule interpretation.

Not outstanding in space. A bit sluggish when retreating. Even with good reaction skills, he can arrive a step late. Displayed some very average athletic testing numbers at the NFL scouting combine (although tested better at his pro day). Might struggle to help contain taller receiving targets. Likely can’t cover the Gronks of the NFL, for instance. Good but not great playmaker — only forced six turnovers in extended action past three seasons. Shouldn’t be asked to cover half the field in deep coverage, which limits a coordinator’s play-calling ability a bit.

Scouting hot take: “I played with a guy who is on the staff there, and he’s never [bamboozled] me on a player before. Said [Adams] is one of the best kids, best leaders they’ve had. Just lives and breathes football and holds guys accountable. He’s a sheriff Day 1, and he can play too. I think he’s more of a box guy, which does scare me a bit [about where he’s projected to be drafted].” — AFC assistant coach

Player comp: Similar in style to Tony Jefferson and Landon Collins

Expected draft range: Top-15 pick

Previous profiles

Nos. 51-100: Here’s who just missed the cut
No. 50: Indiana OG-C Dan Feeney
No. 49: Iowa DB Desmond King
No. 48: Vanderbilt LB Zach Cunningham
No. 47: Wisconsin pass rusher T.J. Watt
No. 46. Alabama pass rusher Tim Williams
No. 45. Washington CB Sidney Jones
No. 44. Alabama LB Ryan Anderson
No. 43. Ohio State WR-RB Curtis Samuel
No. 42. Florida DT Caleb Brantley
No. 41. Connecticut DB Obi Melifonwu
No. 40. USC CB-KR Adoree’ Jackson
No. 39. Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes
No. 38. Michigan State DL Malik McDowell
No. 37: Ole Miss TE Evan Engram
No. 36: Florida LB Jarrad Davis
No. 35: Washington S Budda Baker
No. 34: Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon
No. 33: Alabama CB Marlon Humphrey
No. 32: Florida CB Quincy Wilson
No. 31: Tennessee RB Alvin Kamara
No. 30: Michigan DB-RS Jabrill Peppers
No. 29: Alabama OT Cam Robinson
No. 28: Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer
No. 27: LSU CB Tre’Davious White
No. 26: Missouri DE Charles Harris
No. 25: UCLA pass rusher Takkarist McKinley
No. 24: Michigan DE Taco Charlton
No. 23: Wisconsin OT Ryan Ramczyk
No. 22: Utah OT Garett Bolles
No. 21: Western Kentucky OG-C Forrest Lamp
No. 20: Florida State RB Dalvin Cook
No. 19: Miami (Fla.) TE David Njoku
No. 18: Tennessee DE Derek Barnett
No. 17: Clemson QB Deshaun Watson
No. 16: North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky
No. 15: Washington WR John Ross
No. 14: Clemson WR Mike Williams
No. 13: Western Michigan WR Corey Davis
No. 12: Temple LB Haason Reddick
No. 11: Ohio State CB Gareon Conley
No. 10: Alabama TE O.J. Howard
No. 9: Stanford RB-WR-RS Christian McCaffrey
No. 8: Alabama LB Reuben Foster
No. 7: Ohio State S Malik Hooker
No. 6: Alabama DL Jonathan Allen

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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