Yahoo Sports' top 2020 NFL draft prospects, No. 37: LSU S Grant Delpit

Yahoo Sports
Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports
Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports

37. LSU S Grant Delpit

6-foot-2, 213 pounds 

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.98 — starter potential

TL;DR scouting report: Tackling issues a legit concern, but Delpit’s range, instincts and athletic traits make him a projectable starting safety.

The skinny: A 4-star Rivals recruit (and top 100 nationally), Delpit selected the Tigers over several schools from around the country, including SEC programs such as Alabama. (He even was recruited by academic powers such as Harvard.)

As a true freshman in 2017, Delpit played in 13 games (10 starts), and in 2018, Delpit emerged as one of the best defensive backs in the country, earning unanimous first-team All-American and first-team All-SEC mention. Delpit had surgery to repair a broken collarbone he suffered in LSU’s 2018 spring game. 

Despite taking a step backward in his play in 2019, Delpit won the Jim Thorpe Award winner as the nation’s top defensive back and was voted second-team AP All-America and first-team all-conference. He notched 65 tackles (4.5 for loss), two sacks, two interceptions and seven pass breakups in 14 starts for the national champs.

Delpit, who turns 22 in August, declared early for the 2020 NFL draft. He attended the NFL scouting combine but only participated in weigh-in, medical eval and interviews, opting to wait for his pro day (which never happened) to be 100 percent healed from the high-ankle sprain he suffered in October.

LSU safety Grant Delpit during the CFP national championship game against Clemson at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Jan. 13, 2020. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
LSU safety Grant Delpit during the CFP national championship game against Clemson at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Jan. 13, 2020. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

Upside: Ideal height and weight for the position. Fluid athlete who carries his weight extremely well. Outstanding range to play single-high coverages and patrol the middle of the field. Very good instincts for the position. Strong football IQ and knowledge of the game.

Coverage awareness is advanced for an underclassman. Breaks on throws in a flash, even those outside the numbers, and arrives with good timing. Smart, disciplined and instinctive in coverage — only four penalties in nearly 2,500 career snaps, and only one was a pass interference call. Seldom beat deep.

This is the kind of play from 2018 that still gets evaluators excited. Watch as Delpit starts the play between the far-side hashmarks, keys on the eyes of Ole Miss QB Jordan Ta'amu and breaks on the sideline pass the moment Ta'amu commits to throwing it — and the diving INT is just the icing on the cake:

Watch Delpit break on the ball and cover a lot of ground for a diving INT.
Watch Delpit break on the ball and cover a lot of ground for a diving INT.

Plus-level ability to carry tight ends down the seam in man coverage. Played in the “quarters” spot extensively in 2018 where he showed he can man up vs. tight ends, cover the slot, blitz and help as a run defender. Also can play single-high or split-safety look, as he did more of in 2019. Nice versatility to act as back-half chess piece. Perfect addition to “big nickel” packages.

Aggressive player who smells blood in the water. Nose for the ball — eight interceptions, 32 passes defended, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in 40 career games. Ball skills of a receiver. Times up blitzes well — seven career sacks, plus 13 total pressures (per PFF) on 39 pass-rush reps in 2018.

Physical, urgent and energetic run defender who will throw his body into the mix. Better health allowed him to play more freely and confidently. Tough player who fought through early-season ankle injury that lingered and late-season shoulder pain that cropped up.

Downside: Well-documented tackling concerns not overblown — 20 missed tackles in first 11 games. Often fired into ball carriers with shoulder-tackle attempts (often right shoulder) and would fail to wrap up — appeared to favor surgically repaired left side. Here’s a great example of Delpit crashing down hard on the quick screen to Texas WR Devin Duvernay but failing to bring him down in space:

This was one of two missed tackles by Delpit against the Longhorns.
This was one of two missed tackles by Delpit against the Longhorns.

Can be hyper-aggressive — three personal foul calls past two seasons. Comes flying into the action a bit recklessly and will take suspect angles to the ball at times. Tackling consistency not just a 2019 thing and can’t be blamed on the ankle — 16 missed tackles charted in 2018 season as well. Likely requires technique breakdown at next level.

Playmaking leveled off last season — only two interceptions, five passes defended. Alabama, Ole Miss and Clemson were not afraid to go after him in coverage. Guessed wrong on some RPOs past two seasons — aggressiveness will work against him. Occasional busts in coverage. Might lack top-end speed to match with NFL deep receivers.

Might not have the sheer bulk to be a full-time box safety. Can do better job taking on blocks. Durability is a lingering concern. Isn’t the alpha-dog, fiery leader that predecessor Jamal Adams was. (Leadership likely will come in other forms, however.)

Best-suited destination: Delpit’s strange 2019 season makes his evaluation trickier, but we’re still talking about a top-shelf talent who should emerge in a starting role. He’s versatile enough to play up or back and can emerge as a very good player if he cleans up his tackling.

Among the teams we think could be interested in Delpit’s services include the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins, Carolina Panthers, Detroit Lions, Las Vegas Raiders, Minnesota Vikings, Los Angeles Rams, Washington Redskins, New England Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars.

Did you know: Delpit was honored with the right to wear the prestigious No. 7 jersey in 2019 — joining a select group in recent years that included Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Leonard Fournette and D.J. Chark. It’s annually given to the player who is deemed to be the team’s best playmaker.

The honor will be passed on to WR Ja’Marr Chase — perhaps the top returning wideout in the country —in 2020.

They said it: “He won the Thorpe, which just shows people vote for names they recognize at certain positions. If you just showed me [his 2019 tape], I’d say he was a third-rounder, maybe a fourth. He’s a good player, and you have to watch 2018 tape as well to get the full picture. The staff really likes him and advocated for him, but it’s going to take a team that trusts he’s going to improve as a tackler and be that same player again.” 

— AFC area scout

Player comp: As a center fielder, Delpit shows some traits similar to the Saints’ Marcus Williams. As a box safety, he has skills similar to the Packers’ Adrian Amos.

Expected draft range: It still feels likely that Delpit will crack the top 50 picks, but his stock has stagnated a bit. It would not at all be stunning if he is the third safety drafted.

Previous prospect rankings: Nos. 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-66 | 65-61 | 60-56 | 55-51 | 50. DT Justin Madubuike | 49. CB Damon Arnette | 48. OT Ezra Cleveland | 47. WR KJ Hamler | 46. CB A.J. Terrell | 45. RB Cam Akers | 44. DL Ross Blacklock | 43. OT Josh Jones | 42. DT Jordan Elliott | 41. C Cesar Ruiz | 40. S Kyle Dugger | 39. EDGE Terrell Lewis | 38. WR Laviska Shenault Jr. | 37. S Grant Delpit | 36. Jonathan Taylor | 35. WR Brandon Aiyuk | 34. EDGE Zack Baun | 33. EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos | 32. CB Jeff Gladney | 31. QB Jordan Love | 30. CB Trevon Diggs | 29. EDGE A.J. Epenesa | 28. RB JK Dobbins | 27. WR Justin Jefferson | 26. WR Tee Higgins | 25. S Xavier McKinney | 24. WR Jalen Reagor | 23. CB Kristian Fulton | 22. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire | 21. WR Denzel Mims | 20. LB Kenneth Murray | 19. RB D’Andre Swift | 18. QB Justin Herbert | 17. LB Patrick Queen | 16. WR Henry Ruggs III | 15. EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson | 14. WR Jerry Jeudy | 13. OT Mekhi Becton | 12. DT Javon Kinlaw | 11. OT Andrew Thomas | 10. OT Tristan Wirfs | 9. WR CeeDee Lamb | 8. OT Jedrick Wills Jr. | 7. CB CJ Henderson | 6. LB-S Isaiah Simmons | 5. DT Derrick Brown | 4. QB Tua Tagovailoa | 3. CB Jeffrey Okudah | 2. QB Joe Burrow | 1. Chase Young

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