Almost from the moment he entered the NFL with the New York Giants, Landon Collins has been one of the most valuable defensive backs in fantasy football. Back in 2016, the 25-year-old (who just signed a whopper of a free agent contract with the Washington Redskins) logged 125 total tackles, 100 solo stops and was the highest scoring IDP overall in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring.
As such, when draftniks start calling a player the “next Landon Collins,” many in the IDP community are going to take notice. And that’s just what Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com said about Mississippi State’s Johnathan Abram after the 5’11”, 205-pounder peeled off a 4.45-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
“NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah called Abram one of his “favorite players in the whole draft” and it’s easy to see why with a rare strength and speed combination,” Dunleavy wrote. “Abram has some of the same qualities as Giants’ three-time Pro Bowler Landon Collins, where he gives up something in coverage to be a box safety and a nickel linebacker. Collins was the first pick of the second round in 2015 and could be one of the top free agents on the 2019 by day’s end.”
Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, on the other hand, touted Abram’s physicality and prowess against the run in an era when many NFL teams covet strong safeties capable of playing nickel linebacker as well.
“Blunt force-striker with the “measurables” and play demeanor teams look for from a down safety with nickel linebacker qualities,” he said. “Abrams did an admirable job in coverage in Mississippi State’s scheme but might not have the anticipation and ball skills to hold up in extended coverage duties. Abrams shines as a physical run defender with pursuit speed and energy to play sideline to sideline. He grades out as one of the better options for teams looking to deploy an effective “big nickel” defender near the box.”
Jon Ledyard of Draft Network loves Abram’s toughness and playing style, but worries that his limitations in coverage could cap his NFL ceiling. “This man would sooner put you in the hospital than put the ball in the end zone,” Ledyard said. “Abram plays a certifiable crazy brand of football, showing outstanding physicality and competitive toughness regardless of where he lines up. Still, his limitations in coverage show up too often and he won’t make many plays on the ball. I’d love to have him on my team as a box safety with the potential to develop in man coverage as a big slot defensive back, but the value for a player like that doesn’t exactly line up with Abram’s first round hype.”
Colleague Kyle Crabbs agrees—Abram’s a punishing hitter, but his issues in coverage could prove a major roadblock to an every-down role. “Abram fits the mold of a traditional strong safety,” Crabbs wrote. “He’s a booming hitter with an impressive resume as a run defender in the box. In today’s NFL, Abram will struggle to see the field on an every-down basis. There are reps of Abram playing off man coverage, but he lacks the spring and burst to play reliable one on one coverage in passing situations. Abram could transition successfully to a nickel LB and a strong piece of a rotation based on personnel groupings.”
Still, there have been those in the draft community who believe that Abram, who logged 99 total tackles, nine tackles for loss, three sacks and two interceptions for the Bulldogs in 2018, could find his way into the back of Round 1. Shawn Wagner of Acme Packing Company listed Abram as a potential target for the Green Bay Packers, although that was admittedly prior to the Pack signing veteran Adrian Amos.
“Described as a “throwback” safety,” he wrote, “Abram’s game is passionate and relentless, attributes the Packers’ defense could benefit from. He brings a thump to any and all ball-carriers and learned to harness that physicality enough to better avoid personal foul penalties as a senior. Although his aggressiveness has led to blown coverages on occasion, notably a long touchdown pass against Iowa in the Outback Bowl, Abram improved greatly with experience. A major issue of the Packers’ deep half of the secondary was tackling this past season and Abram would shore up that area of weakness immediately as one of the draft’s best tacklers from the safety position.”
Eric Edholm of Yahoo Sports predicted that Abram could go even earlier—to the Indianapolis Colts at pick No. 36. “GM Chris Ballard has said he wants Clayton Geathers back, and that might be true,” Edholm said. “But Ballard might fall in love with Abram during the pre-draft run-up, and opt to take a perfect player and leader for this emerging team. Abram has impressed at every stage to this point and showed enough athleticism to warrant first-round merit. Abram’s hitting and ferocious style will hearken back to the Bob Sanders days, and it could help keep Malik Hooker in more of a playmaking, centerfield role.”
As with most rookie IDPs, landing spot will play a huge part in Abram’s value early in his career. How his new team plans to use him will be massively important. Will they imagine him as a full-time safety? A “hybrid” type? Does that team have a defensive coordinator savvy enough to play to his strengths while concealing his weaknesses?
All are questions that won’t be answered until at least April 25—and quite possibly not until the day after.
But just like Landon Collins, Abram’s ferociousness as a hitter and ability to stuff the run is a skill-set tailor made for IDP production. If he can land close to an every-down role early in his career, he’s going to be the defensive back to own from the Class of 2019.
Sometimes, being a “throwback” isn’t so bad—at least in IDP.