Versatile defensive backs capable of playing both safety and cornerback (a la players like Kansas City’s Tyrann Mathieu and Denver’s Kareem Jackson, who both signed lucrative free-agent deals in the offseason) are highly coveted in today’s NFL. And in the Class of 2019, there may not be a player better equipped to do that than Delaware’s Nasir Adderley.
Adderley may have played at an FCS school, but after racking up 87 total tackles (including 1.5 for loss) and four interceptions for the Blue Hens in 2018, the 6-foot, 206-pound second-team FCS All-American is a favorite of The Draft Network’s Jon Ledyard.
“One of the most exciting things about being a draft evaluator is finding players like Adderley (who) you never expected to be anything special, yet they blow you away on tape,” Ledyard said. “The toughest thing about Adderley’s evaluation was finding a weakness, as he appears to be a top-notch athlete with exceptional short-area quickness and fluidity, while also possessing the ability to open up and cover ground with speed and range as a single-high safety.
“He’s incredibly physical, bringing the fight to everyone on the field without sacrificing technique or responsibility,” he continued. “I think he’ll check in around 205 pounds with an ideal build for a deep safety, yet also perfectly sized to slide into the slot against all types of receivers when a team needs that role filled as well. The only real question mark with Adderley is the level of competition he faces, as he wasn’t targeted a ton and will need to adjust some to the speed of the NFL game.”
Ledyard’s colleague Kyle Crabbs is similarly impressed by Adderley’s tape.
“Adderley is the latest small school prospect to serve as a reminder that high quality football players come from every level,” he said. “Adderley has high end coverage skills and tackling, making him a desirable candidate to start in a single high role on defense. His projection would pair best in a man scheme, where he is then able to focus on prowling for the football as compared to passing off coverages. Adderley has excellent anticipation and ball skills and can be an impact starter.”
As Kyle Martin reported for the (Oakland) Raiders website, Adderley also made quite the impression on Oakland defensive backs coach Derrick Ansley while the two were in Mobile, Ala., for the Senior Bowl in January.
“Very explosive, very instinctive,” Ansley said. “Really good ball skills in the deep part of the field. He’s a ball player, very instinctive, catches on quickly, plays at a high level with a high engine. Really like him, got a big time future. It’s a credit to him that he’s coming in here and attacking this the right way. He’s learning the defense, learning the intricacies of all those positions, and it just shows that he can learn them and go out there and be a field general.”
However, Adderley’s draft season hit a bit of a snag — after missing workouts at the combine with an ankle injury, Adderley pulled up lame on his first 40-yard dash attempt at Delaware’s Pro Day. Also, while Lance Zierlein of NFL.com compared Adderley to youngster Cincinnati’s Jessie Bates, he also allowed that Adderley’s game still needs work — and that a position switch to corner might be in his future.
“Defensive back with good size and length,” Zierlein wrote, “but tape that is filled with inconsistencies over the last couple of years. Adderley’s issues revolve around inconsistencies with recognition and response as a safety, which is why teams might opt to move him back to cornerback where his size, athletic ability and ball skills will be coveted.”
Still, there are plenty in the draft community who believe Adderley can play safety in the NFL. As a matter of fact, The Athletic’s Dane Brugler ranks Adderley as the No. 1 safety prospect in this year’s crop.
“Several NFL teams won’t draft safeties below 200 pounds, but he runs the alley with conviction and finishes in space,” Bugler writes. “Overall, Adderley has the bad habit of taking the cheese, but he has the essential ingredients of a starting NFL free safety with his play speed, toughness and ball skills, projecting best in a single-high role.”
There are also those in the draft community who think Adderley won’t make it out of the first round on April 25. Jake Meluskey of the Allentown Morning Call believes that Adderley could be a target for the Philadelphia Eagles at pick No. 25.
“Adderley is a player that most teams covet for his supreme athletic ability and versatility,” he said. “The Eagles were able to re-sign injury-riddled cornerback Ronald Darby but need to find a consistent playmaker in their secondary. Adderley projects as a safety/nickel-hybrid and would, most likely, make an impact immediately as a rookie.“
For Matt Miller of Bleacher Report, it’s Green Bay where Adderley begins his career — compliments of the second of its two first-rounders at No. 30.
“Adderley has experience as a cornerback and safety, which is ideal for today’s NFL in which defensive backs must have versatility,” Miller said. “He’s able to line up in the slot and on the outside in some matchups, and he can be an instant-impact safety. The Packers lack a do-it-all defensive back like Adderley and could find he’s the answer to matchups like Tarik Cohen, Kenny Golladay and Stefon Diggs in the NFC North.”
From an Individual Defensive Player (IDP) perspective, Adderley’s a hard prospect to peg. It’s not a matter of talent or potential — small-school prospect or no, Adderley has plenty of both. And as we saw with Mathieu, Jackson and even Bates in 2018 (all of whom finished as Top 15 fantasy defensive backs in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring in 2018), deep safeties and “hybrid” types can make plenty of IDP hay.
But even if Adderley lands in a favorable situation, he’s far from a sure thing in IDP leagues. He’ll not only need to be used in a manner that allows him opportunities to produce statistically, but Adderley will need to take advantage of those opportunities.
In other words, while there’s some potential fantasy upside present with Adderley, it comes with an extra side of speculation.