2020 NFL Draft | Suddenly, Grant Delpit is now underrated


Entering the college football season, LSU’s Grant Delpit was seen as a potential top 10 selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. After a sophomore season where his versatility was on full display (74 tackles, five sacks, five interceptions), Delpit was a favorite due to his size, athleticism and pro projection in coverage.

During the 2019 season, Delpit’s draft stock seemingly took a hit, despite the fact that he was voted at the Jim Thorpe Award winner for best defensive back in the country. LSU’s defense was dominant for certain stretches this season, but Delpit’s play regressed from the season prior because of missed tackles that hurt the defense’s production at times.

Delpit decided against testing at the NFL Scouting Combine, and will now be one of the many prospects who go without a pro day this draft cycle. While Delpit was sitting out of the Combine, other safety prospects had strong athletic testing that improved their stock, possibly at Delpit’s expense. 

Looking at Delpit’s film, he can still make special plays while in coverage and has advanced alignment flexibility. The narrative surrounding him as a prospect has shifted, as rumors have swirled that he’s not even considered as a top three to four safety prospect and is increasingly likely to fall out of the first round. The shift in perception is unwarranted, as the value of Delpit’s skill-set has somehow become underrated.

Delpit’s range on the backend allows him to play in single-high defensive structures, as he can fly towards the sideline and make plays on the ball. He has the size and speed to dislodge the ball with contact while having the ball skills to disrupt the catch point. On top of that, his speed allows him to get on top of and blanket vertical routes.

Delpit has the short-area quickness and fluid route breaks to play man coverage against tight ends, bigger slot receivers or even running backs. He’ll utilize a “T” step to close on the receiver, showing consistent and refined footwork at the top of the route with fluid hips and transitions.

While having versatility in coverage is valuable for a safety, the number of reps where that matters can be limited if they’re not equally as versatile against the run. Delpit, despite his tackling issues, has the strength, athletic profile and instincts to play the run from all three levels. He’ll aggressively fit and fill from the middle of the field, split-safety alignments or from the overhang spot.

LSU would trust Delpit to set the edge in certain defensive looks, being responsible for the “C” gap directly outside of the offensive tackle. Deplit was surprisingly effective in this area, as he has the quickness to work around blocks and make plays in the backfield while having the size to hold his ground. This isn’t a full-time role for him, but Delpit can provide splash plays from the edge.

Speaking of splash plays, Delpit (6-2, 213 pounds) finished with seven sacks over the past two seasons. Some of those came from rushing the edge, while others came when he blitzed from depth. With his athletic tools and size, he rapidly closes ground towards the pocket and provides pressure. Delpit’s versatility in coverage and as a blitzer makes him a potentially dominant third down defender.

Delpit’s natural instincts for the game can’t be understated, as he was relied upon to get the defensive backfield set and check when necessary. On top of that, he has a feel of when to pass off routes in zone coverage or come out of coverage completely to attack a scrambling quarterback. Against Florida, Delpit had a rep where he smothered star tight end Kylie Pitts before reacting to quarterback run and getting the stop short of the first down.

The main negative on Delpit’s film is his tackling, but it’s not for a lack of effort. There are two issues with Delpit’s technique that result in broken or missed tackles.

Delpit is well coached, and does a good job of gathering his feet while keeping them active. His issue is that he doesn’t close the space between him and the ball carrier well enough, allowing them to create more space to either side away from his grasp. The other issue with Delpit’s technique is that he’ll drop his eyes when he goes to wrap the ball carrier, rarely getting the strong grasp necessary to stop their momentum.

While Grant Delpit’s tackling issues are cause for concern, it shouldn’t be enough to keep him out of the first round. Delpit is a rare athlete from a size and speed perspective, and his coverage ability could completely transform the backend of a defense. Delpit could have a similar impact in coverage that Minkah FItzpatrick had on the Steelers defense — unlocking a diverse scheme with reliable play over the top. Beyond that, Delpit’s versatility could make him an eraser in the slot, an increasingly valuable position in the NFL.

The value of that skill-set from a true junior should result in a first-round grade from NFL teams.