The Super Bowl may be over, but that doesn’t mean the football season is. All 32 NFL franchises and hardcore football fans are looking forward to the NFL Draft on April 27th to see who will take their team to the next level with top level college talent.
In the coming weeks, I will be giving you my opinion on the different prospects in this year’s draft. I’ll be providing insight on where a player might be drafted by looking at their game film, (at least two to three games) their physical stats, game stats, and giving you opinions from other notable draft analysts that break down players the way I cannot.
With 95 underclassmen alone declaring for the draft, I will not be able to grade and report on all prospects. My goal is to grade as many as I can in the next two and a half months while I cope without any football to watch.
My first prospect is on the defensive side of the ball. Nathan Gerry, (pronounced like Gary) a Free Safety from the University of Nebraska.
Name: Nathan Gerry
College: Nebraska University
Born: February 23, 1995 (age 21 years)
Year: Senior (Captain) #25
Hometown: Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Additional Information and college stats
A captain on the Nebraska defense, Nate Gerry brings a lot of experience to the table, playing in every game except for two (both during his senior season) since he began his freshman campaign in 2013. Also a starter since the 2014 season, Gerry is one of the leaders on this defense and brings intensity from the short film I’ve seen of him.
If one word comes to mind when I watch Nathan Gerry, it’s instincts.
Whether it’s sniffing out a screen pass, maneuvering through offensive lineman to make a play in the backfield, or reading the quarterback’s eyes, he has the awareness that you want in a safety.
Check out these plays against Wyoming
On the first video clip, Gerry (located on the 1 of the Big Ten logo) recognizes the lineman going out to block for the slip screen and immediately attacks the play resulting in an incomplete pass.
And on the second play, he does a great job of accelerating to the play side of the ball, not falling for the play action fake, stepping passed the tight end coming up to block him and making a stop in the backfield.
Gerry’s ability to see plays develop in the backfield is what got him to be captain of the cornhusker’s defense. A safety with intellect can cause problems for opposing offenses as so many plays are in motion, play action, or some other variation of a fake. Many big plays rely on these fakes to catch the safety’s off guard, but Gerry doesn’t get fooled often as proven by Pro Football Focus’s Josh Liskiewitz.
— Josh Liskiewitz (@PFF_Josh) January 28, 2017
He can be overpowered however, Oregon’s quarterback Dakota Prukop trucked Gerry for a first down late in the 4th quarter. Gerry was still great against Prukop as he stopped him twice in the backfield for tackles for loss on QB read options. His run defense has improved over his career at Nebraska and displays strength on his hits. He is not afraid to attack the ball carrier, as he wrapped up Wyoming Running Back and NFL prospect Brian Hill multiple times.
In terms of coverage ability, Gerry does a great job feeling for the receiver in zone coverage. Always observing the Quarterback’s eyes, he is able to adjust and play the ball quite well and rarely getting beat deep. His press coverage is also admirable, showing his strength and being able to match up well on Tight Ends.
The clip above displays Gerry in a great position to deflect the pass. Reading Prukop’s eyes, Gerry is able to deny a touchdown by knowing where his receiver is and making a nice jump on the ball forcing the incompletion. if Gerry doesn’t feel for the Oregon receiver correctly, the ball could go sailing over his head for six points.
There have been notable plays where Gerry gets beaten inside and have resulted in big gains. One against Oregon is displayed below.
Gerry (circled at the beginning of the gif even though he is not visible until later) is playing single high safety in Cover 1 Man. His job is to prevent anyone from beating him over the deep middle on 4th & 4 but does get beat inside as he oversteps on the route. It really is a great throw by Dakota Prukop as he leads his receiver inside for the big gain, but Gerry could’ve easily at least laid a hand on the ball or hit the receiver to break up the pass. This is only one bad play, but it shows that Gerry could use some improvement over the middle of the field.
While Gerry is known for his hard playing style, it has gotten him into problems. On more than one occasion he has been ejected for illegal helmet to helmet hits and cost his team yards with these penalties. This can easily be corrected, but it will be marked by scouts and franchises that are targeting Gerry (pun intended) in the draft.
The one thing that will knock down Gerry is something that can also be seen as a positive, his position. Gerry went to the University of Nebraska as a linebacker but transitioned to safety his freshman year. I’ve seen him hover over all different parts of the field, playing outside linebacker, free safety, strong safety, coming up to blitz and playing as a single high safety. It’s good to be versatile and able to excel in so many areas, but some teams will see him as a safety that’s too slow to cover receivers and too small to play in the box. Safety/linebacker hybrid Jabrill Peppers is looked at, in the same manner, causing his draft stock to dip down to the late 1st round instead of higher. But Gerry isn’t anywhere close the athlete Peppers is, and I think he’ll need a good combine to get drafted on day 2.
As of now, I see Nathan Gerry being drafted in the 4th-5th round in the 2017 draft. Gerry can be a crucial part of a team’s nickel or dime package, very similar to Kansas City Chiefs LB/S Daniel Sorensen. Popular fits for the Nebraska safety will be with teams that like to play with three safeties, bringing one down to play linebacker in a Dime formation. Teams like the Broncos, Patriots, and Chiefs like to play this kind of defense on third down or when there are three or more receivers on the field.
The combine, interviews and Nebraska’s pro day are still great opportunities for Gerry to enhance his draft stock. In the next two months, a team could fall in love with his ability to read plays and his great coverage ability, while seeing his versatility as a positive.