Throughout the summer, National Scout Jon Ledyard, Assistant Director Joe Marino and Scouting Director Kyle Crabbs will be conducting summer assessments on 99 notable senior prospects. Of these 99 seniors, the 33 most prominent will be covered by all three analysts.
Of the remaining 66, each of the three analysts has “drafted” 22 of them to scout exclusively.
This serves as the foundation for our 2018 draft assessments.
Scout: Jon Ledyard
Name: Quin Blanding
Date of Birth: 5/1/1996
High School: Bayside (VA)
Games Played: 36
Games Started: 36
Team Captain: No
Production: 358 total tackles, 6 interceptions, 15 passes broken up (PBU)
High School: Consensus 5-star recruit. Top-rated safety in the country from high school class. Considered a top 10 overall prospect according to 247, Rivals and ESPN. Played in the Under Armour All-American Game. Named All-American as a senior. Chose Virginia over Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, Tennessee, UCLA and others.
College: Sociology major. FWAA, ESPN and Scout.com Freshman All-American in 2014. 2014 2nd team All-ACC. 2015 USA Today 2nd team All-American. 2015 1st team All-ACC. 2016 2nd team All-American. 2016 1st team All-ACC. Bednarik and Nagurski Preseason Watch List.
Strengths: Size and strength are ideal. Patient, controlled tackler, both coming downhill in run support and in the open field. Rarely whiffs and has terrific form to wrap up and finish. Excellent diagnostic ability around the box to read keys and sift through trash fluidly to the ball. Run fills and angles to the football are typically sound. Diagnoses routes well and appears to have strong football IQ to position well on the back end. High effort player who constantly makes plays in pursuit. Physical and won’t hesitate to stick his nose into traffic. Read and reacts well to route breaks in front of him in deep coverage. Intangibles and leadership draw rave reviews.
Weaknesses: Minimal hitting power as a tackler, but gets guys to the ground consistently. Not an explosive closer on the ball and seems to lack much twitch to his game. Limited athlete with disappointing range and long speed. Tight in the hips to open up and will allow receivers in behind him vertically as a result. Tackle production a bit misleading as many are cleanup stops down the field. Often late to defend the catch point due to lack of burst moving forward or range moving to the sideline. Ball skills are minimized as a result. Does not appear to have single-high traits on tape.
Summary: Quin Blanding might not be an impressive enough athlete with desirable back end traits to catch the eye of many NFL teams, but he’s the type of player who could carve out a starting role nonetheless at the next level. The 36-game starter is an average athlete at best with limited range and twitch for the position. Blanding can struggle to get his hips around quickly to defend vertical routes, and the senior is often a hair late to defend the catch point due to his lack of burst moving back to the ball or long speed working to defend routes down the sideline.
But asking him to work in a smaller area, like Cover 2 shells or quarters, is where Blanding can be successful, as his diagnostic skills and route awareness are impressive. He’s a very cerebral player who reads and reacts well to the action in front of him, even if he isn’t the most explosive mover to the football. Blanding is one of the best tacklers in the upcoming class, consistently wrapping up in space or around the box with good form and consistency. Given Virginia’s defensive front, Blanding was constantly relied upon to make touchdown-saving stops down the field, and he did so with unbelievable regularity. He’s a very reliable last line of defense against the run, but he’ll also sift through trash to make stops around the box, showing the ability to key and diagnose efficiently.
Blanding’s role in the NFL could come as a strong safety that plays more around the box for teams that run a heavy amount of Cover 1 or Cover 3. He doesn’t have the ball skills or range to make a ton of plays on the back end in a single-high role, but Blanding could survive as a two-high safety with less field and space to worry about. I don’t know that he’ll ever be a highly desirable starter, but looking around at the starting safeties in the NFL, I’d be hard-pressed to believe that Blanding won’t be able to crack a lineup unless he really bombs the Combine.
Predicted Value Range: Mid-Late Day 2