Jaden Hicks’ Draft Profile | Washington State, S Scouting Report

For NFL teams in search of a ferocious box safety with additional versatility, Jaden Hicks has the 2024 NFL Draft scouting report to generate appeal.

In an unsettled 2024 NFL Draft safety class, could Washington State’s Jaden Hicks rise up the board with his scouting report?

In the right role, the Cougars’ standout could be a game-changer for an NFL defense, and he has the profile to provide value across the board.

Jaden Hicks’ Draft Profile and Measurements

  • Height: 6’1 7/8″
  • Weight: 211 pounds
  • Length: 31 1/2″
  • Wingspan: 76 1/4″
  • Hand: 9 3/8″
  • Position: Safety
  • School: Washington State
  • Current Year: Redshirt Sophomore

Due in part to his senior high school season being canceled by COVID-19, Hicks was undersold as a recruit at the national level. But the signs of greatness were there.

Hicks attended Bishop Gorman High School — a known football factory in Las Vegas — where, as a junior, he earned First-Team All-State honors, racking up 27 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, seven interceptions, and 10 pass deflections.

A year off caused many to forget about Hicks, but the Washington State Cougars didn’t. They signed him as a three-star recruit, and after a redshirt year as a true freshman, he broke onto the scene in 2022.

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In 2022, Hicks put up 76 tackles, two total tackles for loss, a sack, an interception, and six pass breakups. Then, in 2023, he upped the ante with 79 tackles, six total TFLs, 2.5 sacks, two picks, and four PBUs.

Hicks’ production earned him a place on the Senior Bowl roster as one of few underclassmen to be included. At the NFL Combine, he impressed with his athletic testing, logging a 37.5″ vertical. And later, he’d run a strong 4.49-second 40-yard dash at his pro day.

From the start, Hicks has checked all the boxes. Now, all that’s left is to take one last look at the tape and see where he might translate best at the NFL level.

Hicks’ Scouting Report

Strengths

  • Well-sized safety prospect with great length, mass, play strength, and physicality.
  • Active communicator who can play two-high, single-high, big nickel, and weak-side LB.
  • Has the explosiveness, speed, and range to erase boundary running lanes in pursuit.
  • Has shown he can flip his hips, then turn and run vertically with WRs out of the slot.
  • Can glide and sink off pedal transitions, then use corrective twitch to regain positioning.
  • Able to quickly process misdirection plays and recover positioning on the chase.
  • Can pass off slot WRs in zone, then flow to the boundary to undercut comebacks.
  • Able to pick off and envelop running backs sneaking through gaps on passing downs.
  • Can recognize WRs seeping out on play-action fakes and hurry to maintain hip leverage.
  • Relentless closer at contact who can violently slab crossing WRs and jar passes loose.
  • Expertly snakes downhill through running lanes and can break down to swallow up RBs.
  • Strong form tackler who can lower his shoulder, drive his base, and finish in pursuit.
  • Has the strength and absorption technique to set the edge against lead-blocking TEs.
  • Fiery blitzer who can attack across gaps and scrape past blocking RBs with his length.
  • Able to track the ball downfield and play through the catch point with strong hands.

Weaknesses

  • Recovery speed, while very good, falls short of the elite mark.
  • Doesn’t quite have the high-end foot speed or swivel fluidity to translate in press-man.
  • Is occasionally too tall on his pedal, which can cause slight delays on transitions.
  • Doesn’t quite have elite hip fluidity when shifting from his pedal to plant and drive.
  • Needs to supplement sharp open-field transitions with gather steps, delaying diversions.
  • Sometimes drifts a bit too far back on his pedal, giving extra cushion over top stems.
  • At times, can be a tick late to turn upfield and get depth after play-action fakes.
  • Can be baited into oversetting at stems by foot-fire releases, giving space inside.
  • Is at times late to get his head around and track the ball while carrying vertically.
  • Plays with excellent physicality but can be a bit uncontrolled when engaging blocks.
  • Can improve leveraging and base load working across-face versus second-level blocks.
  • On occasion, merely surges into contact and fails to properly wrap up as a tackler.

Current Draft Projection and Summary

Hicks grades out as a top-75 prospect in the 2024 NFL Draft. For teams needing a strong safety with coverage and support versatility, he’s worthy of mid-Day 2 capital and would be an exceptional value acquisition in the middle rounds.

On his film at Washington State, the 21-year-old Hicks stands out as an active communicator and defensive leader on the back end who can wear a host of different hats.

Hicks flourishes in two-high and as a box safety who can crash gaps and set the edge, but he’s also shown he can rotate back to single-high, play overhang slot as a big nickel DB, or even file in as a weak-side LB and hover over RBs sneaking into the flats.

Hicks doesn’t quite have the brand of athleticism or short-area mobility to survive in press-man against NFL wideouts, and his lack of elite recovery speed, transition freedom, and ball-tracking ability can also limit his utility in single-high.

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Nevertheless, Hicks has the requisite intelligence, positional awareness, and gliding athleticism to play in single-high and nickel looks in off-man and zone, and he thrives as a two-high and box safety who can carry WRs with his speed, snap out of his pedal, slab WRs at the catch point, and close downhill in support.

Best utilized as a split safety in two-high looks and as a high-octane support DB in middle-field closed alignments, Hicks can be an impact starter at his maximum. He’s a relentless competitor with sharp instincts against the run, and he has the coverage versatility to make life easier for his teammates.

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