Safeties have traditionally been undervalued in the NFL Draft, but that may soon change with the wave of modernization sweeping over the NFL. In today’s passing-oriented game, dynamic playmakers on the back end like Derwin James, Micah Hyde, and Jessie Bates III are becoming more and more valuable. With his NFL Draft scouting report, can Baylor safety JT Woods join the list?
JT Woods NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Safety
- School: Baylor
- Current Year: Senior
- Height: 6’1 6/8″
- Weight: 188 pounds
- Wingspan: 77 3/8″
- Length: 32 1/8″
- Hand: 8 3/8″
JT Woods Scouting Report
As the game of football evolves, safeties are being asked to do more and more. Simply standing on the back end and surveying the field isn’t good enough anymore. You have to be able to play at different depths. You have to be able to play in two-high or single-high, and be flexible as offenses use motion and deception to alter looks pre-snap. Above all, you have to be a playmaker — because you’re often relied upon when plays come your way.
There’s a lot of pressure that comes with the new role safeties hold in the NFL today. But there’s also immense opportunity. Safeties with the ability and versatility to hold their own are worth their weight in gold. They can be tone-setters for a defense, putting a lot of strain on offensive game plans week in and week out. Thus, finding the right safety can do wonders for your defense. Now it’s time to ask: Can Woods be that safety?
Woods’ athletic profile
Rare athletes can set themselves apart at the safety position. Woods might just be that kind of player.
Woods has a long, lanky frame standing at 6’2″, 188 pounds, but he’s also an explosive athlete with high-end speed and range. His long strides cover ground with dangerous efficiency, and he has the closing speed to erase separation and space for run-after-catch yards. With his range, Woods can come all the way across the field to make plays. He can also rocket into the box and seal off running lanes.
Woods’ ability to cover ground is eye-catching as plays develop, but his short-area burst is phenomenal. The Baylor safety launches forward out of his stance, gears up extremely quickly in shorter areas, and propels himself ahead with his burst. With this easy acceleration, Woods has an incredibly quick response time in run support. On play-action fakes, he can quickly shade out and match RBs on wheel routes.
There’s more to Woods’ athletic profile than explosiveness, of course. The Baylor safety is a reasonably fluid athlete who can flip his hips well for his size. He’s also a twitchy player with quick footwork in congestion. Woods adjusts his tackling angles quickly, and he has the sheer speed and flexion to compensate when he doesn’t take perfect angles. Moreover, Woods has the lateral agility to sidestep blocks and surge forward toward the line of scrimmage.
Execution beyond the physical traits
When playing in intermediate and deep coverage, Woods has shown he can process plays, follow the QB with his eyes, maintain spacing as routes develop, and trigger quickly. Woods generally does a good job getting proper depth, but he’s also able to close downhill and crush pass catchers coming across the middle. Woods snaps forward incredibly quickly out of his backpedal.
Expanding on Woods’ coverage, the Baylor safety positions himself well during scramble drills. He locks in on the QB and takes away windows. Furthermore, he positions himself well in the slot. Woods is not elite in man coverage, but he has the traits to be proficient there. Additionally, he’s able to jam receivers at stems and delay separation. When the ball comes his way, Woods flashes ball skills. He can be more authoritative at the catch point, but he’s shown to track the ball and snare it in midair.
Going further, Woods brings a surprising physical element, even with his leaner frame. His game has a physical edge, and he dishes out impressive hits coming downhill. The Baylor safety can deliver teeth-rattling hits and jar the ball loose as receivers seek to secure passes. But his physicality also shows up in more passive ways. Woods is willing to engage blockers and push with his hands. He also squares up and lowers his shoulders as a tackler, using his momentum and long frame to wrap up ball carriers in pursuit.
Another underrated aspect of Woods’ game is his hustle. When fumbles are forced near the line, Woods quickly recognizes it and sprints to the crowd, eager to capitalize on broken plays. He can also be a nightmare as a blitzer with his explosiveness.
Areas for improvement
Even as a multi-year starter, Woods can still further refine his game in some areas. While he has good processing capacity, he can be streaky in that phase. Woods sometimes gets drawn into over-pursuit by motion and can be late to flip his hips. He also gets drawn upfield a bit too much at times, giving up depth. There are instances where he can be more patient with positioning.
Going further, Woods can get baited into opening his hips outside by double-moves, leaving the middle of the field open. He can better maintain eye discipline at times, as he keys in quarterbacks by over-committing to intermediate routes on occasion. Woods can be quicker in the red zone reacting to quarterbacks’ eyes and breaking on plays.
Woods’ angles also have their rough moments. At times, he overshoots angles coming downhill. In a similar vein, he sometimes takes tighter angles and occasionally rounds off recovery paths. He also loses track of the ball on occasion, which causes more angle inconsistency.
Woods can also improve his efficiency of motion. Sometimes he has to gather himself as he flips his hips and can be caught flat-footed. Going further, Woods can do a better job sinking his hips in and out of transitions. He sometimes plays upright in transitions, which prevents him from using his full explosive capacity. Finally, Woods’ lighter frame does occasionally impact him. Most notably, he can struggle to get off blocks at the second level.
Woods’ 2022 NFL Draft scouting report overview
Safety is an easy position to be imperfect at. Safeties are relied upon as security blankets for defenses. Naturally, with so much on their plate, there are times when plays get away from them. Woods doesn’t break the trend. He can be more consistent with his angles and positioning, and there are moments where he incorrectly diagnoses plays.
Nevertheless, there’s far more good than bad with Woods. He’s shown to have the processing capacity to keep refining the rougher parts of his game. In multiple phases, he has the skill set to be a dynamic playmaker. He brings near-elite range on the back end, with the explosiveness, long speed, and length to cover inordinate amounts of ground.
But he’s also tough and physical coming into the box, with the traits to be an enforcer in the run game. Woods projects reasonably well moving around the secondary with his athleticism.
Early on, Woods is best as a deep safety in two-high and single-high looks, but his ability to play at different depths and adapt is extremely valuable. You rarely find defensive backs with ball-hawking and enforcing traits all in one, but that’s what Woods provides. He’s quickly trending up late in draft season. If he tests as well as expected, he could reasonably crack the top 75 — or maybe even the top 50.
Woods’ Player Profile
It’s the NFL we’re talking about; 95% of the players are faster than the average civilian. To simply be an NFL athlete is a rare feat, but there are a select few who even surpass their counterparts. There’s speed, and then there’s speed. Woods has speed — in italics. In fact, he’s had it since his early days playing the sport of football.
In high school, Woods played DB while also participating in track. He wasn’t a top producer on his team, but his 6’2″ frame allured scouts, and so too did his clear explosive upside. He ran a 10.64 in the 100-meter dash — an eye-popping number relative to other speed demons of the past (John Ross, who famously ran a 4.22 40-yard dash, ran a 10.66 100-meter dash in high school).
Woods’ brand of speed was more over longer distances, but the Baylor safety still logged a 4.62 and a 35.2-inch vertical in high school testing. His play on the field only warranted a three-star recruit status. But among offers from Army, Columbia, and Brown, he received a chance to play for the Baylor Bears in the Big 12. Before long, he capitalized on it.
Woods’ career at Baylor
Woods was very much an athlete still learning the game of football when he arrived at Baylor. However, that didn’t stop him from earning opportunities, both on special teams and as a rotational defender.
As a true freshman, Woods accounted for 18 tackles, a sack, and 2 pass deflections. The next season, the Baylor safety doubled his tackle output with 36, adding 2 tackles for loss, a sack, and 3 fumble recoveries.
Having started five games in 2019, Woods quickly rose up the pecking order. And in 2020, he arrived as a full-time starter on Dave Aranda’s defensive squad. Over a nine-game season, Woods registered 46 tackles, a half-tackle for loss, 3 interceptions, and a pass deflection. It was a strong year for Woods, but the Baylor safety wasn’t done yet. He came back in 2021 and only expanded on those numbers.
For a second consecutive season in 2021, Woods both led his team in interceptions and earned All-Big 12 honorable mention recognition. The Baylor safety amassed 57 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss in 14 games, to go along with 5 interceptions, 2 deflections, a fumble recovery, and a touchdown. 3 of his interceptions came in the final two games of the season — the conference championship and a bowl game against Ole Miss.
Woods’ NFL Draft ascension
Woods was a late addition to the Senior Bowl roster, but that addition was significant, nonetheless. Not only did it confirm that there is real NFL interest in Woods, but it also gives him a chance to showcase his skills live in front of NFL evaluators. With his dual-sided ability to make plays in coverage and impose his will in physical situations, Woods has an opportunity to abruptly boost his stock in Mobile.
Woods’ athletic testing will also be important, but the Baylor safety projects very well there. His 6’2″ frame is visibly long on tape, and he already had a 35-inch vertical in high school before entering a college athletic training program. Rumored to have 4.3 speed, Woods could be one of the top performers at the NFL Combine. If he is, it’s hard to distinguish a clear-cut ceiling for his stock. Yet, he no doubt has early-round potential.
Tony Pauline’s scouting report for JT Woods
Positives: Athletic safety with the speed and instincts to play on Sundays. Does a terrific job recognizing and picking up coverage assignments, tracks the pass in the air, and possesses excellent hands for the interception. Take proper angles to the action, has a burst to the ball out of his plant, and gets vertical to defend passes. Drives his shoulders through ball handlers and forces fumbles. Fires upfield to defend the run and wraps up tackling. Plays tough, aggressive football but also shows great awareness.
Negatives: Shows stiffness and limited quickness. Struggles redirecting to the action, which results in missed tackles. Does not display great range in center field despite his 40 time.
Analysis: Woods is a heady safety who works well with teammates in the secondary and does not have mental lapses. He must learn to play to his 40 time, but he comes with an upside.