A finance major out of Maryland who has aspirations of owning his own financial firm, Maryland safety Nick Cross is set to make some money in the 2022 NFL Draft. While this safety class possesses some impressive talent at the top, Cross’ scouting report reveals a player who can make an impact not just on this group but on a Sunday afternoon as well.
Nick Cross NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Safety
- School: Maryland
- Current Year: Junior
- Height: 6’1″
- Weight: 215 pounds
Nick Cross Scouting Report
If you’re an NFL team in need of help at the safety position, you’re in luck. The upcoming draft is strong at the top, with Kyle Hamilton potentially the best player in the whole class. Furthermore, there’s talent all the way down the field. Despite the depth of talent, Maryland safety Cross has attracted significant 2022 NFL Draft buzz.
Ahead of the Pinstripe Bowl, Pro Football Network Chief NFL Draft Analyst Tony Pauline alluded to the NFL interest in Cross, saying that he had “top-100 grades from scouts.” Furthermore, Pauline currently lists the Maryland prospect as his 64th-ranked prospect and fourth-ranked safety. It’s high praise, but does his scouting report live up to the hype?
At 6’1″, 215 pounds, Cross has decent size for the safety position at the next level. More importantly, the Maryland safety possesses excellent length for the position. He has long, muscular arms that will enable him to be a playmaker at the NFL level.
Size, speed, physicality
There are multiple examples from his Maryland career of Cross utilizing his size and length profile to make plays on the ball. His production is a testament to his playmaking ability, but how he makes these plays is impressive. The Maryland safety can get his long limbs around to break up passes, and he’s flashed timing at the catch point in the end zone to make touchdown-saving plays.
Cross is a former track star — both in high school and at Maryland — and this is evident in his scouting report. One of the most impressive elements of his game is his explosive speed. He can close in a heartbeat, appearing on the scene out of nowhere to make a play. His click-and-close ability gives him exciting coverage potential at the next level. That same speed allows him to play from a single-high alignment with impressive range.
In addition to his speed, Cross uses impressive physicality to be a threat in three phases of defense. We’ve discussed his coverage ability, but he’s also been used to impact the passing game as a pass rusher, erupting into the backfield with ferocity.
That same physicality is evident against the run game. Cross reads the run game well and is a sure open-field tackler who rarely misses with his first contact.
Areas for improvement
Maryland safety Cross is a speed/size threat who will bring physicality to an NFL defensive backfield. Furthermore, he possesses excellent special-teams experience, which will help him see the field early at the next level. That said, some areas of his scouting report require improvement to elevate his NFL Draft stock.
As a result of his athletic profile, Cross was used primarily as a single-high safety for Maryland. In the games watched, he was rarely used in any other alignment except for a handful of reps in the box. As such, he hasn’t yet displayed the sort of versatility that would elevate a player’s stock in the NFL Draft.
While he is a sure open-field tackler, Cross has a propensity to use a high volume of ankle tackles. Although that didn’t result in a significant loss of yardage at the college level, he’ll need to ensure he wraps up in the NFL.
Cross Player Profile
A four-star prospect out of DeMatha Catholic High School, Cross was a highly sought-after recruit in the 2019 class. Viewed as the fourth-best safety in the nation, he was also the top-ranked player in the state of Maryland. As a result, he attracted almost 40 offers. However, he entered his senior season without committing to his college future.
That soon changed with his September commitment to Florida State. Meanwhile, spurned teams could only watch on as Cross compiled a sensational senior season. Praised for his high character and impressive track speed, the DeMatha playmaker tallied 94 tackles and showcased his terrific turnover talents with 4 interceptions.
Despite his commitment to the Seminoles, Cross remained unsigned into 2019. He showed out at the Army All-American Game, securing an 84-yard interception before dropping a surprise by flipping his commitment to Maryland. New Maryland head coach Mike Locksley had recruited the impactful safety while at Alabama. Furthermore, the Maryland campus was within touching distance of his high school.
“It’s bigger than football,” Cross told reporters at the time of his commitment. “The opportunities outside the game, and Locksley and the juice he brought to the program were great.”
Cross’ career at Maryland
With the departure of Darnell Savage Jr. to the Green Bay Packers in the 2019 NFL Draft, Cross had the opportunity to make an immediate impact at safety for Maryland. There was a certain poetry about the transition, with Cross having earned early comparisons to former Green Bay safety Adrian Amos.
In his freshman season, Cross made 11 appearances with five starts. While his first start didn’t come until mid-October, the young Maryland safety had already made his presence felt. In just his third appearance, he picked off Sean Clifford in a defeat to Penn State. A second interception came against Nebraska. Additionally, he showcased a penchant for the big game with a career-high 9 tackles against Ohio State.
Cross ended his first campaign with 45 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and a team-leading 5 pass breakups and 2 interceptions. The Maryland safety earned an All-Big Ten honorable mention, an accolade he’d earn in every season of his career. While he impressed on the football field, he also competed in the 60m and 200m for the Maryland track team.
The disruption of the 2020 season meant that Cross only saw action in four games. However, he started three of those in his sophomore season. He opened the season in style by matching his career-high 9 tackles against Northwestern. The Maryland safety terrorized Penn State for the second consecutive season, with an interception and his first career forced fumble. He ended the campaign with 23 tackles, 3 pass breakups, and 1 interception.
Cross’ NFL Draft ascension
2021 was a breakout season for Cross. In the season opener against West Virginia, he tallied 6 tackles and an interception. Two weeks later, he snagged another pick, this time against Illinois. The Maryland safety set a new career high with 13 tackles against Minnesota. Another interception came against Michigan State. Meanwhile, he ended his season in style with a forced fumble that led to a touchdown in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Cross led Maryland with 3 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles in his junior season. He also tallied 66 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, and 4 pass breakups. Following another productive season, he opted to declare for the 2022 NFL Draft, hoping to replicate the selection of fellow Maryland safeties Savage and Antoine Brooks Jr.
“Basically, I just thought entering the draft was the best decision for me at this time,” Cross told the media. “After a lot of conversations with my parents, coaches, and with God, I thought it was the best way for me to achieve my goals and dreams of playing in the NFL.”
Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report on Nick Cross
Positives: Athletic safety prospect on the verge of developing a complete game. Quick flipping his hips in transition and displays solid ball skills in coverage. Stays with coverage assignments, stays on the receiver’s hip out of breaks, and has a closing burst to the action.
Takes proper angles, displays excellent range, and covers a lot of area on the field. Shows ability over the slot receiver. Explosive hitter who jars the ball free from opponents. Shows good hands for the interception.
Negatives: Must improve his backpedal. Average ball production the past two seasons.
Analysis: Cross is a nice-sized safety and a good athlete who comes with a large upside. He needs to fine-tune his game, but he has the tools to develop into a starter at the next level.