2011 NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Robert Sands, SS, West Virginia

We discussed one strong safety prospect Wednesday, but let's spend today's 2011 NFL Draft prospect profile on another, Robert Sands from West Virginia, who many pundits list as a top three safety in this year's class.

Sands is a 6-foot-4, 217-pound strong safety whose impressive size might also lead to the negatives on scouting reports. His 4.57-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine put him third among safeties, and his broad jump of 10-foot-4 was tops. Yet, many scouts have concerned about the fluidity of his movements.

A first-team All-Big East selection with 53 tackles (6.5 for loss), 1.5 sacks, one interception and one forced fumble as a junior in 2010, Sands decided to forgo his senior season. In his three seasons at WVA, Sands compiled 151 tackles, (10 for loss), 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one interception.

Scouting reports after the jump.

Robert Sands
SS, West Virginia
6-foot-4, 217 pounds
Projection: Rounds 3-4

Scouting Reports

From NFL.com:

Sands is a well-rounded safety prospect with rare size, good speed, and a physical mentality and could become an excellent starter in the NFL. Can erase the deep half and hold up in center field. Makes a lot of plays on the ball with his range, large frame and good hands. On-field awareness is solid but still developing. Tough player who fills quickly in run support, will take on blockers, and supplies an intimidating presence over the middle in coverage. Main flaw is a lack of short-area quickness and fluidity in man coverage. Sands could hear his name called early on Day 2.

Strengths: Sands is a tall, rangy, high-cut safety. Speed is better than average. Covers a lot of ground after reaching top speed. Can play the point or deep half. Huge catch radius and good hands to pull down the tough interception. Willing, aggressive and productive in run support and coverage over the middle. Sure-tackler. Displays solid awareness.

Weaknesses: Like most high-cut athletes, suffers from some hip stiffness. Struggles a bit in transition. Not a good match-up against shifty slot receivers in man coverage. Instincts and ability to jump routes are adequate but still improving. Struggles to break down and make tackles in space at times.

From National Football Post:

A tall, long-armed safety prospect that has a strong frame and plays with a real passion for the game. Brings it every week and isn't a guy who is afraid to throw his body around. Displays impressive pop and power as a striker, lowers his pad level into contact, wraps well through the play and consistently brings his legs. Does a nice job filling the alley when asked to attack downhill and is a good open-field tackler. Isn't as impressive in pursuit. Struggles to consistently take proper angles, will under run plays and is forced at times to open his hips and use his straight-line speed to track his man down toward the sideline.

From CBS Sports:

Strengths: Tall, wiry but strong. Has speed to reach either sideline to prevent big plays. Length affects passing lanes on the blitz and running down the seam. Plays with attitude on every snap. Likes to make the big shoulder-first hit and churn his legs to stop ballcarriers' forward progress. Covers running backs on wheel routes and can handle tight ends in man coverage. Aggressive filling to stop the run, attacks plays behind the line when playing the box. Long arms allow him to wrap up most ballcarriers when technique is good. Fair ball skills and straight-line speed to intercept jump balls and late throws over the middle.

Weaknesses: Height and aggressive style put him at a disadvantage when breaking down to tackle in space. Slides off the target because he leaves his feet or bends at the waist making tackles. Slow, high backpedal. Takes time to transition from pedal to attack. Long-striding running style does not allow him to change direction quickly; must throttle down more quickly. Overaggressive, gets moved by quarterbacks' eyes too easily. Instincts and ability to diagnose play are questionable. Makes easy picks but struggles to catch balls outside his frame.

From Sideline Scouting:

Positives: Tremendous size for a defensive back, has long arms and big hands, will have no problem winning jump-ball battles against most receivers... Possesses pretty good speed; mix of size and speed a big positive for the position... Recorded five interceptions in 2009, has the ability to go get the football in the air... Durability is not a concern, has not missed a game due to injury... Has experience playing cornerback, is a versatile player who matches up well against tall receivers... Changes direction pretty well, takes a good plant step and explodes out of it, shows pretty quick footwork... Has the ability to make big hits, is a fairly sure tackler with good pop at contact... Is pretty quick to read and react at the snap, does not take many false steps... Can cover a lot of ground in zone coverage, is a long strider with the ability to fly all over the field... Very high motor, gets involved in every play, does not give up on plays... Size will intrigue some NFL teams and perhaps entice an early-round flier due to physicality, attitude and upside.

Negatives: Could stand to take better angles when coming up in run support, plays fast, but a little out of control at times... Man coverage skills need improvement, will have trouble sticking with quicker receivers on crisp routes... Hips look a little stiff, has good footwork, but does not turn and run well enough to be reliable in man coverage on slot receivers... Will get out of position at times when anticipating plays, can be fooled by play action.

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