When it comes to the modern NFL, multiplicity and versatility are the name of the game for certain positions. Running backs, tight ends, linebackers, and safeties are often judged by how much they can do, and not so much how
The best players at those positions, however can not only do a lot, but do a lot well. The safety position, in particular, has become a catch-all for defenses, and their general role as the last line of defense puts a lot of pressure on the players.
Safety Jevon Holland of the Oregon Ducks is one of those players who is asked to do a lot within the structure of the defense, but also has the traits and skill set to execute a wide variety of assignments well. That should help his draft stock, but there are some questions as to whether or not he should have stayed in school for his senior season after opting out of the 2020 season.
Will Holland’s versatility outweigh teams hesitancy over his experience?
Prospect: Jevon Holland
Games Watched: vs. Auburn (2019), vs. Utah (2019), vs. Wisconsin (2020)
Games Played: 27
Tackles For a loss: 4.5
Passes Defensed: 10
Games Played: 14
Tackles For a loss: 4.5
Passes Defensed: 4
Best: Versatility, instincts, mental processing, athleticism
Worst: Long speed, over-aggressiveness
Projection: A nickel defender or starting safety.
Oregon safety Jevon Holland is an active defensive back who combines good size, athleticism, and instincts to be a versatile defender.
Holland aligned at a variety of positions for Oregon’s defense, aligning as a slot defender, box safety, pseudo-linebacker, and free safety depending on the down, distance, and defensive play call. His primary role in the defense was as a slot defender, showing enough athleticism to play both man and zone coverage against most slot receivers. Holland shows quick feet, with a compact backpedal and fluid hips for a safety.
He is a smart and instinctive player who reads the defense well and reacts quickly. Likewise, Holland is a good communicator during the pre-snap phase, helping to line up his teammates and making adjustments based on the offense.He shows little hesitation between identifying the play and acting on that diagnosis. Holland has good ball skills and has been disruptive at the catch point. He locates, tracks, and adjusts to the ball in the air, as well as using a good closing burst to play the ball at the catch point. Oregon also used Holland as an outside linebacker or EDGE player on occasion, using his burst to disrupt in the backfield as a blitzer.
Holland is an aggressive run defender, with a quick trigger when playing downhill in zone coverage. He attacks downhill and is completely unafraid of contact, both taking on blockers or tackling runners. Holland is a generally reliable tackler, making the effort to break down, square, wrap up, and drive through the ball carrier.
While Holland is a smart and instinctive defender, his aggressiveness and discipline can get the better of him at times. In those cases he can bite hard on misdirection and take himself out of plays. Also, despite being a relatively athletic safety, he doesn’t have the agility, fluidity, or recovery speed of a true cornerback. He can match up with most tight ends, running backs, or slot receivers, but can struggle to keep up with more athletic receiving options.
Overall Grade: 8.0 - This prospect can be an important and productive role player early in his career, with the potential to earn a starting job in the right situation.
Jevon Holland projects best as a nickel defender early in his career.
He should be able to push for a starting safety job in the right situation, but a “nickel defender” might be a better fit for his skill set to start. That alignment should give him the opportunity to make use of his versatility and play both the slot or a box safety depending on the situation.
While Holland lacks truly elite athleticism, he is a good athlete for a safety, and particularly a safety of his size. He is able to play faster than he tests thanks to good instincts and football IQ, allowing him to diagnose the offense and react quickly. He also has a good understanding of offensive play concepts, helping to navigate schemed traffic.
That being said, he might have to play more of a box or free safety role in certain situations than a slot defender. He can struggle to stay with more athletic receivers and ball carriers down the field, and allowing him to play more zone coverage — either in the hook/curl area or a deep half or third — is a better use of his skill set than playing slot corner against athletic receivers.
While Holland doesn’t have any sacks and only a few tackles for a loss, he is a good run defender and a blitzing option. That should give defensive coordinators the confidence to find a role for him on all three downs.
He manages to balance aggression and discipline as a run defender. He shows no hesitation triggering downhill to attack gaps or the ball carrier, while also respecting his assignments. However, coaches will want to work with Holland to preserve that aggression while reducing his tendency to bite hard on misdirection.
Holland made obvious strides over the course of his sophomore season before opting out of the 2020 college season. That suggests that his best football is still ahead of him, and he could still have significant untapped upside with pro coaching.