The safety position is in a curious place with respect to positional value. Great safeties can be transformative for a defense. They don’t just clean up mistakes made by their teammates as a last line of defense, but they can allow defensive coordinators incredible freedom in designing their schemes.
However, NFL teams don’t seem to want to invest too heavily in the position. Safeties’ draft stock is generally depressed compared to cornerbacks, and teams generally don’t spend much in free agency either.
Cal safety Daniel Scott developed something of a cult following at California, but hasn’t gotten much press at the national level. He certainly sent scouts back to his tape with a great performance at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine.
Scott’s tape reveals a very athletic and versatile safety. The New York Giants could use reinforcements throughout their secondary, particularly considering how heavily Wink Martindale relies on his defensive backs to underpin his blitz schemes. Could Scott appeal to the Giants’ blitz-happy defensive coordinator?
Prospect: Daniel Scott (32)
Games Watched: vs. Notre Dame (2022), vs. USC (2022), vs. UCLA (2022)
Games Played: 39
Tackles for a loss: 7.0
Forced fumbles: 3
Passes defensed: 6
Games Played: 12
Tackles for a loss: 2.5
Forced fumbles: 2
Passes defensed: 4
Best: Athleticism, range, fluidity, competitive toughness, versatility
Projection: A third safety with alignment and scheme versatility, and starting upside.
UCLA safety Daniel Scott has an excellent blend of size, athleticism, and versatility to play the position at the NFL level.
Scott has a very versatile build for a safety at 6-foot, 208 pounds, with enough size to play near the line of scrimmage but not so much as to limit his movement in space. He is actually an elite athlete for a safety, with great long speed, an explosive lower body, quick feet, and remarkably fluid hips. Scott appears as comfortable playing the slot as he does dropping into a deep coverage zone. His fluid hips let him easily stay with tight ends and running backs throughout their routes, and even run with slot receivers.
Scott has great range in coverage zones in the deep middle area of the field. He quickly gets good depth in his zone drops, and is also capable of executing coverage rotations. He’s able to sprint from a Cover 2 alignment to the deep center field, or even play man coverage on running backs or tight ends from a deep half. His quick feet allow him to click and close down on runs or short passes in a hurry. Scott has “sideline to sideline” range in pursuit and is generally pretty quick to diagnose the play from his safety position. He is also a good communicator both before and after the snap and is frequently relaying information to his teammates.
Scotts’ size, athleticism, and willingness to take on contact suggest that he could be a good blitzing safety. However, he wasn’t asked to rush the passer often enough in the tape viewed to make that determination.
Scotts’ greatest asset is also his biggest weakness at times. His athleticism allows him to be a very aggressive player, but that can also lead to over-aggression. Scott can take overly aggressive angles to the ball, which good ball carriers can exploit. Likewise, he can be prone to running himself out of the play or out of position to make a play on the ball carrier.
He can also show some slight indecision when faced with misdirection. Scott has enough athleticism to recover if he makes the correct read, but a hesitation followed by biting on misdirection can take him far out of position.
Overall Grade: 7.0
Daniel Scott projects as a third safety for a team that makes frequent use of “big nickel” packages, with the potential to become a starting safety before the end of his rookie contract.
Scott has great size and athleticism for a safety and is a very versatile player who can man a variety of roles in the defensive secondary. He can play the deep middle as a free safety in a Cover 1, he can play half-field alignments, he can come down and play the strong safety role in a Cover 1 or Cover 3, and even play the slot.
His ability to communicate before the snap and execute broad coverage rotations after the snap should make him valuable for disguising coverages in blitz-heavy schemes. He’s also a willing and capable run defender who can trigger downhill in a hurry and is reliable in run support.
Scott will need to work on improving his awareness and play recognition, as well as controlling his aggression. While he isn’t a “hair on fire” player, he can be prone to trusting his athleticism a bit too much and running himself out of good position to make a play. Reliability is an incredibly important trait for safeties, and while Scott has the potential to be an eraser for a defense who can clean up mistakes in front of him, he needs to get better at avoiding mistakes of his own.
If he’s able to further develop the mental aspect of his game, Scott has the potential to be a good starting safety with plenty of schematic and positional versatility.