The defensive line was the strength of the New York Giants defense in 2022. The secondary, by comparison, was something of a MASH unit as the Giants scrambled to fill out their depth chart in the face of injury.
While Wink Martindale made it work, he prefers to use aggressive coverage and exotic blitz looks to dictate the flow of the game to the offense. But that puts a lot of strain on the secondary and demands talented and versatile players to execute the scheme.
Boise State’s JL Skinner is a big, long safety at 6-foot-4, 211 pounds but has good athleticism and movement skills for his size. The Giants might need to add another safety in the 2023 NFL Draft. Skinner is a big safety, but could he be a future Giant?
Games Played: 38
Tackles for a loss: 9.5
Forced fumbles: 2
Passes defensed: 12
Games Played: 12
Tackles for a loss: 0.5
Forced fumbles: 0
Passes defensed: 5
Best: Length, athleticism, zone coverage, football IQ, versatility
Worst: Man coverage, play strength
Projection: A rotational safety with starting upside in a multiple defense.
(Skinner is Boise State safety number 0)
Boise State’s JL Skinner is a big, long, and athletic safety prospect.
Skinner played a variety of roles and alignments in the Boise State secondary. He was asked to line up as a deep safety in deep half or single high alignments, play close to the line of scrimmage as a box safety, and come down to cover the slot. Skinner has a high football IQ and communicates well with his teammates before the snap.
He is a springy athlete with quick, light feet and solid movement skills in space. Skinner is balanced in his backpedal and quick to get depth in his zone drops, or to come down when rotating after the snap to an underneath coverage from a deep alignment. He generally makes an accurate first move at the start of the play and is a disciplined defender. He takes smart angles to the ball and doesn’t run himself out of plays, and often tries to position himself to force ball carriers back to his teammates.
Skinner does a good job of using his length to his advantage. He’s able to match up with bigger receiving options without giving up the “instant separation” that comes with a big catch radius. Skinner is able to use his length to play through or around receivers without drawing pass interference penalties. His length also gives him a wide tackle radius, and Skinner is usually a reliable tackler within his radius. He does a good job of wrapping up and getting the ball carrier on the ground without giving up yards after contact.
Skinner was not used as a blitzer in the tape viewed, so his ability to rush the passers is unknown.
While Skinner is a reliable tackler, he isn’t a hard hitter. He generally takes smart, safe angles to the ball, tempering his aggression in the process. His size suggests an “enforcer” safety, and perhaps a player who could play linebacker as well as safety. However, he doesn’t lay hits the way his height and weight would suggest, and he lacks the play strength to stack and shed blocks from bigger tight ends as a linebacker.
Skinner’s height and length are assets to his game, but he does appear slightly stiff in his transition from backpedal to running with receivers. His quick feet allow him to transition well enough, but he doesn’t have fluid enough hips to open or flip and carry his speed down the field. As a result, he probably shouldn’t be asked to play man coverage on quicker offensive players.
Teams will also want to pay close attention to Skinner’s medical report after he suffered a torn pectoral muscle while training for the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine. His recovery timeline and long-term prognosis could be important to his overall draft stock.
Overall Grade: 6.8
JL Skinner projects as a rotational safety at the NFL level. He has the potential to take a starting job in the right situation, but his future team will need to understand who he is as a player.
Skinner is a versatile player who can play deep coverage zones, or cover the flat and hook/curl area. He has enough quickness to play man coverage on most tight ends and running backs, though he probably shouldn’t be asked to play man coverage against slot receivers.
That said, he doesn’t have the kind of “enforcer” physicality we normally expect from safeties with his size. He is a long, somewhat lanky player, but not overly thick and shouldn’t be expected to lay hits like a Kam Chancellor.
Skinner would be at his best in a defense that allows him to move around the defensive secondary. He has great range in coverage and can run down most offensive players when he lengthens his stride. He has a quick downhill trigger once he diagnoses the play and shows solid football IQ. Skinner might start out as a depth and special teams player, but his role could grow quickly.