Weddle A Victim Of Deep Safety Class

Defensive back collected 18 interceptions during his four years at Utah

April 27, 2007

By Mike Beacom

Special to CSTV.com

 

In a draft class full of talented safeties, Eric Weddle might as well be referred to as "the other guy."

 

He did not play at the University of Texas and he does not have the name recognition of a Reggie Nelson or a LaRon Landry. Still, even though Weddle is unlikely to land in the first round this weekend, most scouts and analysts agree with the notion that he holds the potential to be a first-class player at the next level.

 

An accomplished football player with versatility to cover kicks on special teams and return punts, the safety built up quite a respectable stat line during his four years in Utah's lineup: 18 interceptions including six over a three-game stretch this past season, 52 punt returns for 408 yards and a fair number of tackles and sacks.


 

 

 

Charles Davis, college football expert for NFL Network said that, in private, most NFL clubs view a versatile prospect as one who cannot do any one particular thing well at the next level. Not the case with Weddle, Davis said.

 

"Teams look at his versatility as a plus, not a minus," he said.

 

Weddle believes wholeheartedly he can play cornerback but admits his lack of "top-end speed" will make him a safety in most scouts' eyes and that is fine with him. He just wants to play and, if need be, would be more than happy to do something few high profile prospects are willing to: snap on a helmet and contribute on special teams.

 

"Whether its returning, covering, and blocking ... teams know they're going to get a guy who's played special teams and excelled at it," said Weddle.

 

Still, with everything he has going for him, Weddle is at the mercy of a number he has no control over.

 

"You're talking about four potential first round safety prospects," said Rob Rang, senior analyst for NFL Draft Scout. At the top of that list is Landry, followed by Nelson and Michael Griffin, and then by Miami's Brandon Merriweather, Virginia Tech's Aaron Rouse and several others. None of those players came close to matching Weddle's interception total, but all of them had more favorable pre-Draft workouts and are figured to land ahead of Weddle.

 

One of the reasons why Weddle is being overshadowed is the level of competition he faced playing in the Mountain West. Most scouts naturally downgrade prospects who do not face big-time teams year in and year out on the schedule. Landry and Nelson play in the talent-rich SEC; Griffin plays in the Big 12, and Merriweather and Rouse played in the ACC. How can Utah and Weddle possibly compare?

 

"Utah has proven to be a formidable program," said Rang, "but compared to Texas, Florida and LSU, there is no comparison."

 

Davis doesn't fully agree.

 

"Isn't BYU in that conference?" asked Davis. "Don't they throw it well? It's not like he got his 18 interceptions from people throwing pop flies to him."

 

"It's really about who you do it against," said Weddle, "but teams watching the film can make that assessment. I think that had I gone to a bigger school I still would have had the same stats."

 

All of the comparisons and deep-level scouting aside, what Weddle really wants is just to play ball. He showed at Utah that he can make plays, and now he's looking to do the same for the NFL club that claims him.

 

Said Weddle, "You can't predict where you're going to go. You just hope people take notice and know that you can play the game."