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INDIANAPOLIS — Projecting your favorite players in the NFL Draft to the league can be difficult.
So much of it rides on what team they go to, what schemes that team runs, the opportunity to play, etc. However, projecting them to switch positions throws a whole new wrench into the game, but what if that might be the most effective way to have those players reach their potential in the NFL?
For me, that's the case with Southern Illinois safety Jeremy Chinn and Virginia cornerback Bryce Hall. They're already good players and would be so in the NFL, but why not take it up a notch?
Both players have traits that could make them highly successful in other spots. For Chinn — who is the nephew of Hall-of-Fame safety Steve Atwater — it would be a move from safety to cornerback. For Hall, it would be just the opposite, with a move from cornerback to safety.
THE CASE FOR SWITCHING POSITIONS
For Chinn — a Central Indiana native and 2016 graduate of Fishers High School — he possesses a rare, elite blend of size and athleticism.
Measuring in at 6'3", 221, with above-average arm length (31-2/8") and hand size (9-5/8"), and a wingspan of almost 6'6", he blew the Scouting Combine away here in Indianapolis back in February.
Chinn led all safeties with a broad jump of 138", tied for second with a 41" vertical, tied for third with a 4.45-second 40-yard dash and tied for fourth with 20 bench press reps.
People will naturally have some concerns about Chinn coming from a lower level of competition with the Salukis in the FCS. However, he did want you want to see those players do, and he played far above the competition.
In a potential switch to cornerback, he's already shown that he can play in man coverage. Dropping down from his safety spot, he can come down and cover guys from the slot. He flips his hips fluidly, runs with his man easily and isn't afraid to put hands on them to throw them off of their rhythm. His size, plus athleticism and ability to change direction could be a big asset as an outside corner.
Chinn has pretty good speed, and it shows on tape as he tracks receivers downfield from deep in the secondary. He has loads of burst and closing speed, and goes from 0 to 60 in an instant.
If you're looking for ball skills like you'd hope to have in a cornerback, Chinn's got you covered there as well. He had 31 pass breakups and 13 interceptions in his collegiate career, the latter of which he had at least three in each season. He also had six forced fumbles, two fumbles recovered and a kick block, showing that he can make plays in a multitude of ways.
"Getting the ball is definitely something I pride myself on in the back end and just taking the ball away," Chinn said about creating turnovers. "When I see the ball in the air, I'm a receiver at that point. I was a running back in high school, so I miss touching the ball. Any way I can touch it, I'm going to get it."
Regardless of if it's from the secondary or closer up into the box, Chinn shows pretty good instincts and sniffs out screens and flare routes and such. He had 5.5 tackles for loss as a result.
While he's not an overly aggressive hitter, he will lay the hard hit if it's there to be made. However, with his size, speed and striking ability, you'd love to see him come downhill and be more of a thumper on a more consistent basis.
Chinn is also a weapon as a pass rusher and was often able to get pressure when called on, although he only got home for the sack one time; it doesn't matter if he doesn't start blitzing until he's at least 10 yards away from the quarterback either, apparently.
The cornerback position isn't a foreign concept to Chinn, either, as he played it before in high school and also did it occasionally at Southern Illinois.
"I played in high school at corner. So when I got to SIU, I was a corner initially. Over the summer of my freshman year, they moved me over to safety," Chinn told reporters at the Combine. "I still have the corner mentality in a way, the corner footwork. The transition was not necessarily too difficult for me. Going up to safety, I had the size to play it. And then coming into my junior year, I was asked to go back to corner for a little bit. When I got back to corner, it was natural."
Now, just because Chinn could potentially be at his best as a corner in the NFL doesn't mean he has to be pigeon-holed into it. You use a guy like that as a weapon, wherever you see fit on a week-to-week basis. It could be his home position, but he could also be moved around in certain packages or matchups, which is actually something he admires in other players.
"There's a lot of guys I try to take some things from. Tyrann Mathieu, Derwin James, Jamal Adams. Those are all versatile guys. I model my game after those three," Chinn said before delving further into what he likes about Mathieu.
"His play-making, one. His versatility. You see him all around the field. You see him up high. You see him covering the slot. You see him outside at corner. At college, I did a lot of those things as well. He just has a natural play-making ability," Chinn continued about Mathieu. "You see him all over the field, playing safety, playing slot corner, playing outside corner. Linebacker at times. He blitzes. My past years, I did a lot of those things as well as far as blitzing, playing down in the box, playing up high, guarding the slot. And also just his play-making ability, his natural instincts. I feel like I have that as well."
But what have teams generally told Chinn about his potential role in the NFL? For the most part, it's been sticking at safety, although the more galaxy-brained teams will certainly look for a multitude of ways to use him.
"Talking to scouts here, they see me as a high safety, a box safety, all over the place," Chinn said.
In the end, Chinn just wants to show the NFL that he can dominate at whatever position he plays.
"With the direction the game is going, there's no really set position anymore, especially the secondary. Me being able to play up high, play close to the box, and play outside corner, it only helps," he said. "I just want to show that I can play anywhere on the defense. I can play up high safety, I can play box safety, I can play outside corner. Just anyway I can show that I stand out. I'm a football player."
The reasoning for the position switch for Hall is a little different than for Chinn. While Chinn's reasoning is to capitalize on his unique blend of size and athleticism, Hall's best fit as a safety to make up for some of the things he lacks as a cornerback.
For starters, Hall was an outstanding collegiate cornerback. He has rare size for the position at 6'1-1/4", 202 with 31-1/4" arms, 9-5/8" hands and a wingspan of 6'6-1/2".
Hall is tough and looks to lay big hits whenever he can. He gets his nose dirty against the run and wants to be physical as a tackler, and with those trying to block him. Between his size and toughness, he's got something very rare for the cornerback position.
He even relishes the opportunity to blitz and get after the quarterback, totaling four sacks and five other quarterback hurries in his career.
"I love blitzing. Any time I blitz, I mess with my good friend Chris Peace. He left in 2018, but I always messed with him because he was our pass rusher. I would mess with him and say, on paper, I'm a more efficient pass rusher than you, I get to the quarterback more than you. I always used to mess with him on that, I could teach him some pass-rushing moves, all that," Hall said at the Combine. "It's something I love to do. It's an opportunity to make a play, and I feel like I've got to make the play every time."
In coverage, those long arms and big hands come in handy at the line of scrimmage. However, although he's a physical player overall, he could actually be more physical with receivers in man coverage. His size and length is a top-notch advantage of which he needs to take advantage more often. It would especially come in handy against small, quick, fast receivers who could shake him at the line and release cleanly.
With the ball in the air, Hall does have very good ball skills and is able to make a clean play on the pass.
One of the biggest areas of concern that people point to about Hall is his lack of top-end speed. He wasn't able to workout at the Combine due to recovery from ankle surgery, but if he had, then his best 40-yard dash time may have clocked in the mid-to-late 4.5 range. While that's not a deal-breaker, that can be a big issue for an outside cornerback when coupled with the fact that he also doesn't appear to have the best short-area quickness.
However, while his overall downfield speed maybe isn't the best, Hall does have good stop-start breaking speed and can get to where the ball's going quickly. That's a good thing for a potential safety who is often going to have things developing in front of him.
The transition to safety and moving around from one side of the field to the other could be aided by where Hall has lined up throughout his career. He played primarily on the right side of the defense during his first two years at Virginia, and then primarily on the left side in his last two.
Hall appears pretty sharp, and displays good awareness, instincts and football IQ. He picks things up and knows when to peel off his assignment to quickly address whatever else is developing. Those could be invaluable assets for a safety.
Hall actually said something pretty interesting regarding his attention to detail.
"I don't really hear much when I'm on the field. I know the crowd is there, but I don't really hear them. I have subtle things that I'm looking at, I stay locked in and focused," Hall said. "One of the things that's interesting is because — so I have (Attention Deficit Disorder), but I think that's a blessing in disguise. People that have ADD, the thing is it's not that you lose focus, it's that you're able to take in everything, but whatever catches your attention the most is what you're going to hone in on. So I'm able to see and hear different things on the field at all times.
"I remember my freshman year, I went in, first time I played in a college game (with) serious minutes, and I remember hearing on the sideline the coach saying something to the receiver. I knew they were coming my way, and I remember thinking, 'Now I know what the play is going to be,'" Hall said. "Just hearing subtle things that maybe somebody wouldn't necessarily hear. And I was able to make an interception on the play. It's little things like that. I feel like when I'm in my zone, I'm aware and alert at all times that I'm hearing subtle things."
Moving Hall from cornerback to safety isn't that radical of an idea.
He's already considered a better fit at cornerback for teams (like the Colts) that run a lot of zone coverage, so why not take advantage of his football instincts and allow him to cover a broader part of the field?
When you consider Hall's size, toughness and attitude and blitzing ability mixed with his lack of high-end speed and quickness, a move to safety makes sense. It's not to mask his deficiencies, but rather to emphasize what he does well.
In particular, when teams go up against an opponent that features a top-notch tight end like Travis Kelce, George Kittle or Zach Ertz, they'd likely feel a bit better having a player like Hall that can man-up in coverage with them and not surrender much size and physicality.
Whatever Hall is called to do in the NFL — and whatever his role is in the defense — he'll be ready.
"Man, we do it all (at Virginia), and it changes based on our personnel and what fits our strength. So toward the end of the year, we were doing a lot of zones and blitzing because we led the league in sacks. That was one of the things we were strong at, so we would do a lot more zone versus the beginning of the year when we played a lot of man, mixing in zone as a complement," Hall said. "Those coaches are like evil geniuses over there. They know how to mix it up and scheme it up."
FIT WITH THE COLTS
The Indianapolis Colts don't have pressing needs for a cornerback or a safety as it currently stands, but they do have room for them. Injuries happen, and we've seen it damage both position groups at times in the last couple of seasons.
There is also the mantra of drafting the best players available regardless of what you have already on the roster. If a new player could upgrade the position, that's the move to make.
Both Chinn and Hall, whether they stayed at their home positions or made the switches suggested above, would fit with the Colts.
They both have size, toughness and ball skills, which are all pretty much prerequisites in order to be on this Colts defense. They both love football, have good heads on their shoulders, and are positive influences in the locker room as former collegiate team captains.
For Chinn, who grew up rooting for the Colts on the north side of town and would fulfill a childhood dream by playing for them, he would fit right into just about any defense like a glove.
"Yeah, that would be real cool to play for the Colts," Chinn said. "Playing for any team would be amazing. But growing up a Colts fan, if I went to the Colts, it obviously would be pretty cool."
We've seen the Colts use a couple of different guys in Quincy Wilson and Rolan Milligan in recent years as versatile, matchup-specific players in a sort of cornerback-safety hybrid role, so it's certainly not unprecedented for Indy and defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus. Whether you need someone for that special matchup against a dynamic All-Pro opponent, or need someone to fill in for an injured player where needed, versatile guys like Chinn and Hall are necessary.
In fact, drafting players and having them do different things than they did in college is right up the Colts' alley.
When general manager Chris Ballard arrived to the Colts in 2017, he temporarily moved safety T.J. Green to cornerback after scouting him before the draft as such the previous year while Ballard was with the Kansas City Chiefs. Since then, the Colts have drafted Braden Smith, Tyquan Lewis, Ben Banogu and Marvell Tell III, and all were drafted at positions that were either different from what they played in college, or have since moved to it.
At the end of the day, taking players in the draft is about acquiring players that can add to your team. For both Jeremy Chinn and Bryce Hall, not only could they potentially add to the Colts, but they could take their game to the next level there as well.
OTHER 2020 NFL DRAFT PROSPECT PROFILES
- K.J. Hill | Wide Receiver | Ohio State
- Jerry Jeudy | Wide Receiver | Alabama
- Derrick Brown | Defensive Tackle | Auburn
- K'Lavon Chaisson | Edge Defender | LSU
- CeeDee Lamb | Wide Receiver | Oklahoma
- Tristan Wirfs | Offensive Tackle | Iowa
- Neville Gallimore | Defensive Tackle | Oklahoma
- Jeff Gladney | Cornerback | TCU
- Brandon Aiyuk | Wide Receiver | Arizona State
- Jonah Jackson | Interior Offensive Lineman | Ohio State
- Trevon Diggs | Cornerback | Alabama
- Hunter Bryant | Tight End | Washington
- Julian Okwara | Edge Defender | Notre Dame
- Harrison Bryant | Tight End | Florida Atlantic
- Chase Claypool | Wide Receiver | Notre Dame