2017 NFL Draft Scouting Report
Prospect:  Budda Baker


School:          Washinton
Ht:  5'10"       Wt:  180
Eligibility:      JR
Uniform:       #32
Position:      S

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Tyrann Mathieu has become the golden standard when it comes to versatile, undersized safeties. While many have compared Michigan defensive back Jabrill Peppers to him, I was reluctant because the trait that makes Mathieu so special is his instincts. Because Peppers has spent so much time playing multiple positions on both sides of the ball, he has yet to truly develop those instincts at the safety position. Baker is the player that I think is the best comparison to the Honey Badger, and while he may not be quite the athlete that Peppers is, his instincts are incredible. I will be the first to admit that I knew little about Baker going into this season, and the fact that he plays on the west coast is likely the reason for it. Still, once I turned the tape on, I saw a heat-seeking missile in a football uniform.

As I mentioned, Baker's instincts are outstanding. He reacts quickly to what he sees and isn't afraid to throw his body around. Against the run, it doesn't matter where he is lined up. Most safeties are only effective near the line of scrimmage when playing the run. Baker can line up in the slot, in the box, or as a deep safety and still be a factor against the run. In the slot, he attacks blockers or can make them miss with his exceptional quickness while staying true to his responsibilities. He does the same in the box, and also uses outstanding awareness to time his moves properly so he can make a play on the ball when it is coming in his direction. I also can't understand why not a single team has taken notice of him when he starts drifting towards the line as if he is going to blitz. This is where he reminds me of Mathieu the most. He sprints down the line when the ball is run away from him, and almost always gets a piece of the runner. When it is run at him in these situations, he attacks the lead blocker while also positioning himself perfectly to force the play back inside. He also occasionally dodges around the blocker and quickly dives into the runner's path to get a piece of his legs. When blitzing, I truly believe there is not a more effective player in the country, and that was my description of Mathieu at LSU.

When playing deep, he flies downhill when he reads run and is always true to the gap he is responsible for when it is part of his assignment. He is a very solid open-field tackler because he has very good short-area quickness. Even when he doesn't get solid contact on the runner, he is effective. Often he understands he isn't in good enough position to make a clean tackle, so he lunges for the runner's legs and holds on for dear life. Once he gets a hold of a leg, he is relentless in getting them to the ground. He is also reckless with his body no matter the size of the opponent. He doesn't have the bulky frame like Bob Sanders did, but he has a similar fondness for throwing his body around.

Against the pass, he also displays plenty of versatility. When in the slot, he is capable of playing in zone coverage or man. In zone, his short-area quickness proves useful as he gets good jumps on the quarterback's decisions. He has also shown a knack for reading the passer's eyes and understanding he is coming his way. He then does a good job of locating the nearest potential target and takes away that option. While some NFL quarterbacks will try to take advantage of this by looking him off and throwing into the space he leaves, I wouldn't bet against him catching on quickly and learning to bait them. When playing man out of the slot, he is better against shorter routes than long ones. I believe this is a combination of his lack of size and his straight-line speed. I know he is going to have good speed for the position, but I don't expect it to be in the elite category. Also, like any undersized defensive back, the bigger the receiver, the more he struggles to defend the deep pass, even when in good position.

As a deep safety, he does have the ball skills and the leaping ability to be a playmaker. I also think he handles big receivers better when playing deep. He gets to locate the ball quicker back there and can attack it as opposed to having to attack the receiver's hands when he can't get his head around. Just like against the run, when he sees an underneath route, he flies downhill while also taking the proper angle. He also knows when to go from a defender trying to get his hands on the pass, to a tackler trying to get the receiver to the ground.

Overall, I think we will start to hear the Peppers vs. Baker debate more as the draft approaches. They are very similar prospects, and while Peppers may be the better all-around athlete, Baker's instincts are outstanding. Translated, that makes Peppers the player with more potential, and Baker the safer pick. His character is extremely high, and I love how I never see him jawing with receivers. He seems to be a humble person, yet his confidence is through the roof. He joins Jamal Adams and Peppers as the third potential safety in this draft that belongs in the first round, and to be honest, they could all go in the top half of the first round. If Baker is put in a system that moves him around and makes the most of his versatility, he could be a special player at the next level.

Compares to (Current NFL Player): Tyrann Mathieu (Arizona Cardinals)

- Elite football instincts
- Plays with reckless abandon
- Great short-area quickness
- Versatile enough to play zone or man; deep, in the box, or in the slot
- Reliable tackler in the open field
- Takes on blockers aggressively and stays true to gap discipline
- Terrific as blitzer
- High character and work ethic; Tough competitor

- Size is less than ideal for position
- Not great in man coverage down the field
- Straight-line speed is not elite

Austin Smith
January 1, 2017

1)   UW's Budda Baker at Peach Bowl Media Day: 'For us, it's just one more game'   - SeattleTimes.com
2)   Keeping Budda Baker home was Chris Petersen's first win for Washington   - ESPN.com
3)   Why UW safety Budda Baker's weight gain is a good thing for Huskies    - SeattleTimes.Com
4)   Budda Baker Twitter
5)   Budda Baker Instagram

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