The Giants should look to add safeties in the draft. Is Virginia’s Juan Thornhill in consideration?
The New York Giants need help throughout their defense.
The pass rush gets the most attention because their defense had the second-fewest sacks in the NFL in 2018. But the defense needs an infusion of talent at every level, and finding help in the secondary should help them convert more of the (high number of) pressures their defense generated into sacks. They will need help at cornerback, but they will also need help at safety.
The Giants seem to have a checklist of traits they are looking for in their safeties, and after a good career at Virginia and a great workout at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine, Juan Thornhill might just check enough of them to intrigue New York.
- Good size for the position.
- Experienced playing in the slot, tackle box, and as a free safety.
- Good ball skills when the pass is in the air.
- Flashes an explosive closing burst.
- Former cornerback.
- Atrocious tackling.
- Often takes inefficient angles.
- Instincts are a question.
- Can be manipulated by offensive motion and misdirection.
- Can be tentative close to the line of scrimmage.
- Shows some lower-body tightness in coverage.
What They’re Saying
“Given that he is new to the position, if Thornhill had great athletic traits I might get on board with believing in his upside, but I think he’ll be limited in any coverage role he sees in the NFL, while not bringing enough physicality or instincts to thrive around the box. He’s a capable starter at the next level, but I’m not sure the playmaking ability is there to be a particularly desirable prospect in the upcoming class.”
- Jon Ledyard (The Draft Network - Scouting Report)
Does He Fit The Giants?
Given that Thornhill plays safety, has experience at cornerback, and has played all over the Virginia defense, he is a good fit for what the Giants need and want to do with their secondary.
In theory at least.
The problem is that there is a discrepancy between what you expect from him based on his experience and athletic traits, and what you see from him on the field. Perhaps Thornhill will play faster, more soundly, and up to his athletic potential with more development at the position. But, as the Giants learned with Curtis Riley, those transitions are easier said than done.
On the field, Thornhill has severe issues with tackling, consistently lowering his head and taking his eyes off the ball carrier and leaving his arms behind in favor of a shoulder-check. The result is that even when he causes the ball carrier to go down, he usually gives up yards after contact -- and that’s if the offensive player doesn’t dodge him completely and keep on his way. Thornhill also takes too many questionable angles, or can fall for offensive misdirection, often finding himself out of position and hiding his athleticism.
But he does have impressive athleticism, particularly for a big safety. He outperformed most of the cornerback class in many drills and is legitimately explosive in a straight line. He struggles with stiffness to in tight coverage, but that explosiveness shows itself when closing on the ball from good position in zone coverage.
The Giants will likely need at least one safety before the start of the 2019 season, potentially a pair of them. Thornill checks a lot of their boxes, but he is not without risk. His tackling and stiffness in coverage could lead to leaky yardage, but the team could also see his athletic upside and ball skills and believe they can develop him.