In an NFL landscape increasingly more concerned with causing turnovers than it is causing stops due to the rules favoring offense, N.C. State David Amerson could be a hot prospect in April, but will undoubtedly be a controversial one. As a member of the Wolf Pack, Amerson intercepted an incredible 18 passes in his last 26 games and scored touchdowns on 3 of them. While he was still productive as a junior, it did not come close to his sophomore season and while some may call his sophomore year a fluke more than what to expect from him, his play looked like lacking some of the effort and intensity he showed as a sophomore. Amerson sometimes looked like he was trying to avoid injury rather than selling out for the sake of his team and teammates. While one can understand that with the amount of money on the line in the draft and down the road in the NFL, it does raise some questions about his dedication when he plays in the NFL, his level of commitment, and what he is ultimately concerned. Is Amerson going to be a guy who plays through pain? Is he going to a threat to hold out down the road? Does he want to win football games or is he more worried about taking care of David Amerson? These are all questions he is going to have to answer from teams in the interview process and depending on his answers and their reaction belief in him; it will dramatically impact their ranking of him on their draft boards. As a result, he has a little bit of boom or bust potential to him. The tape clearly shows someone with an incredible amount of talent and potential to be a first round pick, but those questions could drop him into the second or possibly even the third depending how he performs in the draft process.
Physically, Amerson is incredibly impressive listed at 6’3” 194lbs with a frame to get bigger and extremely long arms. He has impressive straight line speed and athleticism with a good vertical leap. The thing that hurts him a little bit when it comes to playing in space is his hips are a little tight and that could hurt his quickness laterally. Going forward when he breaks on the ball, he is deceptively quick with good acceleration. Although he does not show it off as often as maybe he should, Amerson has a nice backpedal as well. He is more than physically capable to be a superstar at the next level.
In coverage, Amerson is not trying to stop the offense and force a punt; he is looking to intercept passes and try to score. He defensive back with great hands and catches the ball better than many receivers. Not only does he have great hands, but he does a great job of high pointing the football and he has the ability to go up with just about anyone and come down with the football. His combination of size and long arms make him able to knock passes down as well as intercept them. When he does intercept passes, he is looking to gain yardage and try to get in the end zone. His quickness is good, but his hips can get him in trouble at times. He is most comfortable playing off coverage, keeping everything in front of him and attacking downhill, which puts him in position to cause turnovers, but it also leaves him susceptible for double moves at times, which have gotten him in trouble a few times year. He will give up short passes and come up and try to knock the ball out with a solid hit. He also does a small amount of trying to bait quarterbacks into throwing near him, especially as a junior. At times a risky play, but he is right far more than wrong.
When it comes to run support and tackling, Amerson is inconsistent. When he is engaged and attacking, he can not only get the guy on the ground, but do it with a little power behind it. The times when he looks disinterested and gives a poor effort, he will get blocked out of the play with little or no effort or just make a terrible tackle attempt. Regardless of his level of focus, Amerson needs to do a better job using his arms when he tackles. He has an enormous wingspan and he rarely takes advantage of it as a tackler and he throws his body at ball carriers too much and too often leading with his head putting his health at risk. He needs to keep his feet under him and make the good tackle rather than try for the highlight tackle by lunging at tackles that could miss badly. He also will take some bad angles that can expose his hips and try to avoid blockers by going around and diving rather than taking them on and helping his teammates make a play.
In terms of fit, Amerson could play corner in a zone based scheme, but he is a far more natural free safety. At N.C. State, Amerson consistently played ten to fifteen yards off of receivers and wanted to keep everything in front of him. He can get away with this in college, but teams will take advantage of this in the NFL and force him to make tackles, where he has had problems. He wants to play downhill when he in coverage and come up toward the line of scrimmage in an effort to see the ball better and go try to intercept the ball. As a safety, he could sit back, watch the quarterback’s eyes, and go for jump balls as well as undercutting routes. There could be a few teams like Green Bay that might use him at both. With the way the rules have shifted that favor smaller, more athletic free safeties that look more like corners than linebackers, Amerson is equipped to be effective in that new landscape, which helps him going into the draft process.
David Amerson’s style of play is reminiscent of current New Orleans Saint safety Malcolm Jenkins. Both are playmakers in terms of their ability to intercept passes and cause turnovers, but both will miss a frustrating amount of tackles. Like Amerson, Jenkins was a great college corner at Ohio State and there are systems where he could be a fine corner, but he makes for a better safety. Jenkins went 14th overall the year he was drafted and while Amerson has the talent to go that high, he lacks the consistency. . If Amerson reaches his full potential, he has the talent to be the next coming of future Hall of Famer Ed Reed.
The drop off from the 2011 season to the 2012 season is a topic that Amerson will have to address with teams in the interview process. In 2011, Amerson as a sophomore was arguably the most dominant defensive back in the country with an ACC and N.C. State record 13 interceptions with 2 touchdowns in addition to 5 passes broken up. He was a first team All-American and won the Jack Tatum award. Living up to the expectations of that season was never going to be easy and in spite of everything, Amerson still recorded 5 interceptions, 1 touchdown, and 12 passes broken up. However, he did not bring the same effort he did to the 2012 season, especially when it came to tackling and playing the run. Teams are going to ask him ‘why’ and he will have to come up with a satisfactory answer. He would hardly be the first player to play less aggressively because they feel like their place in the draft is secured and they are simply trying to avoid getting injured. Quinton Coples is a recent example. He still went in the middle of the first round. When the ability to declare for the draft came up, Amerson could not put his name in quickly enough which only serves to increase the speculation he was going through the motions.
Amerson’s effort as a tackler is really the only place there should be much of a concern. People will point out the fact that he surrendered a number of big plays this year and his game against Tennessee was awful. Part of this is due to the fact that he is always looking for the big play. The other part of it is simply the fact that corners get beat. It happens. And in Amerson’s case, it may simply point to the fact that he is better utilized as a safety than a corner. The biggest thing that victimized Amerson this year was double moves. DeAndre Hopkins got him on a great move, but overall, Hopkins only caught one other ball the rest of the game and Amerson did a good job covering him, though the run support was troubling. Against Tennessee, Cordarrelle Patterson got behind him for a touchdown with a double move. Amerson was caught flat footed on a post and go move later in the game with more troubling tackling in the open field. Certainly, Amerson will have to bounce back from this year and it is unlikely he would disagree with that assessment, but his style of play is always going to come with a certain level of risk to it and teams have to decide if they are comfortable on that wager.
David Amerson has all the talent in the world and the potential to be a fantastic player in the NFL. His ability to cover ground, his instincts, and his ability to break up or intercept passes makes him incredibly special and a coveted prospect. The problem is that when it comes to anything that does not making plays on the football, his inconsistency in his effort is maddening. The engaged, focused Amerson that is a huge threat to cause turnovers is absolutely a first round talent and high in the first round. The Amerson that looks like he is just going through the motions and will not compete all the way through the whistle looks the part of a mid-round pick. Teams are going to have to evaluate the tape to figure out where they feel he falls on the spectrum as well as get a feel for him in interviews, so there could be thirty-two teams with drastically different opinions of him. In the end, Amerson’s talent is still a threat to go in the first round and be the first player that could end up at safety selected, but because of the concerns about his play this year could fall into the second round or even the top of round three and if that happens, he has the potential to be a huge steal. The bottom line is David Amerson has the talent to be as good as he chooses to be, whether that is a superstar or just a guy.
North Carolina 2011
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