A player who the Broncos talked to at the NFL Combine is USC Free Safety TJ McDonald. McDonald comes in at 6'3 219 lbs, and is rated as the 7th overall free safety and 132nd overall prospect in April's NFL Draft according to CBSSports.com. McDonald figures to go somewhere in the 3rd-5th rounds come this April.
TJ McDonald enjoyed a productive 4 year career at USC. In his 4 years at USC McDonald totaled 275 tackles, 12 for a loss, 2 sacks, 8 Ints and 17 pass deflections. His best season came in 2012 when he totaled 112 tackles, 6.5 for a loss, 1 sack, 2 Ints, and 5 pass deflections.
#7 T.J. McDonald
Height / Weight: 6-3 / 205
Born: January 26, 1991 (22)
CAREER: He has 163 tackles, including 5.5 for losses, and 6 interceptions in his career. He has 23 career starts.
2012: The hard-hitting McDonald, a Thorpe Award and Lott Trophy candidate who like his father has earned All-American honors at USC, returns for his third season as the starting free safety as a senior in 2012.
2011: McDonald started for his second season at free safety as a junior in 2011 and had an outstanding season. Overall in 2011 while appearing in all 12 (he started all but the Colorado game), he had 67 tackles (third on USC), including 2.5 for losses, a team-high 3 interceptions, 2 deflections, a fumble recovery and a blocked punt. He was one of 15 semifinalists for the 2011 Thorpe Award and one of 20 quarterfinalists for the Lott IMPACT Trophy. He made the 2011 Sporting News and Pro Football Weekly All-American first team (joining his father, Tim, as the first father-son All-American first teamers in USC history), the SI.com All-American second team and the Phil Steele All-American third team.He made the 2011 All-Pac-12 first team. He made the 2011 ESPN.com, CBSSports.com, CollegeFootballNews.com and Phil Steele All-Pac-12 first team. He won USC's 2011 Defensive Perimeter Player of the Year Award. He was a USC captain (joining his father, Tim, as the first father-son captains in Trojan history).
NFL.com Scouting Report on TJ McDonald:
NFL bloodlines with pro size and length who has played deep and in the box. Hits like a missile in the middle of the field, uses his shoulder to bring real power into the back or midsection of receivers with closing speed and tenacity. Solid ball skills, looks high and wide passes into his hands and can get down to get his hands under low throws. Physical presence around the line, sticks his head into short-yardage plays and uses his length to stay off lineman blocks and to wrap up running backs in traffic and receivers in the flat. Attacks the alley aggressively when coming downhill from two-high coverages. Does a good job fighting through blocks and making tackles on screens. Tries to lay the kill shot on wide receivers over the middle, but generally a good form tackler against running backs. Height and size come in handy on jump ball situations. Will be a factor on special teams, both using his length on the kick block team and as a strong tackler on coverage units.
Will be pegged as a pure in-the-box safety. Protected in coverage by being used extensively as a Robber his senior season. Linear, high-cut player who is tall in his back pedals. Displays stiff hips, average change-of-direction ability and burst. His height and average short-area quickness become an issue when trying to break down quickly to make tackles in space, can be eluded in the open field by quicker receivers and running backs. Also lacks flexibility to turn-and-run with better receivers and tight ends. Does not have the range to get to the sideline, even sometimes to the hash, in single-high looks. Stares into the backfield, gets frozen and fooled by play action, loses receivers behind him, and takes time to recover after a false step.
NFL COMPARISON: Bernard Pollard
NFL Combine Results:
- 40 Yard Dash: 4.59 seconds
- Bench Press: 19 reps(Top Performer among DBs)
- Vertical Jump: 40 inches(Top Performer among DBs)
- Broad Jump: 131 inches(Top Performer among DBs)
- 3 Cone Drill: 6.89 seconds
- 20 Yard Shuttle: 4.20 seconds
- Arm Length: 32 1/4"
- Hand Length: 8 7/8"
CBSSports.com Scouting Report on McDonald:
Strengths: Looks the part of a traditional NFL safety, possessing broad shoulders, a trim middle and impressive overall musculature. Moved all around as part of USC's defense in 2012, lining up as a single centerfielder, a corner covering slot receivers, a blitzing linebacker up the middle or off the edge and in his more familiar two-deep package.
Aggressive defender who attacks the line of scrimmage when he reads run. Physically takes on and shed blockers and is a lights-out hitter. Brings his hips to explode through the ballcarrier, yet wrapping his arms securely. Possesses good straight-line speed with a burst to close and the length to make tackles of ballcarriers seemingly out of his reach. Uses his height and physicality well to compete for jump balls. Good ball-skills. Dependable, no-nonsense player.
Weaknesses: Long, lanky build that makes him a step slow in transitioning. Has to gather himself out of his cuts, giving receivers room to gain separation. Seemed confused in Kiffin's scheme. Too often drifted out of position by attempting to read the quarterback's eyes, leaving huge gaps in the secondary for the high-octane passing attacks in the Pac-12 to exploit.
Had a generally underwhelming performance throughout the week of practice at the Senior Bowl and could be losing momentum as the draft approaches. Underwent surgery to his ankle (undisclosed) following 2010 spring.
Compares To: Kam Chancellor, SS, Seattle Seahawks -- While not quite as imposing as the 6-3, 232-pound Chancellor, McDonald's size and physicality is sure to intrigue teams looking for an enforcer against the running game and one athletic enough to handle the bigger hybrid receivers now running down the seam as tight ends in the NFL. Like Chancellor, a former free safety at Virginia Tech, McDonald's best fit in the NFL would be as an "in the box" type rather than playing over the top.
- Rob Rang
Personally I love big athletic safeties like McDonald. T.J. is a good blitzer and has good ball skills. He will have value on special teams. Has the size to potentially block some kicks and is a big hitter to make an impact play on returns. Now the bad...like most big safeties he is a liability in coverage. He probably is an "in the box" guy, which isn't totally bad considering he's a mid to late round guy. Not sure where he would fit in with Carter/Moore/Bruton though. I wouldn't be upset with drafting him, especially in the 4-5th round. The Broncos decision makers don't seem too thrilled with the safety play it seems, so I'm not ruling out a draft pick being used on a safety again.