With the departure of several defensive backs over the past few years, the Denver Broncos made upgrading the back end of their defense a priority in free agency. John Elway didn’t disappoint, adding two of the best players available with respect to Bryce Callahan and Kareem Jackson. Even with those moves, long-term question marks in the secondary still remain.
Incumbent starters at safety Will Parks and Justin Simmons are free agents at the end of next season. While the Broncos have a few intriguing options behind them, finding another safety in this year’s draft should be considered a priority. That’s why I believe the Broncos should take a look at University of Maryland product Darnell Savage Jr., who has been utilized in multiple roles in the Terrapins’ secondary and proved to be one of college football’s most energetic and high-powered defenders over the past few seasons.
After spending most of his true freshman season in a reserve role, he quickly earned a starting role as a sophomore and never looked back. In his three years as a starter, he amassed 182 tackles, 9 of them for loss, 1 sack and eight interceptions. Whether it was at either safety spot or at nickel corner, his versatility was an extreme benefit to the Terrapins’ defense. If you desire a prospect who has incredible athleticism, versatility, and a non-stop motor — Savage is someone you should be very interested in. Let’s take a deeper look at him as a prospect and where he should land during the 2019 NFL Draft.
Darnell Savage Jr. — Safety — Maryland
Height: 5’11” Weight: 198 lbs.
Bench Press: 11 reps | Arm Length: 31” | Hands: 9 1/8”
40 Yard Dash: 4.36 | 3 Cone Drill: 7.03 | 20 Yard Shuttle: 4.14
Film Room and Highlights
Hart’s Scouting Report
Positives: Supremely athletic and versatile defensive back capable of playing a variety of roles for any team’s secondary. Experience playing in zone and in off-man coverage at both safety positions and nickel corner. Is the epitome of a playmaker — defending 13 passes, amassing 8 interceptions and scoring two touchdowns defensively in his career with the Terrapins. Possess premier instincts, football intelligence and ball-hawking skills are evident on tape. Fluid hips, great short area quickness and closing burst allow him to be ‘sticky’ in coverage. Willing defender in run support whose motor is always revving at 100 percent. Three-year starter who is praised by his coaches and fellow teammates for his work ethic and quality play on the field.
Negatives: Size is less than desirable which may be an inhibiting factor against larger receiving targets at the pro level. Heat-seeking missile mentality as a defender causes him to take some poor angles leading to missed tackles. Can occasionally get caught peeking in coverage causing him to get beat on intermediate and deep routes.
Overall: Top 50 prospect. Savage sticks out on tape due to his ferocious style of play and top-tier athleticism, though his ‘hair on fire’ mentality can lead to detrimental play outcomes. Nevertheless, his ability to play multiple roles boost his overall value for teams looking for chess piece options in their secondary units. If he can become more disciplined as a player, he has the ability to become a stalwart defender on the back end in the National Football League.
Does Darnell Savage Jr. make sense for the Broncos?
The Broncos upgraded their secondary this free agency period, but as mentioned earlier, starting safeties Parks and Simmons are both free agents at the end of this season. With that in mind, it would be wise for the franchise to seek a versatile prospect like Savage Jr. in this year’s draft. It may not be one of the team’s top three needs come the end of April, but it’s certainly a long-term question mark.
Head Coach Vic Fangio stated earlier in the offseason that tackling was a non-negotiable trait with his players — which is an area that the highly-touted Maryland product needs to work on. Despite that, Savage offers the Broncos tremendous flexibility in the defensive backfield and would provide them with another dynamic option who can bolster their secondary immediately and for the long-term. If available at the Broncos’ second-round selection, his high-ceiling and versatility may be too good to pass up, despite other pressing needs.