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The Lone Safety the Chargers Should Consider in the 1st Round

Most mock drafts have the Chargers taking Malik Hooker, but this is the pick if they go for a safety.

Washington v Oregon Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The first thing anyone ever brings up with Budda Baker is size & how they want to limit his role. He’s 5’10 192 pounds per Washington’s website. It kinda feels like we do this every year, too. Using size as a skill. Why not mention 2 of the 4 best safeties in the NFL are sub 200 pounds? It’s all about traits. If that player doesn’t hold up in the position you’re projecting him to play, you have to ask, is size really the reason they’re struggling? In Baker’s case, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Last week when we started off by going over the basic traits we’re looking for in a safety, using Ohio State’s as an example. —-> Today we'll go over how Baker fits into those traits.

Coming Forward

As I mentioned last week, coming forward is such a big key in today’s game. Give me the safety that can impact 50-55 out of 60 plays, not 5-10 out of 60. We saw what kind of impact a box safety could have on the defense this year with the Giants in Landon Collins. Charger fans should know based on the old 32. Does this 32 look familiar to you?

The biggest possible compliment I can give to Baker is nobody on the field plays harder than him. I’ve seen him chase guys down across the field in a 40 point blowout. He doesn’t care about the situation because for him it’s always 3rd & 3 in the 4th quarter and if the offense converts you lose. I love that about his game. Baker is as good as it gets when you’re talking about coming forward. Not to mention, he’s the best blitzer in the class.

Baker has missed his fair share of tackles. The difference with him is they don’t lead to explosive plays. There are times where he just holds the turbo button too long & leaves his feet. I consider him a sure tackler, however.

When we talk about range it’s always a safety working backward. We never bring up how much ground a player covers coming forward. Baker is the best safety in the class when it comes to this regard. Budda’s game against Washington State was the best game I’ve seen from a safety in this class.

Coverage Skills

On the season Baker had 2 interceptions and 7 pass breakups. He is cat-like quick. When you combine a player with Bakers athletic gifts and his anticipation skills, the result is a sticky cover safety.

Another thing that stands out when watching Baker is his football smarts. The 1st gif above is a good example, but in every game you see Baker playing in the slot, showing good patience and breaking on the ball. The odds of your man running deep aren’t high and you’re fast enough to recover, not to mention you have safety help. So playing flat footed and just jumping routes is something Baker excels at. Utah was 0-4 targeting Baker in the slot. He comes off as a natural cover corner.

I will say this, there are times when he waits a bit too long in his flat foot read and can’t recover.

Mostly, though, there isn’t an issue with him driving through receivers or being physical. In fact, in these Utah & Cal games, you saw him overly aggressive at the “top” of routes. There was one play against Utah where he through a tight end who was easily 50 pounds heavier than him to the side. My notes on Baker in the USC game have “doing a good job of taking away routes or baiting QB.” He’s shown that he can consistently stay in position with receivers, and that’s why he put up the numbers he did this year. The second gif below shows how natural of a coverage player he is.

The Fit

I’ve seen professionals say Baker is limited to a single-high, deep safety role at the next level. I just showed you 19 plays within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage from 5 games & that wasn’t every play that was made. I think that’s lazy to think that and you’re really limiting the ceiling of your defense by restricting Baker. I want him in the box, around the line of scrimmage and letting him be disruptive. He’s like a gnat. He also allows you to be creative as a defensive since Baker can play man to man in the slot. For the Chargers defense, this is the safety they’re looking for. Wait until his combine, that’ll give you an idea of his athleticism if you doubt that. Baker is the best safety in the draft and the lone safety worth a top 10 pick. His size may scare some, & he does have some injury concerns, but if you’re rolling the dice on a safety early, look no further than Budda.