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NFL Draft Prospect: Lorenzo Jerome

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The Bolts need safety help, but should they wait until after Round 1?

Everyone loves a playmaker, right? Well, this safety class is full of them. This however, can make it easy for some of the players in the middle of the pack to get ignored for their abilities. One of those players is Free Safety Lorenzo Jerome, whose been plying his trade at St. Francis. Jerome helped St. Francis make the FCS playoffs for the first time in their history last season. In each of his four seasons, he made the first team all Northeastern selection while making the list three times as a returner. Jerome was the first NEC player to make an appearance at the Senior Bowl, where he had two interceptions, a forced fumbled and a tackle for loss. Previous to that, he played in the Collegiate Bowl, collecting another two picks. I’ve used games vs Villanova, Robert Morris and Georgetown to analyze Jerome. Right, so let’s get down to some football.

Play recognition

‘Seeing the field’ and diagnosing the play is one of Jerome’s biggest strengths. On the play above, he starts from centerfield and reads the reverse/end-around like a book. Not only does he read it, he also has the closing speed to come up and make the play. Jerome starts 10 yards deep and gets a two-yard tackle for loss here; that’s pretty impressive.

Again, this example shows off his speed. Unfortunately, in the clip you can't tell how far back he comes from. What you can see, though, is Jerome exploding like a bullet and not giving the receiver trying to block him a chance. It's plays like this where you start to feel sorry for the opposition.

Covering ground

Here, Jerome is able to show his speed in coverage. This is a badly thrown pass but he covers half the field to catch up with the ball, and is able to use his length to knock the ball away.

Jerome really excels playing as a centerfielder in zone coverage, where he can diagnose a play quickly and then use his speed and athletic ability to make the play. This nicely moves us on to another great attribute of his.

Ball Skills

Chargers fans got a nice surprise last season when they were shown what it’s like to have a defensive back (that can stay on the field) with ball skills. Casey Hayward finished the year leading the league in INTs with 7. Now it’s time to add another ballhawk to the secondary. Jerome had 18 INTs in 35 games in his career at St. Francis and here's one of the best...

Jerome is playing zone coverage in the play above, initially lined up with the slot receiver. As the Tight End comes out in the flat, he baits the QB to throw to the inside receiver, knowing he has the skill to recover. Jerome leaps back to make a play on the ball and finishes with a brilliant catch. He’s really demonstrating his high football IQ here and it’s one of the main reasons I believe he can make the leap from his small school to the big stage.

Special Teams

I’m not sure I totally know what ‘good’ special teams play is anymore. I sure haven’t seen it happen in a Chargers jersey recently. Jerome returned both punts and kicks for St. Francis for 3 years, and with a decent results too. He totaled 1,225 kick return yards at an average of 27.2 per attempt with 3 touchdowns and 295 punt return yards, with a single touchdown.

Downfalls

The biggest one of all, is all that these plays have come against small school opponents but, in his situation, Jerome could literally not have done anymore. Size could be an issue: Jerome comes in at 5’11” and 195 pounds. I’m not too worried about this but these measurements do come in the lower quarter within the 15 safeties I have ranked so far.

Summary

At the moment, I’m more in favor of using a 3rd round pick on Lorenzo Jerome than I am using a 1st round pick on Malik Hooker, and I think the Chargers will be too. I do like Hooker’s ability but I don’t think there’s a safety worth a top 10 pick. General Manager Tom Telesco has said on record that the team doesn’t value the safety position as much as other teams do so I can’t believe that they’ll think it’s worth taking a safety at #7. Lorenzo could be one of the steals of the draft and would be a great fit for the Chargers.