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Could Juan Thornhill Provide An Upgrade To The Redskins Secondary?

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Hogs Haven takes a look at 2019 NFL Draft prospects that could contribute to the Redskins

Virginia v Oregon Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Juan Thornhill, CB/S
School: Virginia| Conference: ACC
Experience: Senior | Age: 2?
Height / Weight: 6-0 / 210 lbs
Projected Draft Status: Round 2-3
NFL Comparison: Adrian Amos

College Statistics

Player Overview

Came to Virginia rated as a three-star recruit. Thornhill started as a sophomore and Junior at corner, before moving to safety as a Senior. He led UVA with 98 tackles in 2018.

Athletic Traits (Pre-Combine)

You have to take these unofficials with a grain of salt, but only nine defensive backs have ran a better 3-cone time over the past five NFL Combines, and only ten DBs have jumped higher than Thornhill’s reported 40.5 inch vertical over the past five years. Given these reported workout numbers and based on his film, I would estimate Thornhill will run his 40 between 4.48 and 4.52 seconds.

The Film

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Strengths

  • An experienced, savvy player, and a smooth athlete.
  • Able to find the ball, with 26 passes defended, including thirteen interceptions in his career.
  • Instincts and vision serve him well in zone coverage.
  • Anticipates and mirrors routes well in man coverage.
  • Durable. Missed only one game the past three seasons.
  • Frequently lined up in press-man as a junior and experience as a corner gives him the versatility at the next level.
  • As a safety, Thornhill can play as a single-high, cover-two, quarters, etc.
  • Has the physical traits to lineup with flexed tight ends and big-bodied possession receivers.

Weaknesses

  • Inconsistent making a play on the ball in the air.
  • Not an intimidating striker as a tackler.
  • May not have elite make-up speed to compensate for false steps.
  • Sometimes he bit on double moves when playing corner, and could be exposed in the NFL if he is too aggressive.
  • Quicker slot receivers, would likely be a difficult match-up for Thornhill.
  • Does not profile well as a box safety.

What Others Are Saying

Draft analyst, Fran Duffy compares Thornhill to Eddie Jackson

Duffy wrote ”I’ve been a fan of Juan Thornhill for a long time, going back to his sophomore season as a corner that the coaching staff talked about potentially moving to safety. That discussion continued into his junior year until injuries forced him to stay outside. Finally, in his senior season, the 6-1, 212-pounder slid inside for good and has been a playmaker for the Cavaliers all season long. The ball-hawking safety was an impact player for the UVA defense, and the way he patrols the secondary reminds me of another former corner who made the transition to the back end midway through his college career – Chicago Bears safety and former Alabama star Eddie Jackson. I like Thornhill a lot, and view him as a player who could hear his name called in the first round next spring.”

Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy came away impressed, noting his “disciplined zone integrity, good anticipation, and secure hands (an underrated trait for a defensive back).” He also notes that he’s a quality defender in the box against the run, something you don’t see a lot of from rangy safeties. “NFL teams are very enticed by Thornhill’s skill-set as a safety and would even want to see him rep as an outside cornerback in a Senior Bowl environment,” writes Nagy. “If he continues to excel in his high/low safety role and displays adequate cover skills as a cornerback, Thornhill could become a favorite of many teams come draft time.”

GBN Report - In today’s NFL, where the criteria for S play has turned from head-hunter to coverage guy, it is always worth watching when you find a S, who has previously played CB.

Tony Pauline - Thornhill, a player who entered the season with middle round grades and someone we spoke highly of during our UVa preview, has been impressive (as a senior). Thornhill is a nice sized defensive back with a physical nature to his game. He’s stout defending the run and offers solid ball skills. Solid pre-draft workouts could push Thornhill into the third round.

How Would He Fit On The Redskins

A couple of months ago, the Redskins looked set at safety, with DJ Swearinger, HaHa Clinton Dix, and Montae Nicholson. Fast forward, and Swearinger is no longer on the team, Clinton Dix is a free agent, and Nichloson has been arrested.

Thornhill has experience at both safety and cornerback positions, giving him a lot of position flexibility entering the NFL.

In 2018, Virginia’s Quin Blanding, despite being a former 5-star recruit and four year starter went undrafted. He was not alone, as Oklahoma’s Steven Parker, Georgia’s Dominque Sanders, and Ohio State’s Damon Webb also failed to be selected. The theme, big hitters with poor athleticism are being devalued by the NFL. If you can’t cover, the NFL has little use for you.

Fortunately, Thornhill excels in coverage from a variety of techniques. He has a natural feel for spacing in zone coverage, while also effective in man coverage where his length and physicality can be smothering.

In Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson, the Chicago Bears have a great safety tandem, each of whom spent part of their collegiate career at corner. While I can see the Eddie Jackson comp, he was arguably the best safety in the league in 2018, making the Amos comp a more realistic comparison. I think Thornhill can provide a similar skill set to the Redskins’ back end.