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Washington Redskins 2013 NFL Draft Profiles: Kenny Tate, safety, Maryland

The Redskins are in desperate need of and expected to select a ball-hawking safety with one of their first picks of the 2013 NFL Draft, but might it be worth taking a late-round shot on a high-risk, high-reward prospect who played his college ball a dozen miles from FedEx Field?

Rob Carr

Measurements: 6'4", 221 lbs.

Projected round: 7-FA

Why he would be a good Redskin: The Redskins are in desperate need of a safety, and Kenny Tate fits the bill physically. At 6-feet-4-inches tall and 220 pounds, he strikes a similar profile to the late Sean Taylor. Recruited out of DeMatha High School as a highly-touted wide receiver, Tate has the ball skills to play centerfield against the pass as well as the size and physicality to make an impact in the running game and blitzing the quarterback. Though it seems like forever ago, there was actually a time when Tate was one of the more intriguing safety prospects in college football. He was a first-team all-ACC selection following a breakout junior season in which he recorded 100 tackles, 3.5 sacks and three interceptions while generally terrorizing opposing offenses, but Tate elected to return for his senior season after being told that he was projected as a second- or third-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. He entered his senior year on the watch lists for the Bednarik, Nagurski, Lott and Butkus awards with an eye on becoming a first-round selection. Starting at the "Star" hybrid safety-linebacker position, Tate racked up 35 tackles and two interceptions in the first four games of the 2011 season.

Why he won't be drafted by the Redskins: Since then, Tate has fallen off the map. He missed the rest of 2011 with an undisclosed injury that eventually required surgery and earned him a medical redshirt. The exact nature of the injury is still unknown, but it was eventually revealed to have been to Tate's right knee. Tate then hurt his left knee a week before the 2012 opener, and missed the first four games of the season. When he returned, Tate was solid, but not the impact player he once was. Whether due to the injuries or some added bulk he put on to play linebacker, Tate's stock has plummeted since he was projected to go in the draft's top three rounds. How far? He wasn't even invited to this year's NFL Scouting Combine, and could very well go undrafted.

Bottom Line: Physically, Tate has the ideal measurables to project as a safety in the NFL, but might not have the requisite athleticism. His switch to the "Star" position was a bit puzzling to Terps fans who watched Tate thrive at safety, but lingering concerns about his top-end speed and whether his hips were too stiff to play full-time in the secondary seemed to be validated at Tate's pro day. Tate ran the 40-yard dash in 4.76 and 4.66 seconds, below-average for a safety, but not catastrophic (Kenny Vaccaro and Tony Jefferson ran a 4.63 and 4.75 at the combine, respectively). His 33-inch vertical jump, 4.34-second short shuttle and 15 bench reps were also underwhelming, but most troubling might have been his 7.20-second time in the three-cone drill; no safety at the combine came in at more than 7.07 seconds. He's plenty physical for a safety, but he doesn't have the bulk or strength to be a factor at linebacker. Is it possible Tate is simply a physical specimen without a position? He mentioned his versatility at his pro day, along with the possibility that he could move back to offense, but he didn't play at all on that side of the ball in college. Still, if he goes undrafted, Tate will get some invites to camp, and it wouldn't surprise if coaches find a way for him to contribute, even if it's as a gunner on special teams. He has too many physical skills to simply go unnoticed.