NAME: Julian Blackmon
POSITION: Defensive Back
SCHOOL: University of Utah
Julian Blackmon is a versatile player with starting experience at both cornerback and safety. He finished his career at Utah as a safety, which is also his likely position in the NFL. The former Ute injured his knee in the Pac-12 title game, which did not allow him to participate in the combine. However, he has three years worth of game film that prove he has a professional skillset. He should be available on day three, and the Colts could look at him to add depth to their secondary.
Swiss Army Knife
Utah’s defense was outstanding last season, and Blackmon was a big reason why. He was asked to play in the middle of the field as a single high safety, down in the box over slots and tight ends, and blitz to pressure passers or stop the run. As a result, he had nearly as many tackles for loss in his career (8.5) as interceptions (nine). NFL offenses are too complex for a defense to sit in one look down after down, and players like Blackmon allow flexibility to disguise coverages and blitzes.
You guys, our defense is ridiculous. Julian Blackmon, Francis Bernard, and Mika Tafua wreaking HAVOC. pic.twitter.com/At7W60Spc7
— LuckeyUte (@LuckeyUte) November 17, 2019
While he certainly found his NFL home at safety in 2019, he was moved there because he often struggled in man coverage as a cornerback. While he did start on the outside for two years, he is something of a liability when asked to cover a receiver one on one. Those issues can be amplified at safety if he is the only obstacle between a tight end or slot and the end zone. Defensive coordinators must trust their safeties to protect the middle of the field. This is an obvious area of improvement for Blackmon to succeed at the next level.
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Hunter Bryant is such a mismatch at TE. Beats Julian Blackmon with the stutter and then he’s gone. pic.twitter.com/U01fvnBJsZ
— Rob Paul (@RobPaulNFL) November 2, 2019
The move to safety allowed Blackmon to be more of a force coming downhill. Fortunately, this is an area at which he truly shines. He was a long jumper in high school, and the acceleration into a jump is similar to the acceleration into a tackle. Bubble screens and outside runs fall into his purview, and he cleans them up. His tackling in space is sometimes inconsistent, but with a clean read, he can make offenses pay.
Hello Julian Blackmon 👀
What a hit and what a play pic.twitter.com/nCQGgnr7nx
— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) January 1, 2020
Jacoby Brissett takes a lot of blame for the Colts’ late-season collapse, yet the defense gave up at least 31 points in each of their final four losses. Chris Ballard will certainly add more competition on that side of the ball. Kenny Moore needs help on the back end, and a versatile player like Blackmon gives Matt Eberflus the means to mix things up. He can rotate at safety or blitz from the slot. In essence, he is the safety version of Moore. If his knee is healed, he is a great fit. Either way, he is worth a shot.