Tracy Walker III Was Drafted By The Detroit Lions In The Third Round On Friday.
I’ll preface this by saying that even Tracy Walker thought he would have to wait until the fifth round to hear his name called. I should also warn you that if you came here looking for the company line or some blue pill piece of analysis, you’re not going to get it.
Abandon hope all ye who enter here.
Tracy Walker, the 82nd overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, is a defensive back out of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. He was something of a Swiss Army knife for the Ragin’ Cajuns, seeing time as an outside corner, slot man, box defender, and free safety, while helping align their defense from all over the field. The first thing that stands out about Walker is his length (33.5” arms), and the high-cut, long-tendrilled defensive back possesses intriguing size at 6’1”, 206 lbs. While not quite as athletic as his cousin, Darius Slay, he boasts a respectable athletic profile with good quickness and solid acceleration, despite change of direction skills and hip fluidity that leave something to be desired.
In the five games I watched – his 2017 contests against Arkansas State, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Texas State, and Tulsa – he didn’t see a lot of action at the line of scrimmage, but he flashed the ability to be an effective press corner when asked to do so. His length is ridiculous and he demonstrated the ability to unfurl his arms into the breastplate of receivers suddenly and effectively. He was also patient in mirroring releases at the line of scrimmage, making press his best skill, albeit an underutilized one.
In off coverage, he demonstrated a good feel for two-man route combinations and maintained proper distance from targets when his underneath zone responsibilities were conflicted. He played the ball well when the play was in front of him and has plus hands to create turnovers.
As a safety and a run supporter, he flashed good hit power when his technique was sound. And the length that made him an effective jammer was well-utilized in block take-ons, where he showcased solid play strength.
Unfortunately, I don’t have much else nice to say.
Walker was often a tick slow to diagnose plays and took inconsistent pursuit angles both to the perimeter and in the open field. As a deep safety, his downhill run fits were hard-charging and regularly created cutback opportunities for ball carriers to break into the third level. His technique was erratic, he committed every cardinal sin of tackling fundamentals there is, and he would benefit greatly from coming to balance as a striker. Strangely enough, his effort as a tackler ran hot and cold. One play, he would be a first responder looking to get in on the action; the next, he was a pile inspector.
Worst of all were his woes in man coverage. He had some encouraging reps against 47th overall pick Christian Kirk, but was routinely beat deep once or twice a game. Walker has a slight hitch when opening his hips and had issues with stumbling out of his transitions, which didn’t bode well for deep ball recovery when paired with his long strides. He also fell prey to route fakes far too easily, and got beat on double moves far too often. His length is wasted at the catchpoint downfield, as he’s late to turn and locate the ball and has limited leaping ability to contest the 50-50 balls.
From zone, he lacks the mental processing to click-and-close with suddenness and ceded catches underneath his coverage as both a deep safety and a cornerback. He lost track of his coverage responsibilities in deep zone a few times and lacks the instincts or the athleticism to make up for such blunders. Furthermore, his difficulty transitioning was compounded by slow diagnostic skills and suboptimal routes to the ball as both a deep half safety and centerfielder, severely limiting his range.
At this point, Walker is ill-equipped for any significant role in 2018. He was good for two to three busted plays per game in the Sun Belt Conference, so it’s anybody’s guess as to how much of a liability he’d be as an NFL rookie. I’m unsure of what his best path to starting is. If they want him to be a safety, he’ll need to improve his pursuit angles and tackling technique, and assert himself on a more consistent basis. If they want him to be a corner, they should hone his press technique while teaching him the art of man coverage.
In his first year, he may see action as a special teamer while serving as depth for multiple secondary positions, but his tracking and tackling will need to be improved before he can be trusted there. By year three, he’ll hopefully have developed enough to be a solid role player in the secondary, where he could be leveraged in several different roles.
For now, I remain puzzled by this pick.