2015 NFL Draft: James Sample the Answer at Free Safety for the Jaguars?


Jacksonville Jaguars general manager David Caldwell just finished his third draft class with the franchise, and he’s finally getting to the point where some of the mid-to-later round draft selections aren’t guaranteed starters. The depth on this roster is miles ahead of where former GM/destroyer of worlds Gene Smith left it after the 2012 season.

One mid-round draft pick who might have a clear path to starting is 4th round pick James Sample. The less heralded of the two Louisville safeties in this years draft, Sample has received some extraordinarily high praise from a handful of analysts in the media. Louis Riddick of ESPN has gone as far to say Sample will end up being the best safety in this entire class.

The discussion now is whether or not Sample fits in at the free safety spot. In reality, the designation of free safety and strong safety might not matter too much in head coach Gus Bradley’s defensive scheme, but the Jaguars do still need a running mate next to Johnathan Cyprien who is more adept in coverage. Jaguars’ analytics guru Tony Khan thinks Sample is someone who can help out in that regard.

Speaking of Pro Football Focus, Sample was one of the website’s favorite selections in the 4th round.

"Sample isn’t flashy but that didn’t stop him picking up the third-highest production grade of all safeties in the 2014 season. Able to support in the run game and with the closing speed to impact receivers on shorter routes, he has a real shot at earning a starting spot early in his career. 12 combined pass break-ups and picks were second in the country to teammate Gerord Holliman."

Sample had the benefit of playing next to a pure cover safety in college, but he’ll have to use his coverage skills more often in Jacksonville. He’ll have to beat out veteran free agent signing Sergio Brown, but Sample appears to be the favorite to start in the back end in 2015.

Next: Sample a Terrific Value for Jaguars

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