|Photo: NC State University|
The Vikings used their final pick of the 2017 NFL Draft to select NC State cornerback Jack Tocho. Daniel House discusses why Tocho might challenge a few incumbents for a roster spot at safety.
Updated: June 22, 2017 2:30 p.m.
By: Daniel House
By: Daniel House
The Vikings used their final pick of the 2017 NFL Draft to select NC State cornerback Jack Tocho. He'll make the transition to safety with the Vikings, which should be a rather seamless move for the 6-foot, 202-pound defensive back. Tocho battled injuries during his junior season, but played in 13 games last year, tallying 37 tackles and two interceptions. He didn't test well at the combine and flew under the radar as most of the hype centered around his teammate, Josh Jones.
Tocho has great size to pair with excellent physicality. Not to mention, he has above average ball skills and tracks passes extremely well. He uses his body to makes plays on the ball by being physical and getting into position. In the press conference following the NFL Draft, GM Rick Spielman raved about Tocho's intelligence. It is clear to see he is an extremely natural and confident player. He has a very muscular frame, but he plays smooth and tracks the ball with ease in all situations. In the multiple games I watched, Tocho was most impressive defending intermediate routes. He was able to redirect routes by engaging with the wide receiver and out-muscling him at the top of the route. The clip below shows Tocho redirecting the route, making a play on the ball, and displaying impressive concentration to haul in the interception.
I was really impressed with Tocho as a boundary cornerback because his footwork, above average ball skills, and physicality allowed him to be in the correct position to make plays. He played against premier competition in the ACC Conference, performing well against Zay Jones and Mike Williams. This work against high quality competition will help Tocho make a more swift transition to the NFL level. Where Tocho struggles is against receivers that have more top-line speed. Tocho plays with more quick burst speed and lacks impressive wheels down the field.
When receivers win within the first five yards, Tocho has trouble recovering. However, as a safety, I think his role will be perfect. He'll be asked to sit in the box and play as a single-high safety. His excellent ball tracking abilities and diagnosis skills will serve him well in the single-high looks. He plays very fundamentally sound and with physicality too, which puts him in a position to make plays on the ball. Tocho also is a reliable tackler in run support. He can be placed around the line of scrimmage to use his muscular build to fight through blocks. Tocho showed an ability to force runs inside when around the line of scrimmage. He also can fight off a block and make a tackle in space, as the clip below shows. He is a very fundamentally sound tackler.
I'm most excited about Tocho's awareness and his focus on the details of the game. He did an excellent job on the outside and forced wide receivers hard to the boundary. After doing that, he doesn't get grabby like so many defensive backs. He turns his head quickly to track the ball and doesn't face guard. His ball skills and ability to be in the correct position at all times illustrate his impressive awareness.
Tocho plays with confidence and it shows on tape. This clip below illustrates how he can force a wide receiver to the boundary and track the ball, while running step for step with the wide receiver. Tocho will effectively diagnosis and react to plays. His coverage skills and intelligence are added traits for a player with future potential. As I stated earlier, he matches up better with slow, physical wide-outs. However, this won't be a problem in his role at safety. He plays with more explosive bursts than straight line speed, which should fit well in his system role.
I've been consistently discussing Tocho's ball skills on Twitter and how they separate him from many defensive backs. When he is in traffic, he'll win jump ball battles because he turns his head and makes a play on the ball. So many defensive backs try to face guard and it leads to a plethora of penalties at the next level. He is super instinctive and discplined for a young cornerback entering the NFL. He simply doesn't give wide receivers room to work. What's more, I never seen him drop a ball he got his hands on last year. The Vikings don't have a coverage safety next to Harrison Smith that can consistently make plays on the ball right now. In addition, it seems like it has been difficult to find a safety that can cover, without jeopardizing run stopping ability. Tocho can do both of these things as he transitions to safety.
Head coach Mike Zimmer has always preferred players who have versatile skill-sets. Jack Tocho will play safety, but could play cornerback if injuries strike. In fact, Zimmer held onto Shaun Prater a few years ago because of his hybrid capabilities. Tocho can be a similar type of player with starting upside in the future. With his past experience at cornerback, he could provide insurance at that position as well. Tocho is a tough, smart, and physical player who fits the brand of defensive backs Mike Zimmer actively pursues. This is a make it or break it year for Anthony Harris, who might be challenged by Tocho in training camp.
In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb and say Jack Tocho will be one of the most surprising rookies in training camp.