NAME: Mike Edwards
JERSEY: No. 7
RECRUITMENT RATING: 3-star
WT: 200 lbs
Range – Average overall rangy, not particularly fleet of foot, but does show decent instincts with the ball in the air. Rarely asked to play single-high and show sideline-to-sideline range, and athletic tools and tape do not project him to that role in the NFL. As an underneath zone defender, shows the ability to hop between windows and accelerate onto the ball in shorter distances.
Ball Skills – Definitely solid in this area, could show better technique with his back to the ball on vertical routes however, but still does a good job playing the pocket on the way down. No one would describe him as a ballhawk, but will compete in the air and does a good job getting fully extended to contest throws underneath. Lack of length and explosiveness limit his ability to play all catch points.
Man Coverage – Strong man coverage option in the slot, even bringing some press coverage experience to the table. Often asked to play the nickel position, either rolled up or in off coverage, and showed good ability to stay patient at the line of scrimmage and open with the receiver. From off coverage, does a great job breaking on routes in front of him, but has to open his hips sooner to get vertical with receivers.
Fluidity/Agility – Some hip tightness and change-of-direction limitations, but good closing burst in a straight line. Some of his transitions in man coverage do allow a little separation to shiftier receivers, which he typically closes soon after. Not an elite or quick-twitch athlete, but plays with a relentless sense of energy that allows him to get places sooner. Have seen him dodge slower blockers around the line of scrimmage.
Tackling – Fearless and consistently sticks his nose into traffic depsite his smaller size. Targets low to take out the legs, which allow some more balanced runners to step through his efforts and carry on uninhibited. Gets most ball carriers on the ground 1v1, but isn’t a big hitter despite his physical style. Probably will always miss a few tackles in space, but is generally reliable and tenacious.
Run Defense – Key run defender for Kentucky, often asked to play on the edge as an overhang defender or in the box as an extra defender. On stretch plays, flies up to the edge to turn the run back inside, taking away bounce reads. Fearlessly takes on blockers, but can struggle to win 1v1 due to his size at times. At his best bringing the fight to blockers, getting his hands inside and shedding their attempts before they can square him up. From deep safety, consistently fills in a timely fashion and takes mostly good angles to the ball.
Route Recognition – Sometimes too aware in zone coverage, abandoning his area to jump a route elsewhere. Doesn’t really have the traits to play that gambling style of football, will need to be a bit more assignment sound in the NFL. Processes most routes quickly, but can be moved off his spot by more manipulative quarterbacks or fancy window dressing. Has had his issues with over-aggression vs. play-action, most pre-dominantly against Tennessee.
Versatility – Played all over the defense for Kentucky almost every week. Often asked to play blitz from the slot, consistently in the box, manned up guys in the slot and of course saw his time in deep coverage too, mostly two-high shells. College versatility may not translate completely in the NFL, as his size will keep him from a heavy box role, and his lack of range will limit the shells he plays in deep. Likely at his best in the slot.
Competitive Toughness – Toughness, heart and competitiveness won’t be questioned. Chirper who brought energy to the field every game and played at a non-stop pace. Physical as needed and would often chase plays from across the field to get in on the action.
Athleticism/Size – If Edwards is 5-foot-11, 200 pounds, it’ll be an awesome weigh-in for him. I have some doubts. Athletically average and likely has a low ceiling as a result.
BEST TRAIT – Man Coverage
WORST TRAIT – Range
RED FLAGS – None
For almost four full seasons, Edwards was a guiding force in Kentucky’s secondary, playing all over the defense to help elevate the unit to one of the country’s best this past season. Edwards never missed a game for the Wildcats, playing in 51 and starting 44 consecutive contests while showing the smarts, toughness and versatility to lead the defense in a variety of ways.
A limited athlete and smaller safety, Edwards’ best spot at Kentucky (and likely in the NFL) will be in the slot, where his quickness and processing skills are useful in man and zone coverage. His ability and desire to play the run is a strength, and while he may be overwhelmed physically by certain ball carriers and blockers, Edwards has enough strength and technique to be a good perimeter defender against opponents’ short passing attacks and ground game. I think he could be a solid starter for certain NFL teams, but there may also be some matchups that don’t exactly play to his strengths.