NAME: Marquise Blair
JERSEY: No. 13
RECRUITMENT RATING: 4-star
WT: 195 lbs
Range – Big, rangy safety who can really open up and run. Build and movement skills are similar to Deionte Thompson, but I don’t see the same instincts and aggression in deep coverage to attack routes with Blair. Potential is there to be an effective free safety, and doesn’t let receivers behind him. Gets too deep and takes himself out of position to make a play on the ball too often. When the field was condensed (in his own red zone or just outside), was more effective driving to the ball because he couldn’t get too deep in his zone drop.
Ball Skills – Has four pass breakups in his two-year career at Utah, two against Weber State in 2018 and two against San Jose State in 2017. Has made one play on the ball in two years against PAC-12 competition, but it was a pretty nice break on the ball from a single-high alignment against Colorado for his lone collegiate interception. In three games I studied, he made zero plays on the ball, and was also given zero opportunities to make a play on the ball. Couple of times I thought a well-timed or well-placed throw could have resulted in at least a PBU. Classic case of a prospect who hasn’t done something in his career, but may very well be capable of it with different usage.
Going the other way!@Utah_Football's Marquise Blair picks off Montez in the red zone.
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) November 17, 2018
Man Coverage – Only in man coverage a couple times in three games I studied, handled it fine but very simple assignments. I’m not sure I’d trust his footwork in man coverage, he’s better as a free-roaming, attacking player. Has the size and athleticism to develop in this area, reps at the Senior Bowl should be revealing.
Fluidity/Agility – I think his over-aggressive tendencies in space can make his change-of-direction seem worse than it actually is. When he comes to balance, he’s plenty fluid and agile enough to match top-tier athletes. Has to play more under control in order to let his traits manifest. As a deep safety, a lot easier to see his fluidity as he adjusts angles and opens up from a pedal to run.
Tackling – Biggest issue is coming to balance and making plays in space. Can be over-aggressive and take questionable angles to the football. Has big-hit potential and has glimpses of packing a ferocious punch as a tackler. Terrific form gives way to fly-by ankle-tackle efforts with no warning. Consistency in this area is lacking, but potential with his physicality, length and closing burst is through the roof. Has had some targeting issues as well.
Run Defense – In trouble when a blocker stacks him up, but has the quickness and awareness to slip around them and leverage his gap. Aforementioned over-aggression can get him into trouble in space, but has also made some aggressive angles work with great closing speed. Will cheat his assignments and does not always play gap sound, especially on the perimeter.
Route Recognition – Keeps his eyes active and is pretty aware of routes developing in his space in zone coverage. When in underneath zone, will clobber crossers to disrupt patterns. In deep zone, needs to be more aware of his spacing, will get too much depth and fail to think through route combinations where he can make a more aggressive play on the ball. Didn’t see any blown coverages.
Versatility – Played all over for Utah, including in the box, as an overhang defender/blitzer and in the slot, but I’m not sure he’ll translate everywhere in the NFL. May see less slot duty and more box duty early, but eventually has some traits that could be most ideal in deep coverage. Looks like an impactful special teamer.
Competitive Toughness – Physical and competitive. Likes to get in on the action and will be aggressive around the line of scrimmage. Play temperament and demeanor are ideal for the position.
Athleticism/Size – May need to pack on a bit more muscle, but frame and length are outstanding for a safety. His athletic testing should be fascinating, I think his 40 will impress, but I’ll have my eyes on the agility drills.
BEST TRAIT – Size/Range
WORST TRAIT – Man Coverage
RED FLAGS – Torn meniscus out of high school. Academically ineligible to attend Syracuse, his chosen university out of high school. Unspecified leg injury (believed to be torn knee ligaments) ended his 2017 season early.
Marquise Blair is a fascinating evaluation. Utah often used him in the box for full games, rarely seeing his skills in coverage on display at all. He’s physical and savvy enough to slip blockers and get in on the action as a run defender, but he’ll also miss some tackles and play over-aggressive enough to be concerned about him as assignment-sound at the next level.
At free safety, the issues are almost reversed. Blair has shown an ability to open up and run that really impresses me, closing down on routes to the sideline and rarely letting anyone behind him. He stays on top of routes consistently, but plays too deep and doesn’t always show the instincts to attack routes combinations more aggressively. Blair has barely touched the ball at Utah, but he’s also rarely been given opportunities to make plays in the games I’ve watched.
Blair’s demeanor and peak plays are impressive, but his performance at the Senior Bowl will be massive. Does he make more plays on the ball from a single-high alignment? How does he match up in man coverage, a position Utah rarely placed him in? The pre-draft process can be very kind to Blair, and I think most of his concerns on tape are fixable.
PROS: Has excellent length for the position; offers a physical profile that projects well to playing against NFL tight ends, especially with added weight. Can offer hard-hitting reps across the middle of the field or when filling down against the run — has been ejected from multiple games for targeting, given tendency to look for the big hit. Length can assist him as a tackler: increases tackle radius in space.
CONS: Is generally a very poor tackler. Dives for ankles at every opportunity. Will either come in too contact far too hot and be easily eluded or sit on his heels and let contact come to him. A grab-and-drag tackler in space.
High-waisted frame greatly limits change of direction ability. Is a little bow-legged and it bites into his acceleration as well. Range from the free safety alignment generally disappoints, in part due to acceleration questions and in part due to processing/spacing problems. Doesn’t lean zones to strength of formation/QBs eyes. Very few plays to the boundary evident down the field.
Angles to the ball generally seem disappointing. Arrived to multiple seam routes out of position to make a play on the football or deliver a hit to the receiver. Will pull up from strikes at times — whether over concern of drawing a targeting penalty, or because he’s avoiding receiving some power, it’s unclear.