NAME: Johnathan Abram
SCHOOL: Mississippi State
JERSEY: No. 38
RECRUITMENT RATING: 3-star
WT: 210 lbs
Coverage – Functions best in short zones. Illustrates hesitancy with route awareness and will get twisted up in deeper zones. Has the physicality and play strength needed to challenge tight ends at the top of routes and the catch point. Limited reps in man coverage but tight hips and modest route anticipation skills must be overcome.
Tackling – Highly aggressive to a fault. Comes in hot and out of control with inconsistent angles that make it difficult for him to consistently square up the ball carrier. Way too many misses. Often leaves his feet and dives into the legs of the runner. Does well to grab something on the runner as he closes in. Must learn to control his aggression to not whiff so much.
Processing – Plays fast but bites hard on play fakes and runs himself out of plays. Coverage spacing and awareness is underwhelming. Often fails to get enough depth in his drops. Angles to the football are highly inconsistent. Slow to find the football in the air. Best moments are when he is able to come forward and play downhill.
Ball Skills – Needs to be a better anticipator to make more plays on the ball. Often late to find the football in the air and takes poor angles when breaking on it. Over the shoulder tracking skills are particularly lacking. Most of his ball production came because he was in the right place at the right time.
Range – Wouldn’t call him overly rangy or a candidate to serve as a centerfielder in single-high coverage. Range is limited some by poor angles but there are some good examples on tape of him chasing down plays from distance on account of effort and urgency.
Physicality – Tenacious, physical and aggressive player with violent intentions as a hitter. Modest ability to work through contact and shed blocks to finish. Willing to crowd tight ends at the top of routes. Hitting power is good and his frame meshes well with his style.
Play Speed – Has ordinary play speed and is not a burner that rapidly covers ground. Has some limitations in man coverage. Is a good enough athlete but not enough to recover from misreads.
Flexibility – Battles through tightness in the lower half when transitioning. Doesn’t always play with great leverage or bend. Tight hips are worrisome when projecting him to turn and run in man coverage.
Versatility – Best role likely comes as a Cover 2 safety or playing down in the box. Ability as a single-high safety is underwhelming and there are limitations in man coverage. Has the makeup of a special teams standout but playing under control will be necessary for him to produce.
BEST TRAIT – Physicality
WORST TRAIT – Playing Under Control
RED FLAGS – None
Abram’s ability to attack downhill and provide a physical, tone-setting presence makes him appealing player. He has some coverage upside in short zones and lining up in man against tight ends. With that said, there is much to clean up in his game in terms of processing, playing through contact, angles and playing with better control to be a more consistent finisher. While his frame and play strength are appealing, his fluidity and overall athletic profile is ordinary. With more controlled aggression, Abram should be a special teams star and sub-package contributor early in his career. His path to becoming a starter is contingent on developing and easing his limitations.
Coverage Spacing –Lacking in burst and acceleration skills in off situations, which will hinder his ability to drive and challenge the football. Has been tasked with playing deep halves but lacks range to play anything remotely on an island. More effective in the shallows to play hook/curl, etc.
Acceleration –Does not have the juice. Pretty pedestrian as far as his initial step and his transitional quickness is stale. Doesn’t offer long speed or deep range but as a down-hill filler he’s got a lot of confidence to step into traffic fast and with intent to hit.
Tackling –Only flaw is his aggression, he’s overran a few tackles in the open field and needs to make sure he’s prepped for a cut sooner. Often covers a lot of ground with his fills so it’s hard to hold against him, but a simple correction to sit sooner will amend issue. Awesome finisher at contact.
Zone Coverage Skills –Like his patience in shallow zones to squat, hold his ground and contact as needed. Anticipation for shifting or sliding is still a work in progress, can be late to react to a break or a receiver folding into his area of work in the peripherals.
Ball Skills –Very little in the way of ball production, which stems from lack of anticipation. Did show awareness to combat the hands of receivers at the catch point and make life difficult for those trying to haul in and finish receptions.
Competitive Toughness –Boomer in the box. Love the physicality and finishing he brings to the table as a tackler and when plugging gaps as a blitzer. Showed good effort in pursuing Lamar Jackson from behind in bowl game…hustle matters to him. Stands up blockers in space with ease.
Flexibility –Works well within 90 degrees with his hips and transitions. If tasked with getting vertical in a hurry, he’ll labor and give up space. Can be considered for an overhang role in run support but struggles to peel back and tackle when backs cut against his scrape.
Feet/Change of Direction –Quick to collect himself and generate momentum into the line of scrimmage. When working in coverage shows some step inefficiency and have to work out of conceded separation. Issues will show up with balance as well but only because he’s not always in control.
Man Coverage Skills –Won’t be effective playing in the face of receivers on account of foot speed and lack of transitional skill. Has operated 8-10 yards off the ball and effectively worked into the hip on in-breaking patterns, if protected vertically could be tasked with off man in underneath spaces.
Versatility –Brings more flexibility if you’re looking to play him as a linebacker. Traditional base defenses won’t offer a lot of mobility for him other than squatting in the box as a true strong safety. Can be successful as a rotational LB to play in space with development.
BEST TRAIT – Tackling
WORST TRAIT – Coverage Spacing
BEST FILM – Louisville (2017)
WORST FILM – Kentucky (2018)
RED FLAGS – None
Johnathan Abram fits the mold of a traditional strong safety, he’s a booming hitter with an impressive resume as a run defender in the box. In today’s NFL, Abram will struggle to see the field on an every down basis. There are reps of Abram playing off man coverage, but he lacks the spring and burst to play reliable one on one coverage in passing situations. Abram could transition successfully to a nickel LB and a strong piece of a rotation based on personnel groupings.
Range – Adequate range and good long speed, just doesn’t play rangy in coverage. Not his style. Much more of a vertical attacking safety than a sideline-to-sideline ball hawk. Belongs closer to the line of scrimmage, lacks the instincts, processing and ball skills to be ideal in a single-high role despite his speed.
Ball Skills – Zilch. Can’t find the ball with his back to it, which results in him frequently playing through the receiver and getting penalized. Doesn’t have the instincts or anticipation in zone coverage to jump many routes. 2 interceptions in college, one on a miscommunication throw right to him against Ole Miss and the other he ripped away from a teammate while arriving late to a jump ball.
Man Coverage – Clunky in his transitions against route runners who know what they are doing. Panics and grabs at the top of routes, generating flags galore (or should-be flags). Struggles to stay in phase out of the route break. T.J. Hockenson separated from him a few times in man. Does flip his hips and run vertically with receivers pretty well, long speed could be an asset against more athletic tight ends.
Fluidity/Agility – When he overcommits, struggles to redirect in space. At his best moving in a straight line, he can flip and run, but plays too aggressive to change directions quickly. Tight in the hips and doesn’t bend angles to finish very well.
Tackling – Has made huge strides in his tackling from the 2017 season, when he missed tackles left and right. Will still miss a few from time-to-time, but is generally reliable and can get runners down outside his frame and with big hits. Runs the alley with a vengeance, and has learned to throttle down and come in more under control.
Run Defense – Can play around the line of scrimmage or come from deep and be effective as a run defender. Won’t work off of offensive lineman blocks, but I’ve seen him toss tight ends in multiple games. Can be a little undisciplined and over-pursue up the field, leaving cutback lanes. Runs the alley hard coming from deep, will punish runners who stop their feet near the boundary. Violent playing style and good size lend themselves to the gritty work around the box.
Route Recognition – Super aggressive to blow up receiver screens. Can also be caught biting on underneath routes and looking into the backfield even as the last line of defense. Has to be more disciplined with his eyes in coverage. Has flashes of good recognition, but too often just looking for the next thing to hit.
Versatility – Doesn’t have the range or instincts to be really effective deep and is still unrefined in man coverage. Has tight end matchup potential and the ability to play in the box and blitz. Should be a special teams demon as a rookie.
Competitive Toughness – One of the most physical and aggressive players in the draft. Gets after it every snap, wants in on every tackle, every exchange with a blocker is a cage match. Talks trash constantly. The other team is the enemy in his mind. Heralded for his emotional leadership and intensity, but toes a fine line, getting ejected twice for targeting, fighting in the Ole Miss game and even getting ejected from Mississippi State’s spring game for an unbelievable devastating hit on a teammate. He’s crazy.
Athleticism/Size – Outstanding size and speed for the position, but it will be interesting to see how quick and fluid he is in agilities at the Combine. Pro-ready frame and doesn’t look like he misses many lifts.
BEST TRAIT – Run Defense/Tackling
WORST TRAIT – Ball Skills
RED FLAGS – None
This man would sooner put you in the hospital than put the ball in the end zone. Abram plays a certifiable crazy brand of football, showing outstanding physicality and competitive toughness regardless of where he lines up. Still, his limitations in coverage show up too often and he won’t make many plays on the ball. I’d love to have him on my team as a box safety with the potential to develop in man coverage as a big slot defensive back, but the value for a player like that doesn’t exactly line up with Abram’s first round hype.