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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: S Tyree Gillespie

  • The Draft Network
  • December 30, 2020
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Missouri safety Tyree Gillespie projects as a depth player in the NFL who is capable of fulfilling significant snaps in spot duty and act as a primary special teams contributor on kick coverages. Gillespie offers some sturdy tackling and has spent the vast majority of his reps as a starter with the Tigers acting as the post safety in single-high coverage. His projection is much less favorable to playing single high in the pros; he’ll be better served working as a split safety and not being charged with commanding the entire middle of the field by himself. He’s a physical football player—teams that covet the potential of an enforcer on the back end will certainly have him earmarked as a potential value buy. Gillespie has NFL caliber functional athleticism but not to the degree in which he’d need it to fulfill a prominent starting role in the back end of an NFL defense. 

Ideal Role: Backup strong safety, special teams coverage units.

Scheme Fit: Split field coverages.


Written by Kyle Crabbs

Games watched: Florida (2019), Georgia (2019), Alabama (2020), LSU (2020), Florida (2020)

Best Game Studied: Alabama (2020) 

Worst Game Studied: Florida (2019) 

Football IQ: His play processing on run plays and routes that drive across the middle of the field is suitable and he’s resistant to getting suckered by the first route that develops across his face. That said, Gillespie’s anticipation to feel plays and jump into creating contested windows or generating turnovers is lacking—he’s not shown the ability to consistently be an impact defender in coverage. 

Tackling: When Gillespie catches ball-carriers flush, he’s capable of delivering some jarring hits (Alabama 2020). Gillespie has the needed size to bang and carry force into the point of attack and help to clean up plays. He’s got plenty of length and functional strength at his disposal as well to help his tackle radius. On a handful of occasions, I did see him leave his feet and come up empty-handed. 

Versatility: The appeal for Gillespie as a multi-tool athlete will stem from his ability to play either base defense or special teams. I don’t necessarily see a high ceiling as a post safety and his limited man to man appeal in coverage isn’t going to help him stay on the field against more open sets, so he’s going to have to utilize his baseline athleticism and tackling to make an impact on teams. 

Range: Most every game that I watched saw teams take shots vertically outside the numbers with Gillespie playing in the high post and Missouri gave up big receptions with consistency despite good angles from Gillespie—I just don’t think he’s got the anticipation, short-area explosiveness, and juice to play single high. Put him in half field or third coverages, however? He can be serviceable in deep coverage if need be when working in tandem. 

Ball Skills: Gillespie finished his career at Missouri with zero interceptions and just 12 passes defensed. It doesn’t seem as though he’s able to find the football when driving on throws that test his range, and so he’s only arriving at the catch point and not able to pick up flight patterns of the ball. That said, he does have a desirable amount of length to create a large area of influence if he’s on the body of a target. 

Run Defending: I enjoy and appreciate his gusto, here. He smacked Najee Harris up the left sideline against Alabama this year and put him on his back—he’s got the right attitude and plenty of hitting power in his frame. When he’s driving from the high post, he’s more calculated to not overcommit in case the ball carrier pops out of the pile. 

Functional Athleticism: He’s a passable NFL athlete but he’s not a dynamic defender in any individual area of playing in space. He’s a long strider and once he’s through his transitions, you’ll see him start to take more turf between steps. His short-area agility waters down his appeal to flip his hips and attack the boundary on vertical throws. 

Competitive Toughness: He’s a tough dude. Gillespie plays hard, he plays fast, and he’s not afraid to roll into the box. I think he’d be well served spending more time closer to the LOS than what he got in my samplings of Missouri as a result. Did his part in a number of short-yardage reps to help stuff up the point of attack. 

Flexibility: He’s fairly high-hipped in his backpedal or working out of his alignment at the snap, appearing to struggle to stay squatted on his base and stay low to help minimize transition times as he sees throws develop. Lateral hip hinge is fairly restricted as a result and he’s not shown the ability to speed turn or carry at high angles and not drift or lose leverage on routes when working in isolation. 

Special Teams Ability: There’s straight-line speed, competitive toughness, and tackling skills here that should help Gillespie carve out a 53-man roster spot and find meaningful snaps early on in his pro career. 

Prospect Comparison: Rudy Ford (2016 NFL Draft, Arizona Cardinals) 


TDN Consensus: 72.25/100

Joe Marino: 72.50/100

Kyle Crabbs: 71.50/100

Jordan Reid: 72.00/100

Drae Harris: 73.00/100

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