It’s that time again, time to pick the best players in the SEC.
All week, we at the SEC blog will be debating which player at each position will have the best 2016 season. Some choices might be easy. Others not so much.
Next up, we choose the best safety.
Alex Scarborough: This one was tough. Just going by the numbers, I was tempted to pick Georgia’s Dominick Sanders, who shared the SEC lead in interceptions. And going on talent alone, I was tempted by LSU’s Jamal Adams, who could develop into a first-round pick in next year’s NFL draft. But, in the end, I couldn’t talk myself out of Alabama’s Eddie Jackson.
Why? Well, I get the best of both worlds with Jackson. Not only has he produced with a league-lead-tying six interceptions and seven passes defended last year — on the best defense in the country, I might add — but he’s also a solid pro prospect with good size, range for days and the ability to play both man-to-man and in space. I don’t know if we can call him a true ball hawk in the mold of an Eric Berry or a Tyrann Mathieu yet, but he’s got some of that in him.
What’s more, watching Jackson last season I got the sense he’s just getting started. After all, it was only a year ago that the former all-freshman cornerback converted to safety, making his All-SEC worthy play there pretty incredible. Under the tutelage of Nick Saban, who works closely with the defensive backs in practice, there’s no telling how much he progresses heading into his senior year.
Greg Ostendorf: I’m glad you took Jackson because that means you left Adams for me. I’m also glad you mentioned the Honey Badger because that’s who I would compare him to. Sure, they both played at LSU. But it's more than that. Like Mathieu, Adams is a physical defensive back with good ball skills and a knack for making plays.
As a sophomore, Adams finished with 67 tackles and five tackles for loss. He intercepted four passes, broke up six and forced a fumble. The only thing missing from his resume are the touchdowns that made Mathieu so special his sophomore year, but there’s time for that. LSU has arguably the SEC’s top returning defense, with perhaps five players who could go in the first round, and I think Adams is the best of the bunch.
As a converted corner, Jackson has great ball skills. That’s why he was the SEC’s co-leader with six interceptions last year. But how is he against the run? Adams, who is an inch taller and nearly 20 pounds heavier, loves to come up to the line of scrimmage and be physical. Simply put, he can do it all.
LSU always seems to have a star at safety, and Adams is next in line. Will he match Mathieu’s season in 2011? Maybe not. But will he be the best safety in the SEC this fall? There’s no doubt.