The 2019 NFL Draft is a few weeks away, yet the safety position isn’t receiving as much attention as it should. With future NFL starters in Washington’s Taylor Rapp and Mississippi State’s Johnathan Abrams leading this year’s class, it’s USC’s stalwart senior safety Marvell Tell III that might catch a national audience by surprise.
Measurements: 6’2″ | 198 lbs | 33 1/8 arms | 9 3/4 hands
Bench: 8 reps (Pro Day) |Vertical jump: 42″| Broad: 136″
40 Yard Dash: 4.57 (Pro Day) | 3-Cone Drill: 6.63 | 20-yd Short Shuttle: 4.01
For those who watched any Trojan game in the past the two years, it was clear to see that the secondary was atrocious. From Jack Jones and Iman Marshall being oft-burned corners two seasons ago to the injuries that left the secondary depleted last season, USC was mostly an easy team to pass on. In that gloom however, frequently came the consistent effort and playmaking of Tell.
The two biggest strengths Tell has are instincts and fluidity. For the latter, it was always intriguing to see Tell use that long frame to defend a pass over intercept a football. There isn’t any stiffness in his motion—his ability to cover the field and track the ball is done effortlessly. Tell also has an innate inability to put himself in position to make a play on the ball. Whether it be anticipating the route or reading the quarterback’s eyes. Tell’s five career interceptions are telling of his ballhawking ability.
What might prevent NFL teams from drafting Tell on Day Two is his inability to tackle. That’s not to say he isn’t willing, he just doesn’t have the strength nor physicality to it on a professional level. His workout numbers reflect the type of athlete he is—quick, explosive and long, but lacks ideal strength to consistently make tackles. Much like it went for the entirety of the Trojan defense last season, Tell’s biggest deficiency is tackling.
Best Performance as a Trojan
This might be a cop out, but it was difficult finding an individual performance to credit as his best. For that reason, I’ll coin the 2017 season as his best Trojan performance. It was Tell’s first season starting full-time and expectations for the secondary were high after the departure of Adoree’ Jackson. The tandem of Jones and Marshall were getting torched and the Trojans were giving up a heap of points to all opponents. Tell’s leadership shined through that season as rallied the secondary regularly after giving up big plays and was often the “eraser” to make up for blown coverages.
With a plethora of safety talent and less teams looking after Free Agency, I could easily see Tell going on Day 2 in the fourth round. It might seem like a stretch to some folks, but Tell has the length, athletics, attitude and instincts desired in today’s NFL. Once he gets his tackling mechanics downs and becomes a more consistent tackler, some team is going to have a Pro Bowl-caliber safety.