These questions are nothing new to the 226-pounder.
“Probably every question at the combine was, ‘What position do you want to play?’I’d say half of it was safety, half of it was WILL linebacker," Cravens told local reporters during a conference call shortly after the selection. "Not too many teams spoke to me about the dime linebacker position, so the fact that Washington called me, which I wasn’t expecting, and told me that’s where they wanted me to play, that’s a spot where I can fit right in the defense.”
At USC, Cravens played linebacker, but his weight makes him undersized for every-down work at that spot in the NFL.
Yet, as Washington's first defensive player in the 2016 NFL Draft told reporters, the idea of being undersized is a state of mind.
“You use technique, I think. If you look at my film the past two years, I was an undersized linebacker that was in the trenches taking on tackles, guards and fullbacks out the backfield, getting off blocks and making plays," Cravens said. "So I think it’s just the attitude you carry, the mentality that you have and how physical you want to be."
The Redskins have a plan for a standout who NFL.com said was "born to be a football player."
"They said they see me as a dime linebacker, so I’m gonna come in and give it my all," Cravens said. “I played 3-4 Sam ‘backer, so I was out in space a lot, covering the slot and making plays in open space.”
Even if Cravens doesn't have a clear role in base lineups, the reality is teams often line up in sub-packages with extra defensive backs needed to combat three- and four-receiver sets while maintaining a presence against the run.
To counter such looks, teams have begun using assertive safeties like Arizona's Deone Bucannon in the role of linebackers. The Redskins used Kyshoen Jarrett in such scenarios last season, but they might not have the injured defensive back available for 2017.
Cravens identified Bucannon as a player his game compares.
“He plays a lot bigger than what he is, and he makes plays in open space and he’s very physical when it comes to the point of attack," he said. "I think I’ll do a lot of the same things he does."
In three years with USC, Cravens amassed 207 tackles, including a team-high 86 this past season, according to USCFootball.com. During his two seasons as a linebacker, Cravens racked up 32 tackles for loss, including 10.5 sacks. He also intercepted nine passes and deflected 16 more during his career.
Cravens started immediately at safety before switching to linebacker as a sophomore and became a All-Pac-12 team member and a third-team AP All-American.
Any drafted safety who joins the Redskins, especially one who offers power, brings to mind the late Sean Taylor. It appears Cravens, who wore Taylor's No. 21 at USC, was a fan.
Soon it will be Cravens' turn to make plays. If he does, expect the fans to fall hard no matter where the Redskins play him.
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