The Minnesota Vikings are showing a clear interest in safeties this offseason by hosting several during their top-30 visit, one of which was Clemson safety T.J. Green, who sounded like he was preparing for the cold upon his departure to the north.
Green did not start out the same way that many of the college stars did. He was a two-star recruit coming out of high school and began his career on the offensive side of the ball as a receiver. He was then moved to safety as a sophomore and that is where he really seemed to thrive.
Vikings need: Harrison Smith has secured himself a spot as one of the starting safeties by being one of the most versatile defenders in the NFL. The problem is that the Vikings can’t always use him how they would like because they need him to man the back end of their defense.
If they could bring in another safety that they can trust to defend the middle of the field, then they could utilize Smith better by having him do a variety of tasks. They have multiple safeties on their roster already, both young and old, but the team has made it clear they are still in the market for another.
Measureables: Green’s 6-foot-2, 209-pound frame is a good starting size for a safety in the NFL. He also has electric speed, recording a 4.34-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, which was the fastest time recorded by a safety. He added the second-longest broad jump at the combine at 129 inches. Green finished off his combine stats with a 35½-inch vertical and 13 reps of the 225-pound bench press. He also recorded a 4.41-second 20-yard short shuttle and a 7.1-second three-cone drill at his pro day.
Analysis: Green has everything that coaching staffs look for in a safety except for experience. He only has one year playing as a full-time starter under his belt and even then he was primarily used in deep coverage. Instead of moving around in the box, lining up in man coverage, blitzing or doing anything else a safety in the NFL is asked to do, he was often just making sure he did not get beat deep.
Still, from the limited tape on him it appears that he would be able to perform all the tasks assigned to him. He has great range when covering deep – a plus for any safety – and has flashed some skill in man coverage. And the fact that he is a converted wide receiver helps in his route-recognition and ball skills.
The biggest knock against Green is just his inexperience and the lack of tape on him. His size and speed is causing him to increase his stock in the minds of anlaysts as he is currently projected to go somewhere around the third round. While it is possible for him to be a Day 1 starter, the best option for him probably would be to sit and learn for a year since he is still learning to play the safety position.
That could make Minnesota the perfect landing spot for him because they have candidates who could play next to Smith for a year or two, but no long-term answers. Green could be that answer if he is able to figure out all the ins and outs of the safety position.