It’s no secret that the 2017 NFL Draft will feature one of the deepest secondary classes of all time. I expect around 15 defensive backs to be drafted in the first 75 overall selections. This secondary class is that good.
As I sort through this incredible class, one name is not getting enough attention: Free Safety Lorenzo Jerome, the small school sleeper of St. Francis (PA). It’s easy to understand why Jerome may be flying under the radar; he’s part of a deep positional group, and plays in the Northeast Conference of the Division I FCS that features such programs as Robert Morris University & Fairleigh Dickinson University. Not exactly familiar names, huh? In 2016, the Red Flash appeared in the FCS playoffs for the first time, losing 31-21 to Villanova in the first round.
But turn the game tape on, and you’ll quickly see a play-making FS who possesses elite range, awareness, closing speed and ball-skills. Jerome leaves St. Francis after four years and an impressive 18 career interceptions to his name. The rest of the nation is starting to take notice as well. Jerome was invited to play in the Senior Bowl, which took place this past Saturday, a draft event so large it takes a backseat to only the combine and the actual draft itself. Jerome made the most of his opportunity, forcing not one, not two, but three turnovers in the game — two interceptions and a forced fumble. Along with ECU WR Zay Jones, Jerome was a standout performer during the prestigious senior all-star game and that could help him become the first SFU player to suit up in the NFL since 1952.
Here’s where Jerome wins on the field.
Here, Jerome baits the QB into thinking he’s jumping the shallow route, and instead gets him to throw the deep corner route he was actually sitting on, and he’s promptly in position to pick it off. This is an excellent example of Jerome’s ability to fool the QB with his movements, and then make an athletic play on the ball.
This next play may be Jerome’s best all season. He begins his stance around the line of scrimmage, but recognizes the offense check to an out-and-up route and he covers about 30 yards to make an excellent pass break-up down field. Awareness, range, closing speed & ball-skills are all on display here.
Jerome once again displays his pre-snap diagnosis skills, along with some closing speed to meet this end-around behind the line of scrimmage. He certainly wasn’t fooled by this play call, and flies downhill to stop it in its tracks.
When he decides to bring pressure, Jerome can also get after the QB. Here, he shows off his dip to the inside, and the OT doesn’t stand a chance against Jerome’s athleticism.
Standing at just 5-foot-10, 200-pounds, Jerome isn’t the biggest DB in the nation, but he can still deliver a big hit. Once again, his diagnosis and closing speed skills are on display here, but scouts will also love the violent contact it results in.
It’s no secret that the fastest way for rookies, especially the ones chosen in the mid-rounds to see the field, is to be able to play special teams. In addition to his skills as a FS, Jerome also happens to be a pretty good return man, showing off his good speed and vision here.
Flip the possession and Jerome remains an asset on special teams. He takes a good angle here to put a stop to this return.
I fully expect Jerome to be drafted, especially after his performance at the Senior Bowl. As mentioned earlier, the last time an SFU player appeared in an NFL game was in 1952, when Joe Restic (longtime Harvard coach) played as an OL for the Philadelphia Eagles. For context, that was seven years before Dick LeBeau was drafted. When he makes history on the final weekend of April, it will be recognition well deserved for Jerome, The Red Flash program and the entire Northeast Conference.