Undrafted – The Network

Jevon Holland – Dolphins Star Safety

What a time to be a Miami Dolphin. Heralded the best draft by many, Miami has received it’s weight in praise following last weeks proceedings. Eventually I’d like to get into a full Miami Dolphins draft analysis, but today I want to focus on Jevon Holland. Because yes, I cannot wait to watch Jaylen Waddle run defences ragged in the NFL, but my favourite pick of the draft… this guy right here.

With the 36th Pick… the Miami Dolphins select…

Jevon Holland, safety, Oregon. Canadian born, (his dad played in the CFL), Holland decided to opt out of the 2020 college football season, and focus on the draft.

This is the best pick we made. Or at least, the best pick we made ‘in my opinion.’ Now that’s not to say Jaylen Waddle and Jaelen Phillips are not great picks, because oh boy they are. BUT, do you UNDERSTAND how much Jevon Holland offers to our defence?

First off, let’s acknowledge the fact that this pick was in the moment Denver were done announcing theirs. Many believe they stole Javonte Williams from us, and cost us one of those top three running backs. Now you’ll know if you listen to our podcast…

…You’ll know that I was at the front of the rally that the Dolphins absolutely had to get one of those top three backs or it would be fatal to our season. I still believe we should have got one of those running backs, and if we were in fact leap frogged by Denver for Javonte Williams, this 36th pick for the Dolphins would have stung like hell. Yet when i heard the name, i wasn’t mad for even a second. I loved this pick. The Dolphins clearly loved this pick, because they handed that card in in a flash.

So what can we take from that? Flores and Grier knew exactly what they were getting in Jevon Holland, and they knew it wasn’t going to wait until 50. Smart decision. Difference maker. I’m going to get into what he brings to our defence and why he specifically was the pick over perhaps Trevon Moehrig, who was widely heralded the best safety in the class.

Now I will say… if you take a look at my ‘Steals of the Draft on Day Two’… I hate to say it but the final guy on the list… who I liked the idea of having in Miami… his name was?

More than a Safety

Exactly that. Jevon Holland isn’t just a safety. Where as Moehrig is a deep safety with less ability coming downhill and making a tackle. Now I studied Moehrig, I wrote a rookie profile on that man, and I liked what I saw. But he is more of that deep middle, sweeping safety, who belongs at the back end of your defence. What Holland offers is more versatile and therefore a better fit for a Brian Flores style defence.

Holland can play nickel corner, so what you’re going to see from the Dolphins is a mixture of looks for him. Now this rings a bell right? A safety, who can play nickel corner, or sub linebacker, etc. We had one of those right? Yes we did. A versatile safety in Minkah Fitzpatrick, and what have we missed since Minkah left for Pittsburgh… say it with me now…

A VERSATILE SAFETY. Eric Rowe is great defending tight ends, and he can play that strong safety role. Bobby McCain is a corner, and I still maintain that. He’s better there. He was converted to safety to fill the need and he’s done alright, but he’s by and large a corner. Then last year we drafted Brandon Jones, who actually showed some promise during the season, but we’ve not seen enough of him yet. What we have in Jevon Holland, is the Minkah Fitzpatrick role which is SO important to the way Flores wants to run the operation on D. I cannot stress this enough. This is why Holland is a home run pick. He couldn’t be more perfect for what we needed to take an already very strong defence to the next level.

So as I mentioned, he can play the nickel spot, and we will see him line up there. However, what we’ve also seen this off season is last years first round pick Noah Igbinoghene get bigger, faster, and stronger already. The nickel role ideally belongs to him. But the versatility allows Flores to rotate his guys around, give offences different looks, and cause chaos. Holland will line up man to man in a nickel formation, and he’ll be incredibly successful at that. This is how Oregon used him. He’s a rotating piece.

Option 1

Now while I like that role for him, I want to see him take over from Bobby McCain at free safety. That’s where he belongs, because that way you can leave him as a single high… that’s option 1. I’ll get onto option 2 in a moment. Jevon Holland possesses perfect athleticism, speed, and he is electric coming out of his breaks. I love the fact that he understands his own speed, so knows exactly when to break on the ball. This is a skill. Doing this means you can delay your break until the Quarterback see’s his man open and releases the ball, and that’s when you jump it. Now I’m not comparing Jevon Holland to Hall of Fame safeties early on. He’s not played a snap yet. But this is what the greats do. You have to bait a quarterback into releasing the football, and then he’s no longer in control. The play, and the ball, is out of his hands. Now as long as you can get there, and as long as you understand your own body’s ability, you can make a play. Holland had 9 picks in two seasons, and a large contribution to that is his ability to understand what he’s capable of.

His reps are fluid. He’s the perfect film study for aspiring corners who need to improve in coming out of their breaks, and bursting to the ball. He does it with ease. Footwork is impeccable. He always gets his turns right, he knows where his man is at all times, and then as I mentioned, his timing on the ball is perfect. Holland will get picks for the Dolphins, bags of picks.

Consider the fact that the Dolphins have put so much emphasis on the secondary that we have two of the highest paid corners in the league in Byron Jones and Xavien Howard. Both were incredible last season, and we found out against Buffalo early in the season, how important those guys are to the way we play defence. Byron went down early, and the Bills exploited us with Stefon Diggs for the rest of the day. So okay, you have two elite calibre corners, how do you finish off the secondary, in order to compliment those guys? Somebody EXACTLY like Jevon Holland.

Your corners will cover the offences threats outside the hash marks, primarily in man coverage. If you take those threats away, the quarterback will often then look back towards the middle of the field, or in a zone somewhere outside the realm of said elite corners. Who’s now going to be sitting in those areas? Our brand new ball hawking safety, with the aforementioned ability to jump a route and pick the ball off at any given moment. He makes it look open. That’s his contribution. He’ll hold off, allow the yardage, and break it off when it’s too late. A ball in the air is anybodies ball, and if you’re trying to throw deep to a guy you believe to be open, Holland will be there.

Now one thing that’s important to note here is the complexity of timings in the NFL compared to college football. In the same way a quarterback has to understand this with route timings and ball release, a ball haw safety needs to understand it too. The timing will be different, and Holland will need to adjust his motion, and his reps, in order to get the best results here. This is why you don’t call rookies a bust in their first season. I don’t care how good they are in college. I’m not saying Jevon Holland is going to be a bust, quite the opposite. But you can tell from his tape, how much repetition has gone into his footwork and his breaks. He has them timed perfectly, for college football. He’ll need to adjust those slightly to meet the timings of NFL football. Don’t worry about it, that won’t take him long.

So you can see how the threat of a safety like Jevon is going to benefit the Dolphins on defence. If our secondary is healthy, the QB is going to have a hard time finding the open man amongst it. Make up speed will create opportunities for Holland, especially the way our defence is built. He really is one of the final pieces, along with Jaelen Phillips, to the puzzle for Coach Flo. Remember how quickly the Dolphins handed in the card!

Option 2

So i’ve mentioned all the great things that Jevon Holland can do with the football in the air. Which is spectacular all on it’s own. But what I’ve not yet alluded to, is how sure a tackler this young man is. When you have all those traits at your disposal to play across the deep end of the field, the ability to tackle can seem like a secondary trait, a bonus if you’re great at it.

And guess what? He’s great at is. Dolphins fans you will get used to seeing him patrol the deep field, but you’ll then find he suddenly flies downfield like a missile and flattens a tight end. His tackle technique, and fearless attitude towards making a play in the run game, or levelling a pass catcher, stands out on tape. I compared him to Budda Baker in my day two steals post, because Budda Baker comes downhill and makes those plays, but is also dangerous with the ball in the air. Jevon Holland is slightly less stocky, but also a lot more agile.

So in multiple packages you can leave the deep middle of the field to Eric Rowe perhaps, or if Bobby McCain sticks around you could put him there, and in certain situations have Jevon Holland come downhill on the snap and get into the flats, or contribute in the run game. If he lines up at the nickel spot, or strong safety over deep high, his tackling is going to pay dividends for the Dolphins. You should really start to get excited about somebody who can have this much of an impact both in the passing game, and in the run game.

His tackle technique shows perfect form. He gets his head across the body on the safe side. He drives with his entire body once he makes contact, and he hits with more force than his body type suggests.

He’s also a dynamic punt returner. With 4.46 speed and after catch ability to gain serious yardage. So… not bad all round.

So He’s Pretty Good Then?

Now when you put all of that together, what do you have? It’s an A* pick Miami fans. Believe me. You have a safety/nickel corner, who’ll attack the ball in the air, and if he isn’t going to get there in time to intercept the pass, can level the pass catcher instead. He’s the best run defender of the elite safeties in this years draft. He get’s off blocks well, finds the ball carrier, and makes a play. You’ll find him right in amongst the action on run plays. I can promise you that. Plus his athletic archetype, confirmed by the fact that he returns punts as well… means he’s incredibly dangerous with the ball in his hands. So pick sixes will be a feature of his game too.

Here’s what the experts had to say:

▪ ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.: “Nine interceptions over two years and then opted out [in 2020]. Also an outstanding punt returner. Averaged 15.3 yards per return in 2019 on 16 returns. Nine picks: four picks in 2019, five in 2018.”

▪ ESPN’s Louis Riddick: “Very smooth, very skilled. Good hips. Very fluid closing ability. The kind of guy you would assume Brian Flores will find multiple ways to deploy him. You can send him on the blitz. You can match him up against tight ends. You can match him against running backs. There are so many different things you can do with a player like this. And with a team like the Dolphins that emphasizes good fundamentals in the second this is a good solid pick. You can see Brian Flores advocating for a guy like this.”

You really can’t underestimate how perfect this pick is for the Miami Dolphins. And like I said, I’m going to love watching Jaylen Waddle score touchdowns for Miami, but I’m going to equally enjoy watching this young man fly around our defence. Home run selection for the Dolphins, who needs a running back anyway…

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