By Charlie Campbell, @draftcampbell
Two years ago, we started a series of articles on why certain prospects went undrafted. In this series, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. We got a lot of positive reader feedback about the series, so we decided to expand in the genre to investigate why some prospects slid in the draft. Last year, we started the “Why the Slide?” series, and this year it is back along with “Why Undrafted?” Feel free to email me requests for “Why the Slide?” and “Why Undrafted?” at [email protected]. I can’t promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely respond.
Throughout the run-up to the 2016 NFL Draft, it was common place to see Duke safety Jeremy Cash projected to be a mid-round pick. He was very productive for the Blue Devils over the last three years, recording tackle totals of 121, 111 and 101 in his sophomore through senior year. Cash was a tough safety and earned an invitation to the Senior Bowl, but he went undrafted.
Sources said the main reason that Cash wasn’t selected was because he lacked NFL pass-coverage skills to defend pro receivers. His slow 40 time (4.66) at the combine gave further evidence to bolster those concerns. Source said that Cash was stiff, and struggled in space. One scouting director said that Cash is a tweener linebacker and safety who will have to make a NFL roster via special teams. Another team said there was some other factors that hurt Cash as well. They include some injury concerns, a questionable fit for most schemes, plus a late pro day hurt him. Thus, teams across the league graded him in the undrafted ranks.
Cash signed with the Carolina Panthers after going undrafted, and that was a fine choice. Carolina moved on from veteran starting safety Roman Harper this offseason, and Harper had the fourth-highest tackle total for the NFC champions last season. Kurt Coleman is returning at free safety, so that leaves open a competition for strong safety. Tre Boston is the favorite. Dean Marlowe and Colin Jones are competing as backups, so Cash might factor into that competition.
However, the tweener perception held by some teams was given more evidence as the Panthers have said that Cash will compete at outside linebacker. That position change could help to disguise his pass-coverage problems. Cash won’t be factoring into any starting competition with Shaq Thompson and Thomas Davis firmly in place around Luke Kuechly. Becoming a core special teams player and backup linebacker will be the most likely route for Cash to make the final 53-man roster. He also could get stashed on the practice squad as a rookie as he adds weight to his frame to play linebacker in the NFL.
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