Juan Thornhill 2019 NFL Draft Profile

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Juan Thornhill
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - SEPTEMBER 22: Juan Thornhill #21 of the Virginia Cavaliers in the second half during a game at Scott Stadium on September 22, 2018 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images)

Overview
Position
: Safety
Height: 6’0″
Weight: 205 pounds
School: Virginia Cavaliers

Combine Performance Data
40-yard dash
: 4.42 seconds (fifth-best among safeties)
Bench press: 21 reps (second-best among safeties)
Vertical jump: 44 inches (one inch short of Combine record)
Broad jump: 11 feet, 9 inches (tied for best at 2019 Combine)

Juan Thornhill 2019 NFL Draft Profile

A common theme among many draft prospects is that a lot of them not only played on both sides of the football in high school. They also played multiple sports. Juan Thornhill fits into that mold. In addition to making plays in the secondary, Thornhill was also a dual-threat quarterback and accounted for three touchdowns (two rushing, one passing) in leading Altavista High School to the Virginia 1A state championship. He also finished with over 1,000 career points for the basketball team, winning three state titles in the process.

Staying in-state for his college ball was a fairly high priority for Thornhill. The consensus three-star prospect was the first commit of Virginia’s 2015 recruiting class, giving his pledge to then-head coach Mike London in November of 2013. He didn’t start any games as a true freshman but he did make nine appearances. That all changed the following year, Bronco Mendenhall‘s first as Cavaliers head coach. It was then that Thornhill began a three-year charge towards becoming an NFL-caliber safety, starting 11 of 12 games and leading the Hoos with three interceptions.

He continued his ascent as an upperclassman. During his junior year, Thornhill added a further four picks which were tied with Brenton Nelson and Quin Blanding for the team lead. It resulted in him making the all-ACC third team and he was subsequently on the watch lists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the Chuck Bednarik Award ahead of his senior season. He didn’t disappoint, registering six picks and finishing with a school record 141 interception return yards. Only Boston College’s Hamp Cheevers and Syracuse’s Andre Cisco finished with more among FBS players.

Strengths

  • ideal size and overall body type for the position;
  • solid diagnose and contain skills when the ball’s in his sphere of influence on the field;
  • able to effortlessly unlock hips and react to receivers’ route transitions;
  • plus ball skills with the ability to make plays post-interception;
  • a physical hitter who doesn’t shy away from contact;
  • has value playing close to the line of scrimmage as a blitzer;
  • shows good range covering sideline-to-sideline in single-high looks;
  • noticeable improvement statistically from year to year in college;
  • his Combine measurables¬†are off the charts;
  • game tape is congruent with Combine data;
  • basketball background seems to have positively impacted explosiveness;
  • boasts three years of starting experience against fairly decent competition.

Weaknesses

  • needs to make receivers more uncomfortable when deployed in press coverage;
  • can be vulnerable to biting on play action;
  • players with solid downfield blocking technique can take him out of plays;
  • tends to dip his head too often when trying to bring runners down, leading to missed tackles;
  • can reduce risk of head injury by learning to tackle in a more upright posture;
  • takes iffy pursuit angles defending the run at times;

NFL Comparison: Eric Berry

Teams With Need at Position: Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington Redskins

Projection: Late first round

Bottom Line

Thornhill was already garnering interest from scouts even before he came to Indianapolis for the Combine. Then he put up astounding numbers in the four events he participated in, further enhancing his draft stock. You want the tape to confirm the measurables and they certainly do in Thornhill’s case. His extremely fluid hips enable him to stay locked onto receivers over the entirety of their route. There’s no doubting his ball skills either given that only two players in all of major college football finished with more interceptions than him in 2018.

If there’s one element of his game, above all others, that needs work, it’s his instincts in run situations. Too often, he takes questionable angles which leads to the ball-carrier running right by him. In addition, play action can put him in a compromising position leading to the possibility of big plays from deep ball receivers. Taking it all into account, though, Thornhill looks the part of a prospect who can turn heads in training camp and fight for starter-level reps early on.

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