BATON ROUGE, La. — Former LSU safety Jamal Adams is heading to the NFL with expectations as big as his potential.
No matter what mock draft you read, Adams is probably projected to be a top-5 pick. In the past 20 years, just two safeties were picked with one of the first five selections in the NFL draft: Eric Berry and Sean Taylor, both of whom were selected fifth overall. And those players aren’t just legends. They’re folk heroes.
Taylor intercepted 12 passes, forced eight fumbles and made two Pro Bowls in just four NFL seasons before being killed in 2007 during a botched burglary of his home. Berry is a five-time Pro Bowl player and three-time All-Pro, but also a cancer survivor and the 2015 NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
Adams is aware of this history. He respects it. He aims to emulate it. And he wants to destroy it.
“Hopefully I make history,” Adams said Wednesday at LSU pro day. “Sean Taylor and Eric Berry were the highest safeties to ever go at No. 5, so hopefully I go No. 4. We’ll see.”
If there’s any player you should never be concerned about lacking in confidence, it’s Jamal Adams. He made headlines at the NFL Scouting Combine last month when he said he believes he should be the first pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. And that’s not something he feels like backing down from.
While he said it wouldn’t be a disappointment to fall out of the top five, his goals reflect where he thinks he should be drafted. Namely, he wants to earn that legendary status.
“Now that I’ve moved on from high school and college, I’m turning the page,” Adams said. “I plan to be a Hall of Famer at the end of the day. That’s my main goal is to be a Hall of Famer, put on the yellow jacket.”
No questions asked
Though Adams didn’t have many doubters left with less than a month remaining before the 2017 NFL Draft, he silenced whatever questions there were about him at LSU’s pro day. Adams ran a 4.33-second 40-yard dash, smashing his 4.56-second time at the Combine. Dating back to 2000, only two safeties have ran a 40-yard dash of 4.33 seconds or faster.
To Adams, speed was just the final point he had to prove. With the help of LSU track and field standouts Tremayne Acy and Morgan Wells, Adams shaved two-tenths of a second off his time by staying low and upping his “drive phase.” Now, Adams believes there’s not a point of the game that he won’t excel in.
And in the changing landscape of the modern NFL, that’s what sets Adams apart.
“The game is changing,” Adams said. “It’s changing to where tight ends are more like receivers. They’re running receiver routes, they’re coming out in spread, different personnels. They’re making the safety come out of single-high and come down and cover.
“The game is definitely changing. I feel like I’m versatile. I can play everything in the back end. I can blitz, cover in the slot. I can sit at 20 yards and go sideline-to-sideline. And I think that’s what sets me apart from other defensive guys in the draft.”
Jamal Adams has next
There’s plenty that sets Adams apart. That’s evident not just by his video, but by which teams are interested in him. Adams is heading to Jacksonville, Fla., to meet with the Jaguars, possessors of the No. 4 pick in the draft, on Thursday. And that visit might even be optimistic for Jacksonville. Adams is expected to meet with the Chicago Bears, owners of the third pick, shortly thereafter.
Whether it’s Chicago, Jacksonville or Tennessee at No. 5, Adams will end up in the same conversation as Berry and Taylor. But make no mistake. Adams isn’t trying to be like them. He’s going to Frankenstein all of their best skills together and be the best safety he can be.
“I don’t pattern my game after anybody,” Adams said. “There’s guys that I kind of take bits and pieces of their game and try to add it to mine. Whether that’s Tyrann [Mathieu], whether that’s Earl [Thomas] and Brian Dawkins or the greatest, Sean [Taylor]. I just try to take some of the things that I see from them and add it to my game.”
And when Adams — part lock-down coverage specialist, part in-the-box masher and part Honey Badger — hears his name called in the first round on April 27, expect the emotions to flow. Not because he’s satisfied. But because he’s made it.
“I’m going to probably be crying,” Adams admitted. “I’m an emotional guy, very passionate. This is everything I’ve wanted. My dream is starting to come true. But it hasn’t settled. It’s really just getting started.”