Everyone has "their" players in the draft, the ones that you swear by, that you have faith in, the guys you think will become a star for your team. Well I have a couple in this draft, and I have a couple of safeties. Usually I leave them until we creep a little closer to the draft. However today I'm putting one out there, and that's senior free safety Kenneth Ladler at Vanderbilt.
Kenneth played his high school ball just outside Atlanta in AAAAA ball, that's elite competition. As a senior he helped his Stephenson team to an undefeated season with 80 tackles and four interceptions. He's been a natural athlete his entire life and ran track in high school too. Rated as a three star prospect coming out of high school he had a number of offers from prestigious programs including Georgia, Michigan, Miami and South Carolina, but eventually he decided on Vanderbilt.
Weight 203 lb's
Projected 40: 4.55
Forgive me if I gush a little bit here but Kenny has a lot to like about him. Has a very quick initial burst and usually always takes the right first step. Excellent recognition to diagnose a play immediately and break on the ball. A good reliable tackler in the open field, and gets his hands into the ball carriers arms to lodge the ball loose. Is a big hitter who can really bring the heat to anyone going over the middle in passing lanes, or any runner who gets past the initial tacklers. Has experience as both a free and strong safety and comfortable playing centre field as well as up at the line. Is a ball-hawk who has improved year on year in terms of locating the football and making a play on it. Knows how to use his body to box out receivers and does a nice job turning his head to locate the football to avoid any penalty flag problems. Always gives 110% on every single snap and will play to the whistle. Has demonstrated some leadership skills on the field.
Is he a better strong safety or a better free safety? will he be a jack of all trades master of none player at the next level. There are questions and his fluidity and his speed when asked to back pedal with receivers. Can be over aggressive and while he doesn't often take a poor first step he can at times over-pursue a play which will allow bigger gains to be made. Straight line speed is good but loses a little speed when having to change direction.
Right now in the draft process, I estimate that Kenny Ladler is likely being looked at around the 4th round of the draft, and personally I think that's a steal. I love looking into safety play, and it's been the positional focus for me for years now, and anyone who follows me on Twitter (@D_wyatt13) around draft time will know this. Kenny for me is one of the most underrated safeties in this draft, and perhaps one of the most underrated prospects in general. Now I'm not saying he's going to the hall of fame, but I personally think he'll be a good to very good starter for the next 6-8 years. For a 4th round selection, I'm taking a safety with good ball-hawking skills.
Would I draft him for the Jets
If I were in the Jets front-office our safety situation would be solid, I love drafting safeties. Especially in today's league. if I got to our 4th round selection and he was there, looking at our depth chart at the position, I would pull the trigger no questions asked. I have great faith in Kenny.