When you turn on Boise State football, half of the games are tinted with that godawful blue turf. It was fun at first. I think it was unique and really brought something new to college football. Now, I just want it to go away. It’s hard to watch football with blue plastic grass dominating your screen.
The Broncos are a fun team to watch, though. They give every team their all and have featured some future NFL players, college fantasy stars, and players with great stories that you love to root for. Like safety JL Skinner – a player I am rooting for to make a difference in the NFL, and he’s so much fun to watch on film – even with the Smurf turf.
- College: Boise State
- Height: 6’4”
- Weight: 209 lbs.
- Age: 21 yrs. (April 16, 2001)
- Hands: 8.25”
- Arms: 32”
- Year: Senior
- Draft Projection: Second-Third Round
Hailing from San Diego, California, Skinner was a three-star recruit in the Class of 2019 after a career at Point Loma High School in which he lettered in multiple sports. Despite only having three stars, Skinner had quite a bit of interest, garnering offers from Arizona State, Stanford, Louisville, and Iowa State, among his fifteen official offers. He visited Boise State and Cal before deciding to take his talents to Boise, Idaho.
With a varied skill set, Skinner saw playing time as a freshman, even playing a bit as a wide receiver. During 2020, he emerged later in the season, nothing 11 tackles in a season finale loss to San Jose State.
Skinner followed his late-season surge with a dominant 2021 campaign. He logged 92 tackles, including seven for a loss, a pair of interceptions, and a pair of forced fumbles. Skinner’s film was phenomenal, and he could have likely entered the Draft, but instead, he opted to return for his senior season.
Statistically, Skinner took a small step backward, only raking in 65 tackles but had four interceptions. The Broncos used Skinner more in free safety, nickel corner, and situations that took him away from the line of scrimmage more.
Safeties should be able to come up into the box and knock the snoot out of a ball carrier. Safeties should be able to time it right and pop a receiver, dislodging the ball or preventing a catch. And Skinner excels in this area. He was flagged in college for penalties, but more often than not, he was smart in his hits and enforced intelligently. Below are a few big hits from a highlight reel produced by Slick Editz HD.
Quick Reaction to Plays
Skinner played more in coverage last season, and he has a good nose for the ball. His instincts are sharp, and he reads the eyes of quarterbacks in coverage. Skinner is intelligent, displaying strong football IQ like in this play below.
Good stuff from Boise State S JL Skinner to robot out and pick up the backside post when his zone wasn't threatened. pic.twitter.com/HWPpHKrROJ— Cory (@realcorykinnan) December 18, 2022
Skinner peels off his zone in this play, then displays the ability to cover ground quickly, making the interception.
🚨2023 NFL Combine SAF Preview🚨— Reel Analytics (@RAanalytics) March 1, 2023
Projected top performers using our In-Game Athleticism (IGA) Score as a proxy:
1. Kaevon Merriweather 98.1
2. Christopher Smith 95.7
3. Brandon Hill 90.4
4. Jason Taylor II 87.0
5. JL Skinner III 81.9#ReelAnalytics pic.twitter.com/FKSCQAQxVR
In this play, he’s backpedaling to play deep safety, then sees the swing pass to the running back develop. The ground Skinner covers in the time he covers it is simply impressive. The running back was limited to a ten-yard pickup, but it should have been a huge play. Skinner stopped it.
Coupled with speed, instincts, and hitting, Skinner never gives up on a play and is constantly playing at full throttle.
Here’s a great example of the motor, Skinner follows the ball carrier all the way to the right sideline, then the play goes the other direction. He navigates through traffic and kicks it into another gear – making a tackle almost all the way back across the field for a loss.
With the way Skinner plays and the physical style of hitting, his frame is slender to keep up with it successfully in the NFL. Skinner models his game after Kam Chancellor, and Chancellor’s career was plagued by injuries after his first four seasons. Chancellor had a bit more weight on his frame but was close in size.
Skinner excels in dropping back and playing deep safety and manning zones in coverage. When it gets to man coverage, he struggles a little. Skinner doesn’t have the fluidity and quick twitch movement to man up quicker tight ends and wide receivers. He can stay close, but he’s not going to be a sticky in-coverage type of safety.
Change of Direction
The coverage issues stem from this mainly; Skinner’s ability to change directions is not a strength of his. He has to come to a stop and pivot. He isn’t going to subtly switch directions without gearing down. Skinner didn’t test at the combine, and I’m sure the drills would have displayed this.
The Wrap Up
Skinner is destined to be a starting safety in the NFL and could be a good starter for IDP as well. I think he’s a second-day pick, and his ceiling is, ironically, a Kam Chancellor type of career in regard to production.
Skinner is going to give you 75-80 tackles and a few big plays, like interceptions or forced fumbles. There will be games you are pleasantly surprised with his production and some where he doesn’t kill your team. But he should be a solid producer while he is a starter.
Draft Skinner with confidence in IDP. He should be the fourth or fifth safety off the board in your rookie drafts. He will have a long, productive career as long as his frame can hold up to his physical style of play.
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