All the predraft drama of LSU safety Grant Delpit falling to the second day of the NFL draft ended Friday when was he was drafted in round two as the No. 44 overall choice of the Cleveland Browns.
Delpit, who entered the season as projected top five pick, saw his draft stock plummet in an injury-filled season that clearly affected his play for three-fourth of the Tigers’ national championship year.
He played through the pain, won the Jim Thorpe Award as college football’s best defensive back and played three of his best games of year in the postseason.
In LSU’s 42-25 College Football Playoff national championship game win over Clemson, Delpit had 6 tackles and a sack of Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. He also ended Clemson’s final threat when he stripped Lawrence at the end of a 10-yard run with 3:53 left to play as Tigers’ cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. recovered the fumble.
Delpit started 37 of 40 career games and finished with 199 tackles (120 solo), 17½ tackles for loss including 7 sacks, 29 pass deflections and 7 interceptions.
“I pride myself on being a very versatile player,” Delpit said at February’s NFL combine where he interviewed with teams and met with the media. “That’s my biggest strength. I can play anywhere in the secondary. This (past) year I played more free safety because it was what the team needed. It’s a tough job roaming sideline to sideline, sitting in the middle of the field, you’ve got to do a lot of film studies to watch a quarterback’s tendencies.
“I honestly think I’m the best safety in this draft, without a doubt. Most versatile player. Put me anywhere in the secondary and I’m going to play it. Make plays all over the field. Be a natural leader on the field. If they need me on special teams, I’m there.”
Delpit’s draft position was hurt by the fact he missed 20 tackles last season, many when he was trying to play on a bad ankle or return from rehabbing the injury.
“They say tackling is something I have to improve on,” Delpit said “I got it fixed toward the end of the season. It’s all about the approach and not trying do too much to get them on the ground. It’s a part of football. I got it fixed and it won’t happen anymore.”
Delpit’s positives far outweigh his apparent lone negative of tackling problems
“He’s the top safety in this draft,” said ex-LSU junior cornerback Kristian Fulton, who was a projected mid-to-late first round draft choice. “And the tackling? You’ve seen him make tackles, he can make (them) in his sleep. Injuries plagued him. Also, he’s learned from every tackle that he’s missed. I’ve seen him in the film room late, just trying to see which ways he can correct himself. I think that’s gonna be fixed easily.”
Teams apparently didn’t buy Fulton’s endorsement.