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Jack Tocho: Converting a ‘B’ Corner into an ‘A’ Safety?

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NCAA Football: Wake Forest at North Carolina State Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings drafted cornerback Jack Tocho (Toe-choe) in the 7th round- 245th pick overall. Seldom does a team hit on a potential starter that late in the draft- just a few picks away from going undrafted. Usually it’s a guy with some physical limitations that give him a low ceiling, or chronic injury issues that keep him off the field, or simply lacks the proper instincts/football skills/desire to be very successful at the next level.

I’m not sure that any of these are the case with Tocho, whom the Vikings plan to use at safety. Here’s why:

Tocho played cornerback at North Carolina State and did fine against ACC competition. Comparing him to the top CBs in the 2017 draft class, Tocho compares pretty well, really. On the PFF rating chart below for CBs across several key skills, the weakest part of his game is run defense- something shared by many top CBs in this year’s draft. But overall and across most skills, he stands up pretty well.

Interestingly, compare Tocho (about 23 down the list) with Kevin King (about half way down), whom the Packers took instead of Dalvin Cook at #33 overall. Hmmm.

In any case, Tocho had a couple issues as a CB bring him down to a Day 3 pick, namely his 4.54” 40 time- which translated on occasion to getting beat on deep routes as a CB- and lacking some ‘quick-twitch’ ability off the line and at breaks in route coverage. But those issues, while problematic for a CB at the NFL level, are much less so for a safety.

For example, comparing his Combine and Pro Day results with those of Jamal Adams, the first safety taken in the draft at #6 overall, they are very comparable:

Adams’ results are first, Tocho’s second:

40 time: 4.56” | 4.54”

Bench reps: 18 | 21

Short Shuttle: 4.13” | 4.18”

Vertical Jump: 31.5” | 35”

Broad Jump: 120” | 125”

3-Cone Drill: 6.96” | 7.15”

Height: 6’0” | 6’0”

Weight: 214lbs. | 202lbs.

Arm Length: 33 3/8” | 31 5/8”

Hand Size: 9 1/4” | 9 3/8”

As you can see, not big differences, and Tocho compares slightly favorably on several. The biggest difference is that Adams has about 12 lbs. on Tocho, but not sure that’s a big deal, given Tocho is 202 lbs. - same as Earl Thomas.

What is a big deal for a safety, is his range, ability to read and react quickly, and tackle securely as the last line of defense. There is no discussion of Tocho’s range, as he played CB in college, but his strengths of being able to read, react, and tackle well translate very well for a safety position. His speed and quickness measurables suggest he should have at least above average range for a safety.

Beyond Tocho’s measurables, comments in his NFL draft profile suggesting he is highly intelligent and should be able to pick up an NFL playbook quickly, are also encouraging.

One of the biggest obstacles for rookies to get playing time in Mike Zimmer’s defense, particularly defensive backs, is being able to understand their assignment and be in the right position consistently. His intelligence, maturity, and work ethic should help him in that regard.

Beyond that, being able to read the play, use pre-snap keys, route recognition, reading the QB, taking the right angles, running to the ball and tackling well are obviously all important for a safety.

It’s unlikely that Tocho will learn the safety spot quickly enough to have much of an impact this year, but if he can contribute on special teams and show enough promise over the next few months, he could make the roster as the 4th safety. Overall Tocho looks like a better free safety than strong safety, but Zimmer likes his safeties to be able to play both positions. Tocho looks to have the skill sets to do so, but will need some time to develop. His cover skills and bigger size could give him the advantage over a guy like Anthony Harris on the safety depth-chart, if he’s able to learn the position well enough by the end of training camp.


Will Jack Tocho make the Vikings 53-man roster this year?

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