For the second straight year, Nebraska’s top defensive prospect will be a player who didn’t begin his career in Lincoln. Linebacker Lavonte David parlayed his two exceptional seasons with the Cornhuskers (after a couple of great years at Fort Scott Community College) into a second-round selection in the 2012 draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
He was one of the top defensive backs in the junior college ranks in 2009 and 2010, intercepting nine passes for Chaffey College while also being a threat as a kick returner. In high school, Stafford actually played with current Huskers quarterback Taylor Martinez at Norco High School in California (where Stanford/Minnesota Vikings running back Toby Gerhart played) for two seasons before Martinez transferred. Academics kept him from jumping on offers from several major programs who coveted his services out of Norco. Big Ten media voted Stafford honorable mention all-conference for his work in 2011 (12 starts in 13 games played, 80 tackles, three for loss, team-high 10 pass breakups). In 2012, Stafford was named first-team All-Big Ten by the media, and second-team All-Big Ten by the coaches. He recorded 96 tackles, seven pass breakups, and four interceptions.
Solid build. Downhill player with the closing speed, thick build, and tenacity to throw himself into piles as a run defender. Levels receivers trying to make catches over the middle and makes them pay for grabbing sideline patterns. Movement skills are good enough to make plays in zone and handle man coverage responsibilities for short periods. Used in a lot of two-deep looks. Effective when playing in the box.
Aggressive run defender who will overrun plays to give up cutback lanes. Thick build hinders his flexibility and agility to stay with receivers downfield. Can be a step late getting to the sideline from the hash or covering deep outs. Inconsistent finding the ball in the air, will overrun or come up short on deep balls.
Stafford is following Lavonte David’s path from junior college to Lincoln to the NFL. The thick-bodied saftey needs to improve his play while the ball is in the air, but his aggressiveness could earn him a late-round selection.
Future Hall of Famer
A once-in-a-generation type prospect who could change how his position is played
An impact player with the ability/intangibles to become a Pro Bowl player. Expect to start immediately except in a unique situation (i.e. behind a veteran starter).
A quality player who will contribute to the team early on and is expected to develop into a starter. A reliable player who brings value to the position.
A prospect with the ability to make team as a backup/role player. Needs to be a special teams contributor at applicable positions. Players in the high range of this category might have long-term potential.
A player with solid measurables, intangibles, college achievements, or a developing skill that warrants an opportunity in an NFL camp. In the right situation, he could earn a place on a 53-man roster, but most likely will be a practice squad player or a camp body.