As we continue our Draft Profile series, the attention is now turned to Deandre Baker, the 2018 Jim Thorpe Award winner for the top defensive back in the country.
The former Bulldog improved during all four years at Georgia, culminating in an excellent senior year that also saw him lead the team in interceptions.
But will Baker rep the pewter and red when it’s all said and done? Let’s take a look and see how he’d fit in with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Deandre Baker’s Career
Baker came out of Miami Northwestern in 2015 as a 3-star prospect, according to the 247 composite rankings. He was ranked as the 64th best cornerback in the country.
A two-sport athlete, Baker was selected to the 2015 U.S. Army All-American Bowl, where he recorded one tackle. He was all-state his junior year while running track in the 200- and 400-meter dash.
Mark Richt and the Georgia Bulldogs recruited Baker to Athens in 2015. He appeared in 11 games as a freshman, but his career really took off when Kirby Smart was hired in 2016.
Baker progressed every year and became a force his senior season. He won the 2018 Jim Thorpe Award for the best defensive back in the country, was a 2018 semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award, and was voted the to 2018 AP All-America First Team - plus more.
- Ball Skills
- Closing Speed
Baker is an instinctive, play-making corner with good length and ball skills. He’s a sound tackler, he’s smart, and is very confident in press coverage.
This is a great example of his awareness. On this 3rd and 1, the Gamecocks come out in 10 personnel, with two receivers split wide to the right and an inverted slot to the left. It’s a very favorable matchup for the offense based off down and distance alone.
The Bulldogs are in their 4-2-5 (nickel) look with two deep safeties. Baker - at the bottom of the screen - looks to be in off-man while the corners at the top of the screen are showing press coverage. This means Baker - as well as the other two corners - has help over the top.
Baker knows this and lets the slot receiver on his side of the field take off on the fly pattern, aware of the position and responsibilities of his teammates. This allows him to stay patient, read Deebo Samuel’s route and click-and-close to make the play.
While South Carolina was still able to get the first down, a lesser-aware player may have ran with the fly, opening up Samuel’s route even more.
On this play, Georgia comes out in a single-high look and drops into Cover 3 once the ball is snapped.
Baker is able to mirror his guy and shows off his ball skills as he swats away the underthrown pass.
(major shoutout to youtuber Ademi Smith for the cutup)
- Top-end Speed
- Makes Inconsistent Reads
Like Julian Love, Baker’s biggest issue is his size and strength. Both corners are right around the 5-foot-11, 190-pound mark and they could only muster 14 reps on the bench press.
He also tends to get a bit grabby on complex routes, making him a liability in certain coverages.
He’ll also need to get stronger, because a smaller corner like him will struggle with the larger receivers in the league. In case you haven’t noticed, that’s becoming more of the rule rather than the exception these days.
A lack of flexibility causes Baker to play stiff at times and while he has a good sense of awareness, he does tend to misread the quarterback at times. As you can imagine, the end result is not too good.
Why The Buccaneers Need Him
I don’t really think the Bucs need Baker, to be honest.
They already have plenty of talent and high draft picks invested in the secondary, with too many other holes to fill across the roster. They’ll likely go linebacker or defensive line in the first round and depending on which one they choose, they’ll still have the other spot to fill on top of guard, tackle, receiver, etc.
Baker is currently projected to go in rounds 1-2, which would be too pricy for the Bucs.
Will It Happen?
Doubtful, but there’s a chance.
Todd Bowles loves corners who can press and Baker is certainly that guy, but with a litany of other needs, he will probably be off the board by the time the Bucs are ready to pull the trigger.