Tracy Walker was easily the strangest pick the Detroit Lions made in the 2018 NFL Draft. Walker was completely off the radar of many draft analysts, yet the Lions’ war room was thrilled when they got him in the third round.
General manager Bob Quinn explained their excitement by mentioning Walker’s versatility as a big reason why the selected him.
“Tracy’s a versatile guy, like I talked about, that can play the deep part of the field. He can come down and cover man-to-man,” Quinn said. “So he’s got a lot of things going for him on top of special teams.”
But his versatility doesn’t just end with being able to play man or deep zone. Pro Football Focus tracked every snap that he played in his last year with Louisiana, and he played just about everywhere on the field:
#Lions rookie DB Tracy Walker was a versatile defender in college. Here is where the third round draft pick spent his 832 snaps last year.— PFF DET Lions (@PFF_Lions) May 23, 2018
Deep Safety - 300
Slot CB - 203
Box Safety - 129
LB - 105
Outside CB - 79
EDGE - 16
He literally played every single position on the defense except for defensive tackle, which probably wouldn’t have been a good idea for a 6-foot-1, 206 pound defender. Yes, he even played as an edge defender.
That versatility speaks to his wide variety of skills. As pointed out by our own Alex Reno (read his full profile of Walker here), Walker can hit hard, blanket in man-to-man coverage and has the athleticism to play as a deep safety.
But while Walker could play all over the defensive field in college, the Lions have a much more focused plan for him. Here’s what Quinn told DetroitLions.com’s Tori Petry about where they thought Walker may fit in their defense.
“I think he’s going to play safety for us, but in terms of some of our matchup, position groupings, you may see him down there in the box a little bit in man-coverage, might see him in the deep part of the field. So, I don’t think you’re going to see him outside at corner, but I think in the middle of the field he’s going to be a versatile guy that we can use in the deep part as well as down.”
So Walker will clearly be a safety for the Lions, but Quinn still values, and will likely utilize, his versatility as both a deep safety and a box defender. But with as raw as Walker has been in college, we may not see him on the field right away.