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NFL Draft: Safety Grant Delpit eager to put tackling problem, questions in past

The stat stands out under the “weaknesses” category in the scouting report for LSU safety Grant Delpit — 38 missed tackles the last two seasons.

“I’m so tired of hearing that I can’t tackle, I might tackle you for asking that question,” Delpit said with a big smile Friday night after a Cleveland media member asked about his tackling. “I have something to prove. Dealing with this adversity and coming out as an overall better football player. I’m just ready to play football.”

Delpit will be playing it in the Browns secondary as Cleveland traded down three spots — earning a fifth-round pick from Indianapolis — and took the 2019 Thorpe Award winner, given to the nation’s top defensive back, with the No. 44 pick in the second round.

Delpit became the 11th LSU player drafted by the Browns and second straight Tigers defensive back in the second round after Cleveland selected cornerback Greedy Williams last season at No. 46.

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He was the third safety taken in the draft, following Alabama’s Xavier McKinney (No. 36 to the N.Y. Giants) and Division II Lenoir-Rhyne’s Kyle Dugger (No. 37 to New England). Minnesota’s Antoine Winfield Jr. went immediately after Delpit, No. 45 to Tampa Bay.

Browns go all defense on Day 2, starting with big-talking Delpit

The issues with tackling, at least for a good portion of last year, might have been a byproduct of a high ankle sprain Delpit suffered in the middle of the season.

“It was tough, by Sunday mornings I could barely walk,” Delpit said. “But I wanted to be there for my team. I think that just me being hurt was something that I wasn’t worried about. I wasn’t going to let a sprained ankle keep me off the field and trying to win a national championship.”

The pain from the injury was considerable, even costing Delpit a game against Arkansas.

“After the Ole Miss game I got up and I had to stay back because I couldn’t walk,” he said. “It was a hard injury that I had to deal with. I couldn’t practice at full speed on Tuesdays. I had to wait until the end of the week to practice full speed. By the end of the season I got a little bit of rest and started playing a little better, but I still wasn’t 100 percent.”

Scouts concede the injury may have led to his tackling woes during the second half of his junior season, but there are other factors that contributed, and it appears Delpit has some things to clean up.

“Wild pursuit angles and fails to calm his feet to break down, flying past his target … looks for the big hit by throwing his shoulder into ball carriers instead of using proper technique,” Dane Brugler of The Athletic said in his scouting breakdown.

But it’s one drawback against an arsenal of positive traits when it comes to Delpit.

“He is a rangy, smart and energetic player who quickly finds the football and attacks, projecting as an interchangeable NFL safety with starting potential,” Brugler writes. “With his football IQ and athleticism, Delpit is quick to trigger vs. the pass and the run, trusting his keys and never second guessing himself.”

Browns general manager Andrew Berry said no player is perfect as they enter the NFL and tackling technique is going to be high on Delpit’s to-do list during his rookie season.

“I think that he would be the first to admit that it is something that is going to be a focus of him as an area of improvement coming into the NFL,” Berry said. “I wouldn’t make any excuses for him. He hasn’t made any excuses for it. He did deal with the high ankle sprain, but he wouldn’t even give that as a reason for the primary issue. We think the total package and what he does well is going to play really well in our defensive system.”

Shaun Bennett is a sportswriter for the Chronicle-Telegram. Contact him at (440) 329-7137 or [email protected] Like him on Facebook and follow him @ShaunBennettct on Twitter.

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