K’Von Wallace departs Clemson after four productive years playing multiple roles in the defensive backfield. From boundary corner, to nickel, strong safety, and nickel again in 2019’s dime of doom, Wallace was a dynamic presence from 2016 onward. His production and leadership were greater than his supposed physical traits, and those qualities — combined with a better than expected Pro Day — should help boost Wallace into the middle rounds of the draft.
Though Wallace is on the wrong side of 6 feet and just over 200 pounds without an elite trait, he posted a respectable 40-yard dash time (4.53) and showed draft-able explosiveness in his vertical and broad jumps (38” and 133” respectively). These numbers warrant a closer look at his film and production — which show a passionate, smart, and useful defender at multiple positions.
If Isaiah Simmons was the queen in Brent Venables’ chess set, Wallace was at least a rook: not nearly the dominant athlete, but second only to Simmons in value and versatility. His willingness and ability to play intense yet largely mistake-free defense made the newfangled 2019 scheming work, and ultimately showed just where Wallace is up to NFL standards.
Though he’s technically a safety, and was versatile in Clemson’s scheme, his collegiate versatility does not translate to the NFL. His home in the NFL will undoubtedly be found at nickel corner. In the best case, he has the capability to fill a role like Tyrann Mathieu does for the Kansas City Chiefs, but he lacks the same level of quickness and short space agility to line up everywhere on the field in man coverage or deep zones alike.
Normally a player in his final year of eligibility would not exactly want to move from his specific position, in order to best position himself for the draft, but ironically Wallace’s nickel role in 2019’s dime best showcased the role Wallace can play in the NFL: he isn’t rangy or big enough to play deep safety, cover a tight end, and not fast enough for outside corner. But he is explosive and physical enough to blitz and cover underneath zones in frenetic schemes. He plays bigger and more aggressively than he has any business doing, and is unquestionably at his best in the box filling against the run, jumping routes, jamming slots, and punishing quarterbacks when given the chance.
Wallace should find himself drafted between the 4th and 6th rounds. The NFL’s ever-increasing shift toward a passing, spread, QB/WR/DE/CB-centric league benefits prospects like Wallace who can fill a newfound premium role covering third receivers. (Ironically, this shift is exactly what harms fellow Clemson safety Tanner Muse’s draft stock, who would’ve been a top 3 round 4-3 Under Sam or box safety prospect with his size and speed 10 years ago or so). Teams looking specifically for a nickel corner or even overhauling their defensive backfields are Wallace’s most likely landing spots (hello, Carolina Panthers), and would be fortunate to find Wallace on the board by the 5th round.