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2018 NFL Draft Profile: Dane Cruikshank

One of the fastest rising prospects in the NFL Draft

NCAA Football: Arizona at Southern California Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Dane Cruikshank | Safety | Arizona

Class: Redshirt Senior

Height: 6’1” | Weight: 206 pounds

NFL Combine Stats (Rank among 27 safeties invited to combine)

40-yard: 4.41 seconds (4th)

Bench Press: 25 reps (T-1st)

Vertical Jump: 38.5 inches (6th)

Board Jump: 121 inches (12th)

3 Cone Drill: 6.89 (5th)

20 Yard Shuttle: 4.24 seconds (4th)

Bio

Cruikshank hails from Chino Hills, California, spending two years on Ayala High School’s varsity squad for two seasons as a receiver and defensive back. He accumulated 32 catches for 517 yards and six touchdowns on offense, and tallied 48 tackles and five interceptions on defense.

He headed to Citrus College in Glendora, California, after not having the appropriate core classes to qualify for anything other junior college. He played in only six games his first season, but started his second season, recording 45 tackles and an interception on the season.

He was ranked No. 99 among junior college prospects, No. 11 among corner backs. He held offers to BYU, Iowa State, Utah and Utah State. He possessed extremely desireable size as a corner, at 6-foot-2, just a shade under 200 pounds, and the junior college route made him a little more polished than your typical high school recruit.

But after going through summer and fall with the team, Cruikshank had a conversation with head coach Rich Rodriguez about taking a year to redshirt.

“I had seen where I was at the depth chart [that fall], I had a little injury. I just talked to Coach Rich Rod about redshirting and we both just thought it was the best thing to do, just so I could learn a little faster. I was learning at a slow pace and now I’m right in the mix,” Cruikshank said.

As a redshirt junior, Cruikshank emerged from fall camp as the starting corner. He finished that 2016 season with 60 tackles and two interceptions.

Cruikshank was poised to be the lockdown corner Arizona needed, but the coaching staff made an extremely late change in the system, moving him over to start at spur. The move proved to be beneficial, improving his production and draft value as time went on. He finished with 75 tackles and three interceptions, picking off both Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen.

Upon conclusion of the 2017 season, he was invited to East-West Shrine Game, and was later invited to the NFL Combine.

Strengths

What started the rise in the NFL Draft was his frame and athleticism. Once he got the exposure in the NFL Combine, teams started to look closer at the film.

Adding to his size, he possess the versatility of a corner and safety, an ability to play man-to-man defense, and hover the field in coverage. When the ball is thrown his way he’s able to close a gap and get his hand up, stemming from his corner days. As a safety he has the hips to whip himself in position, to with the field vision to read what’s in front of him.

The switch to safety really served him well mainly because he’s an aggressive, downhill type of player. Arizona put him in a lot of blitzing situations, able to use his speed to get off the edge. He finished with 1.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss in 2017. He was usually sure tackler, too. Rarely did you see him whiff on a tackle, despite his tenacity to attack quickly.

Whether teams see him as a corner or safety, it’s hard to tell. But the versatility is part of his appeal. At 6-foot-2, 206 pounds, he has size to cover tight ends, or the speed to keep up with a slot receiver as a safety, or revert back to corner.

There’s really no defensive scheme that he can’t find success in, and he has a high ceiling because of his versatility and pure athleticism, which is why he’s been rising so fast. He can cover anyone, finish a tackle, play with a ton of energy and passion, and will work his tail off.

Weaknesses

Cruikshank is an extremely unique prospect that has only been rising since the draft scouting started to ramp up.

Your personnel on an NFL defense has to be extremely versatile, and that’s what is driving Cruikshank’s draft stock, especially after a strong combine showing.

But overall, my big question is whether he’s more than the athlete with size and speed that NFL scouts are drooling over when it comes to potential. The league is just such a potential driven league when it comes to the draft. He wasn’t considered a freak athlete in the Pac-12, yet he tested well at the combine, but the athleticism is pretty much an even playing field in the NFL.

When he was in coverage at corner, he was extremely physical but grabbed and pulled a bit too much, resulting in a painful amount of pass interference calls. He could hang with guys like John Ross and Juju Smith-Schuster, but just got caught in the hand fights and tugging way too often.

He’s a guy that can play downhill and come up with a strong tackle, but he can get anxious on a play and bite down, leaving the field behind him wide open, both at corner and safety. He’ll have to be able to process the information in front of him quickly to react at the next level.

Some teams might not like his demeanor on the field, or get the vibe that he’s selfish with his celebrations. Often times after making a big play he would let his opponents know. He also missed out on pick six against Oregon after he was penalized for taunting for wagging his finger towards the Ducks as he crossed the goal line. Personally, I enjoy the energy and swagger he brings.

Draft Projection: 4th to 6th round

Teams to watch for: Denver Broncos, Tennessee Titans, New Orleans Saints, Detroit Lions, Los Angeles Chargers, Green Bay Packers, Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Rams, Oakland Raiders