Could the New York Jets move Jarrick Bernard-Converse to safety?
With the 204th overall pick in the sixth round of the 2023 NFL draft, the New York Jets added to their DB room with the selection of LSU cornerback Jarrick Bernard-Converse.
To learn more about the relatively unknown late-round pick, let’s dig into his analytical profile. We’ll break down his role, usage, strengths, weaknesses, and more – ultimately covering why he profiles as a player who might be suited for a positional change.
Jets 2023 draft class analytical profiles:
Bernard-Converse did not appear at the scouting combine but he did test at LSU’s pro day.
Here is a look at Benard-Converse’s measurements and drill performances from his pro day, and where they rank all-time among cornerback prospects according to Relative Athletic Score (a 0-to-10 scale representing percentile ranking; i.e. a 6.00 RAS is equal to the 60th percentile):
Bernard-Converse is an athletic specimen, boasting a RAS of 9.78 that ranked sixth-best among cornerbacks drafted in 2023. He recorded a blistering 40 time of 4.40 seconds – even more impressive was his 20-yard split of 2.47 (9.92 RAS), suggesting he has phenomenal acceleration and burst.
Further evidence of Bernard-Converse’s explosiveness is his 42″ vertical jump (9.90 RAS). Bernard-Converse did not perform all too well in the agility drills, however.
Bernard-Converse is a lengthy defensive back; his arm length of 32¼” places him at the 78th percentile for cornerbacks. He stands at 6’0½” and weighs 197 pounds.
Bernard-Converse was primarily utilized as an outside cornerback at LSU, lining up there for 69.9% of his defensive snaps in 2022, but the Tigers also moved Bernard-Converse around a bit. He played 13.5% of his snaps in the box, 8.5% as a deep safety, and 7.9% in the slot.
Bernard-Converse wasn’t restricted to a certain side of the field. When lining up at outside corner, Bernard-Converse played 60% of his snaps on the left side and 40% on the right side.
In terms of man/zone, Bernard-Converse didn’t stray too far from the national average distribution. PFF charted 34.5% of Bernard-Converse’s coverage snaps as man-coverage in 2022, placing him 153rd out of 387 qualified FBS cornerbacks (61st percentile). The FBS average for cornerbacks was 32.7% man coverage.
By far, the best trait on Bernard-Converse’s analytical resume is his tackling.
With a ratio of 41 tackles to 2 missed tackles, Bernard-Converse had a missed tackle rate of 4.7% in 2022, ranking seventh-lowest out of 290 qualified cornerbacks (98th percentile).
This was no outlier for Bernard-Converse. He was even better during his 2021 season at Oklahoma State, posting a missed tackle rate of 3.8%.
Bernard-Converse was a particularly efficient tackler against the run. In 2022, he made 14 tackles against the run without missing a single one, tying him for the third-most run-game tackles without a miss among all FBS cornerbacks.
Weakness: Big plays in coverage
For a cornerback who got drafted, Bernard-Converse’s production in coverage is not ideal. He surrendered a lot of big plays last year.
In 2022, Bernard-Converse was knocked for allowing five touchdowns, tying him for the 16th-most among FBS cornerbacks. Out of 290 qualified cornerbacks, he ranked 172nd with 13.3 yards allowed per reception (41st percentile) and 223rd with a 103.1 passer rating allowed (23rd percentile).
Bernard-Converse did not make many big plays of his own to make up for it, finishing 2022 with two interceptions and just three passes defended. The two interceptions were a career-high – he only had four interceptions across 2,033 coverage snaps in his five-year college career.
Extremely stark man/zone splits
Bernard-Converse was actually very good in man coverage, allowing 6 completions on 17 targets for 58 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. His allowed passer rating of 40.8 in man coverage ranked 19th-best out of the 200 FBS cornerbacks to face at least 15 man-coverage targets (91st percentile).
But in zone coverage, Bernard-Converse allowed a passer rating of 131.3, ranking 331st out of 344 FBS cornerbacks to face at least 15 zone-coverage targets (4th percentile).
Why move him to safety?
Bernard-Converse’s abysmal zone coverage would be problematic at cornerback in a Jets defense that plays plenty of zone. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, the Jets used man coverage only 25% of the time in 2022, ranking 22nd. They were 11th in zone coverage frequency at 75%.
I think a move to safety could serve Bernard-Converse well. It would emphasize the best traits on his profile while hiding the issues he has displayed in zone coverage at cornerback.
Bernard-Converse’s exceptional tackling would translate very well to the safety position, as he’d be a reliable last line of defense. Additionally, his outstanding speed would give him great range for the position. His size and length are also ideal for a safety.
I could envision Bernard-Converse as either a box safety or a free safety – it depends on what the Jets see from him in practice.
The box seems like a natural fit. His tackling would be valuable in the run game, and because of his man-coverage success at cornerback, there is potential for him to develop into a matchup weapon against tight ends. New York could test out Bernard-Converse against tight ends in practice.
But his athletic tools give him tantalizing potential in the deep part of the field. With his speed, acceleration, and length, Bernard-Converse would offer elite range for the free safety position, giving him an opportunity to generate turnovers at a high level.
It would just come down to whether Bernard-Converse can prove to the Jets that he is capable of handling deep zone coverage responsibilities as a free safety. His struggles in zone coverage at cornerback suggest he might have a similarly rough time playing in deep zones at safety, but it’s a different position that entails different responsibilities, so the Jets can test him out in practice and see how things go.
Bernard-Converse’s athletic tools give him exciting potential on special teams, although he doesn’t have as strong of a pre-existing special teams resume as Zaire Barnes.
Over his four years at Oklahoma State, the majority of Bernard-Converse’s special teams experience came as a rusher for the punt block and field goal block teams (he blocked one punt as a freshman in 2018). He rarely appeared on other units.
In 2022, LSU utilized Bernard-Converse on the kickoff and punt coverage units. Across 52 snaps in kickoff coverage and 15 snaps in punt coverage, Bernard-Converse recorded one penalty, one assisted tackle, and zero missed tackles.
Bernard-Converse is a fun developmental piece
The Jets’ coaches have a lot of work to do with Bernard-Coverse, but he is a moldable piece of clay whose physical traits and versatility give him the potential to become a useful player in time.
Seems to me they took him to replace Ashtyn $2.743 of his salary can be saved, combine that will Bryce Hall and they save $5.483m in cap space. Let’s hope he can contribute more than Davis.