2016 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Wisconsin S Michael Caputo

As we delve into the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason, our attention has now shifted to the 2016 NFL Draft as it relates to the prospects. From now until the draft takes place, we hope to profile as many draft prospects as we possibly can for you. Most of these player profiles will be centered around prospects the Steelers are likely to have interest in.
A breakdown of Wisconsin safety Michael Caputo

#7 – Michael Caputo/S Wisconsin: 6-1, 206
The Good

  – Has played box, slot, C2 high, upman against stacks, boundary corner
 – Good enough vision to track H-back running flat opposite route behind OL
 – Not afraid to come in and get his nose dirty
 – Good click and close, short area speed
 – Comes up strongly, plays like a bull across the middle
 – Hips look like cornerback hips in coverage
 – Great speed in open field
 – Excellent vision and play recognition
 – Has the deep speed to at least stay reasonably in step on WRs in coverage – won’t get burned, at least
The Bad
 – Tends to drop his head and lunge blindly when tackling
 – Takes a moment to re-start from a dead stop
 – Jogs plays from the backside at times
 – Overpursues outside on angles from FS against run
 – Hips look stiff against the run in crowded spaces
 – Throws shoulder at times tackling, tackles ankles at others. Inconsistent
 – Gets bodied by WRs by not setting his feet


– 40 starts at Wisconsin
– Junior year of high school, played two ways at RB and LB. Had 360 carries for 2,611 yards and 34 TDs, added 89.5 tackles on defense
– Rushed 5 times for 40 yards and 2 TDs in first quarter of first game of senior year before suffering season-ending injury
– Pittsburgh-area native
– Special Olympics basketball coach and JROTC Marine
– 2014 Second-Team All-America (FWAA)
– His 106 tackles in 2014 were 9th in the Big 10

Tape Breakdown
Just before the snap, Caputo sneaks down into the box from deep to play strong safety. He immediately controls his hips and plays the run. Notice how he doesn’t flip his body to run the play down head-on. Instead, he half-shuffles with his hips mostly parallel to the line of scrimmage. This is really quite polished technique for a safety that helps to eliminate counter/misdirection runs biting a defense and is very noteworthy.
Also impressive is Caputo keeping his eyes on the ballcarrier the whole time. He keeps himself clean in the wash and upright while trying to get to the running back the whole time.
Here, Caputo is aligned as the playside free safety at the hashmarks at the 40 yard line. It looks like he’s coming up to an underneath zone anyway, but take note of his vision again. He slips a block by #17 WR Jacob Hillyer and closes quickly through the wash. He has a really ugly ankle tackle attempt on Jordan Canzeri, but his instincts and play recognition to get him there are excellent.
Another bad tackle attempt for Caputo, who doesn’t enter the screen until the runner gets to the second screen. He again drops his vision and attempts an ankle tackle on FB Andy Janovich. This is a bad habit an NFL coach will have to invest some time in fixing, but it was key here. On a 3rd and 2, he allows the fullback to easily break a poor tackle for a go-ahead score. As the free safety here, he has to be responsible for keeping the defensive backfield protected and make the tackle.
Caputo comes into the box again pre-snap. His responsibility is the FB in the flat. As soon as he recognizes that’s the target of the play on this 3rd and 2, he sells out and charges downfield. Ultimately, he drops his head (sound familiar?) but does a great job driving through the player to hold the line and keep him short of the first down.
I also really like the edge that Caputo brings. If you want a guy who plays through the whistle, you’ve got one right here. He’s not afraid of getting scrappy in the pile to ensure a stop is made. This is the kind of attitude that coaches and scouts love to see on tape, because it comes across in the way players hold themselves on the field.
Although Caputo (wearing #42 here) doesn’t normally flash his play recognition skills in the passing game, he does on this snap from the East/West Shrine Game. He reads the QB’s eyes (college teammate Joel Stave) and breaks to the ball. Great play by Caputo.
Summary: I was at the 2016 East/West Shrine Game just a few weeks ago. It was there that this young safety from Wisconsin caught my eye. Although I was familiar with the name going into the game, I hadn’t had a chance to study him as a prospect. I only knew him as the guy who had an awful concussion against Alabama that caused him to attempt to line up on the wrong side of the ball. After a dominant defensive performance including two interceptions and a Defensive Player of the Game nod, I knew I had to do some digging on Caputo.
If my calculations are correct (since updated figures have not yet been provided), Caputo started 40 games in his career at Wisconsin. That much college starting experience is rare, and it shows in the way Caputo plays the game. His play diagnosing is quick and accurate. He knows where he needs to be, and his angles are usually excellent.
Caputo is always around the ball, evidenced by his 171 tackles (100 solo) over the last two seasons: an impressive quality in a safety. However, his tackling technique is extremely limited at times. There are players who dive for ankle tackles, and then there are players who drop their heads (thus being unable to see what they’re aiming at) and dive for ankle tackles. Caputo is the latter. In open field one-on-one attempting to stop a ball carrier, he is a technical mess. But give him a force responsibility or a crowded box, and he works his way to the ball carrier with veteran savvy.
Although he wasn’t often asked to play deep in college, he has flashed potential of maturing into that role in the NFL. However, he fits far better as a strong safety. His physicality and hip discipline are reminiscent of linebacker qualities, but far more intriguing was his use underneath at Wisconsin. The Badgers usually had converted quarterback Tanner McEvoy roaming the deep field (an intriguing pro prospect himself at 6-6 and 231 with athletic ability and range) with Caputo playing the box. From there, Caputo was used everywhere from LB to slot corner to boundary, including covering receivers such as Geronimo Allison of Illinois, who jumped out at the Shrine Game. The fact that Caputo’s coverage was trusted to match up with those players means good things for his pro development.
I see Caputo as being a very good matchup coverage safety and spot starter at strong safety to begin, but who I think can develop into a fine SS. I don’t think he has the range to succeed long-term at free safety, nor the athleticism to make a big impact in the league, but could carve out a niche at strong safety. He’s a smart player with translatable physical skills, if not the athletic traits to match.
Projection: Fourth Round

Games Watched: vs. Alabama, vs. Iowa, at Nebraska, at Illinois

Previous Player Profiles
Hunter HenryEli AppleLaquon TreadwellDadi NicolasKendall Fuller
Deion JonesJihad WardKevin PetersonVonn Bell

About the Author

Luc Polglaze

If it’s not about football, it’s about music. Colorado born and raised, living in DC now.

  • CP72

    Nice break down…..

    His floor might be becomes a core special teams player. I think he has a ceiling for more and is an underrated athlete. He would quickly be a fan favorite in Pittsburgh because of his effort. If we sign a high end free agent safety Caputo would be a perfect addition later in the draft.

  • nitch19

    Ummmmm, HELL NO, as far as even entertaining a thought of using a draft pick on this guy…..

  • Matt Manzo

    Is it me or do all the Safety prospects have trouble tackling? I haven’t seen one yet, that hits like Safety! I haven’t gonna all the way through the list, but geez!

    I like that Caputo can cover, and has some speed! His hips and smarts are a bonus, too!

  • SFIC

    I really like this guy. Just like you Luc, my eyes were opened during Shrine week.

  • igloojoe

    Have you watched Miles killebrew. Dude hits like a truck.

  • Matt Manzo

    I have! He’s actually close to the top of my list! BUT! He whiffs a bunch, too! Doesn’t wrap up. But he can hit!

  • Hard Row

    Tackling is important but i’d like a Safety with ball skills and i like Caputo’s instincts. Mitchell seems to have no interesting in playing the ball. He just wants big hits. How many times this year was there a loose ball or a ball in possible INT range that Mitchell did not even see because he was lining up a big hit?

    Caputo still plays like a LB. He’s adjusting to playing deeper as a safety and i think that’s why his angles are off in the open field.

    The key to me is his weaknesses are coachable and his strengths are instincts which generally are not teachable.

    I wonder if his ankle tackle issues could be due to his early season concussion and not wanting to get another.

  • igloojoe

    Yeah, on reviewing his film. he hits too high too often. I’d say the best safety I’ve seen is regularly is Deandre Houston-Carson. That dude is pretty physical.

  • Xclewsive

    Can’t wait for Kamalei Correa!!!

  • NinjaMountie

    This guy would worry me. He has concussion issues and has had to have major back surgery that almost ended his playing days. He’s still dealing with numbness in his lower extremities. I would always be slow to add someone with that kind of history. Tough because I like the kid.

  • Shane Mitchell

    I don’t understand why tackling seems to be such a weakness for so many prospects in this years draft, especially among the secondary players. Not good, when they need to add some good tacklers to the secondary.

  • Luc Polglaze

    It’s been pretty consistent over the last few seasons out of college, actually. Fundamentals (especially tackling) just aren’t taught as much in college any more.

  • LucasY59

    Its guys like these that really make it frustrating the Steelers dont have 5th and 6th rd picks (the short sightedness of the team leading up to last season is pretty bad, the Boykin deal wouldve been ok if they had played him more (he was nowhere near the playing time that wouldve bumped the pick to the 4th rd) but the worst was the Scobee mistake, loss to the ratbirds, 2.5 mil in cap space that couldve carried over, and then have to cut him because he sucks, on top of the loss of a 6th rd pick, which VERY FEW kickers are worth) Im not sure of using a 4th rd pick on this guy (especially when there could be other Safeties and talented players available at that pick as well) but if he lasted another rd, I would be willing to give him a shot even if it meant they were doubling up at the position in the Draft (some insurance to make sure they fill a hole) maybe he will last until the 7th rd, other than this profile I hadnt heard of him, and it sounds like the Shine game was the only thing that is giving him much hype

  • John21

    Love guys like this on our team AND he is from the Burgh! But I see him like CP72 does as a priority UDFA