2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Washington S Budda Baker

We’re back again breaking down prospects for the 2017 NFL Draft, set to kick off on April 27th through the 29th. Our goal this season is to write reports on at least 150 players and hopefully, as many as 200. It will, of course, have a focus on Pittsburgh Steelers’ wants and needs but we will look big-picture too at the best players in this year’s draft.

If there’s a player you would like us to breakdown, let us know in the comments below.

Budda Baker / S Washington 5’10 192 lbs #32

The Good:

– Proper tackling technique
– Physical enough to play near the line of scrimmage
– Experience playing in the slot
– Comfortable in deep zone
– Shows ability to jump routes
– Blows up many plays due to high athleticism

The Bad:

– Sometimes fooled when diagnosing the run
– Could add some more size
– Will be difficult for Baker to cover larger NFL tight ends
– Locks on to quarterback’s eyes for a second too long at moments
– Struggles with elusive backs in open field


– 2016: 70 Tackles, 9.5 TFL, 3 Sacks, 2 Ints
– Has 5 interceptions in his career at Washington
– Season high 10 tackles vs Arizona
– Sporting News First Team All America
– NCAA Consensus First Team All America Safety
– Began at Washington as a 167-lb freshman before bulking up

Tape Breakdown:

When it comes down to size, the National Football League is a setting where bigger is usually better. That’s why Washington safety Budda Baker faces so many questions about his size and durability as he awaits to be drafted later this spring. Going through Baker’s tape, I can confidently say that while his size may be his biggest question mark, it is far from being a glaring weakness. Though being an undersized player often links to poor tackling fundamentals and inability to play in the trenches, Baker does not match the description that is generalized with players his size. When watching one of Baker’s game tape, it is more likely to see a play like the one below than a missed tackle.

During his time at Washington, Baker spent a lot of his time near the line of scrimmage. The result of that was Baker finding himself with many opportunities to make a big play, an opportunity that Baker capitalized on quite often. Whether it be a running back screen, off tackle run or an end around, Baker was a master of blowing up the play before it had a chance to develop.

While Baker was a nightmare for ball carriers near the line of scrimmage, the Washington safety also poised as a viable threat as a pass rusher. Baker tallied three sacks in his final season at Washington, but Baker’s most impressive showcase as a pass rusher came on a play that did not result in a sack. Watch below as Baker blitzes off the edge and is met by the USC running back.

Though Baker did not ultimately sack the quarterback, the hand work and strength shown did more for Baker’s stock than a sack ever could. With effort like the play above, Baker can become a focal point of many creative blitzes in the NFL.

Baker’s ability to play at the line of scrimmage is half of the test set in front of him. In today’s era, an NFL safety is required to be more than just an eighth man in the box. Today’s starting safety must also be able to hold his own in coverage, whether it be a deep zone or even lined up in the slot. Baker finds himself in prestigious company because the Washington safety has shown the ability to do both.

Watching Baker on tape, the Washington safety appears comfortable playing in a deep zone when asked. More impressive though is Baker’s work in the slot position. It is here where Baker flashes great ability to read and diagnose. Two plays specifically stood out the most to me while watching, one where Baker is in man coverage and the other in zone coverage.

Here against Washington State, Baker is deployed in the slot and is responsible for following the receiver faced in front of him.

For a moment, it appears that Baker is a half-step behind the receiver he is responsible for following, that is until Baker jumps the route and nabs an interception.

Baker does not come up with an interception in this second example, though he probably should have. Watch how Baker watches the quarterback’s eyes throughout his drop and then pounces on the throw.

The drop on that play likely costs Baker a pick six there, but that is just gravy to what teams are looking for when scouting defensive backs. Baker’s ability in the slot makes me ponder if teams will experiment with Baker in the slot like the Steelers did with Sean Davis earlier this season. Playing Baker as the nickel corner in passing situations does not seem far fetched when you consider his past performances.

As you may have noticed, Baker’s game revolves around being aggressive in all phases. While being aggressive is the fuel that powers Baker, it too shows a need for improvement. Baker can sometimes be fooled if his initial instinct betrays him. An example of that can be found on Arizona’s opening touchdown on a red zone carry that Baker likely should have stopped.

Baker, lined up on the left side of the offense, is fooled by the movement of Arizona tight end Josh Kern. As Kern, lined up off the line slides over to block the backside defender, Baker follows this and takes himself out of the play, leading to an easy touchdown.

When it comes to Baker’s draft stock, the first team All America selection has more positives going for him than negatives. Baker has the aggressiveness and coverage capabilities of being a starting safety at the next level. Though Baker’s size will continue being a topic of discussion, I believe the concern is exaggerated. Considering that Baker has increased his weight every year since his arrival at Washington, there is valid reason to believe that Baker can continue to increase his size and be a long-term contributor in the NFL. Look for Baker to be selected during the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Projection: Day Two

Games Watched: vs Arizona, vs Rutgers, vs USC, vs Arizona State,

Previous 2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles
Deshaun WatsonHaason ReddickMarshon LattimoreCorey ClementTim Williams
Jourdan LewisTakkarist McKinleyBrad KaayaNathan PetermanO.J. Howard
Charles HarrisAlvin KamaraTyus BowserDavid NjokuDeMarcus Walker
Chidobe AwuzieDeShone KizerMarlon MackCameron SuttonZach Cunningham
Corey DavisCarl LawsonPatrick MahomesKareem HuntEvan Engram

About the Author

Daniel Valente

Steelers fan from birth, spending majority of my free time looking up statistics. Had the honor of meeting Mike Vanderjagt shortly after his infamous missed field goal in the 2005 Divisional Round. Currently pursuing a Journalism degree. Follow me on Twitter @StatsGuyDaniel

  • Steelers12

    I saw proper tackler and my eyes lit up

  • Jon Crissinger

    The guy I was just talking about. I’d take him in the second round in a heartbeat. Only had 6 missed tackles this season and was awarded USA Football’s Defensive Fundamental Player of the year for how many places he lined up and still performed well.

    Sure he’s smaller, but he’s 5’10 195 pounds basically what Troy and Earl Thomas were. Bigger than Honey Badger

  • TroymanianDevil

    I just mentioned him in the article about addressing safeties ( said don’t need to draft ‘S’ but this is the guy if drafting one early )

    I don’t know why size is such a concern, not just this evaluation but multiple others I’ve read. ( although you mention that it seems overblown so thank you for that )
    He’s only about 5-10 lbs lighter than most starting safeties in the NFL, a few extra pounds can easily be added on without losing speed/explosion. And he’s the same height as most FS.
    He’s already slightly taller and heavier than the honey badger, the comparison made in multiple scouting reports. And in general, the NFL is going smaller and faster on defense anyways.

    He takes good angles and tackles well ( seems like the biggest complaint/problem with Mitchell )
    Can also play in slot, one example is on this report.

    Dude is a playmaker. Only reason not to take him in the 1st is that we probably want to address other things first. My take is if he falls to 62, run up to the podium. Maybe even trade up to 55 (ish) if he’s still there at that point.

  • Spencer Krick

    Man, that second gif. I like the cut of Baker’s jib.

    Don’t really think this team needs another high round safety, however, if Baker’s still on the board in the 2nd I’d squeeze the trigger. I think you can find ways to get him on the field, in nickel or dime.

  • TroymanianDevil

    2nd rd in heartbeat.
    Btw, that play you mentioned.. his pressure caused an INT

  • Biggie

    Needs to bulk up a little bit for the pros but he definitely is a player. Depending on how he looks in the combine, quickness and speed, he’ll be a bottom 2nd through top of 4th likely. I like Justin Evans A&M alot, bigger, faster and great hands. Both are playmakers who can tackle.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    I’d draft him for his ability to play slot corner now and as a future safety in the future. I like this pick, probably one of my favorites in the draft.

  • Jeff Papiernik

    I like this kid. I’d take him or Jourdan Lewis in the second. Baker could play slot corner and safety, so he’s nice insurance for Gay or if Golson doesn’t pan out. You could say goodbye to Shamarko if this kid is drafted.

  • Steeler4l1f3

    Big fan of Budda. He’s a nice chess piece and matchup problem for offensive teams. Think Logan Ryan in the playoffs with much more speed.

    Honey Badger and Earl Thomas prove that an undersized playmaker at S can be invaluable.

    Hoping we take him in rd2 but not sure he makes it.

  • LucasY59

    I agree with all your points except Shamarko, I think Thomas could be signed as a ST only type player (Ross Ventrone) Drafting Baker would make it so there is NO way Shark plays on D, but that wasnt likely anyway, I think guys like Golden, Dangerfield, and maybe Hagen are bigger risks to ending Thomas’ time with the Steelers, but I would like to see all of them in camp and let the competition decide who makes the team

  • Zuami Montanez

    This is the guy I said I would like us to draft, I watched that game against Rutgers and I was like man Pittsburgh needs a solid tackler like him.

  • LucasY59

    I think his lack of Size could make him still be available when the Steelers pick in the 2nd and if he is there its a great value despite the size, Baker can make plays and in the NFL that is actually what is most important

    I think a slot cover guy is a big need for the team, and since they have Gay and Golson as that player now, a guy that can play deep safety (but also has good enough cover skills to matchup against a slot WR) would be a great value addition (having 3 (strictly) slot corners would not be good value)

    my first option for the Steelers 2nd pick is Jourdan Lewis (a slot guy but can also play outside corner so is valuable depth as well as an upgrade to the slot guys they already have) after him it is Tre White (who is a very similar player to Lewis) after that its Baker, and then if all three are not available I would want Cam Sutton (who is somewhere in between a Lewis/White and Baker mix) not as good as the previous 3 but has skills to do all the things that they could possibly do (jack of all trades, Master of none)

    I think Baker should perform well at the combine and that might push him out of the Steelers 2nd pick, but adding a guy that can contribute right away as a athletic safety in sub packages and then eventually could succeed Mitchells spot and play the deep part of the field is something that would help in the short and long term for the D

    he would have issues with matching up against TEs but they can find ways to counter/avoid those situations

  • LucasY59

    my ideal scenarios for the 1st 3 rds of the draft are

    1. Takk McKinley, 2. Jourdan Lewis, 3. Tyus Bowser
    1. Haasan Reddick, 2. Budda Baker, 3. Joe Mathis

  • Jon Crissinger

    43 was the same height.

  • Daniel Valente

    Baker blew me away on tape, I still don’t believe the Steelers will take him but whoever does is going to be a whole lot better.

  • Daniel Valente

    Yeah the gametape speaks for itself and made me a non believer in the undersized narrative. This is a player who bulked from 167-192 lbs throughout his NCAA career, I’m sure he can add a few more pounds if he absolutely had to.

  • TroymanianDevil

    I’ll combine those and say my ideal scenario ( right now of course )
    1. Takk 2. Budda Baker 3. either Mathis or Bowser

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    I really really like him. I like him enough to where I’d draft him one and move up in the second to get a good OLB, because they will still be there. I don’t think Baker goes past the first round, but if he does maybe 10 picks in the second. From what I’ve seen he could be a difference maker on defense year one.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    My First Serious Mock
    1. Carl Lawson Edge Rusher Auburn- He has a couple of different moves to get at the QB and does it well. He seems to be strong enough to hold the point of attack. His only major negative is his injury history. AR2 has made his statement….we need more consistant pressure and Lawson will help bring this.
    2. Patrick Mahomes QB Texas Tech- Great presence in the pocket with great touch. Does a good job of progressions. Can do a better job of setting feet and needs work on his long ball. The other thing that was evident by AR2 was his assertion that we need better depth at the QB position and I have a sneaky feeling Bens replacement which is why the 2nd round pick.
    3. Damonte Kazee CB San Diego St- Instinctive, quick, can tackle and has a nasty demeanor. His downside is he is a little bit smaller then you like. With the way the Patriots treated us we see more secondary help is needed. A aging Gay and questions with Golson and Gilbert make this a bigger need then thought.
    4. Jarron Jones DL Notre Dame- Quick off the snap and has power to push double teams. Sometimes take himself out of plays. The need to find quality depth to spell Cam and Tuitt is evident late in games when are defense shows an inability to get off the field. A guy like Jones give you quality depth to help keep the starters fresh
    5a. Matthew Dayes HB NC State- Short, squatty kinda guy but he has quickness and power while running the ball, can catch it out of the back field and does a good job of blocking on pass protection. At sometime you would think we will try and find some new blood to back up Bell as Williams age has to become an issue and Toussaint is just a guy.
    5b. Ejuan Price Edge Rusher Pittsburgh- Athletic kid that can get around the edge in a hurry. Is shorter than you like at the position and did not see him fall back in coverage. The Steelers like to take chances on edge guys late in the draft on smaller athletic edge rushers and Price fits the bill.
    6. Jaylen Reeves Maybin ILB Tennessee- Very athletic and can get through the muck to make plays, can cover TE’s and HB’s. Smaller guy whose season was cut short from injury. Listed as a OLB but played what looks like a hybrid type role for the Vols. See him splitting time at ILB with either Williams or Timmons if still on the team where Jaylen will be in on passing downs.
    7. Cethan Carter TE Nebraska- Athletic TE with good hands and shows good effort in blocking. Wasn’t used a whole lot in the Cornhusker offense as a pass catcher but he looks like a dynamic player. Was mocking just blocking TE’s however with the questions still hovering over Green and Grimble not stepping up the need for a move TE increases.

  • Daniel Valente

    I’d like Baker too but Mitchell is only 29, playing good football at the moment and still has 2 years left on his deal. If that was not the case then I’d be pleading for Tomlin/Colbert to draft him.

  • Zuami Montanez

    Mitchell is okay, but he just seems to miss alot of tackles, instead of wrapping up he just uses his shoulder to hit and most players just bounce off of his hit.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    Gotta keep Bell and Bryant away from Budda.

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  • Shane Mitchell

    He is too good of a tackler so I doubt we have much interest in him.

  • Ra’Mon Jones

    Tedric Thompson

  • I agree, we have enough Budda Bakers on our team

  • I would be thrilled to death to get Mahomes in the 2nd. I just don’t see any way he makes it that far. If the Steelers want him I think they will have to grab him at 30. Or trade up early in the 2nd

  • popsiclesticks

    I’d be surprised if Mahomes is available even at 30.

  • Anonymous Dawg

    The only thing for me left wanting on him (from a UW fan’s perspective) is hands. There were just a few too many instances where he could have had game-changing plays that he dropped. Against Utah, dropped a pick 6; against Alabama dropped what could have been an INT well into Alabama territory early on that could’ve helped change the dynamic of that game.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Wouldn’t be at all surprised if he is picked in the 1st but do not see many sites that have him going in the 1st but no question he is better than Kizer who many have mocked in the 1st.

  • Danielsteelstrong81

    wont be available in the 2nd when we pick

  • Dshoff

    HA!! That’s a good one! LOVE it how he holds on to a foot for dear life, not letting a guy out of his grasp.