It is not often that NFL teams are able to inject starters into their depth chart via free agency this late in the offseason, especially for the veteran minimum salary. Consider the Falcons a bit lucky by signing veteran safety Duron Harmon to a one-year deal.
His acquisition, along with safety Erik Harris, further drove home the perspective that the Falcons are looking to add interchangeable safeties on the back end of their defense this offseason. With eyes on adding more safety talent courtesy of the 2021 NFL Draft, let’s take a look at another safety prospect that can check several boxes for the Falcons defense.
James Wiggins Scouting Report
Weight: 210 pounds
Career stats: 87 career tackles, three tackles for loss, five interceptions, 11 pass deflections
Games watched: 2018 vs. UCLA, 2018 vs. Virginia Tech, 2020 vs. Memphis, 2020 vs. UCF
Versatility is the name of the game for Wiggins, and his skillset reflects that. During his three seasons at the University of Cincinnati, Wiggins saw time at both safety spots and was also inserted at slot corner on passing downs. His outstanding play led to him earning first team All-AAC honors in 2020, and he was a member of the second team in 2018. In addition, Wiggins has a muscular build and obvious play stretch, which is a result of being a weight room menace while at Cincinnati.
Wiggins is super aggressive in run support and applies impressive closing speed on the ball carrier. Wiggins is able to get physical with blockers and is not easily washed out on run plays. His football IQ is constantly on display, especially when he is tasked to play deep centerfield.
Wiggins shows plenty of range when diagnosing pass plays and reacts with little hesitation. One valuable skill that Wiggins also shows consistently is proper communication as a deep safety. When Wiggins is fully healthy and engaged, he is easily one of the best pure athletes on the field at any given time.
Durability concerns will be attached to his name upon entry into the NFL, and with reason. Wiggins tore his ACL in practice mere days before the start of the 2019 season, missing the entire year. He also injured his meniscus late last season, which resulted in him missing the Peach Bowl matchup against Georgia. While Wiggins is capable of showing range as a free safety, his hands are iffy at best.
His overall technique in the tackling department can use some refinement. In the open field, Wiggins prefers to lower the boom than apply the textbook wrap-up tackle. Every now and then, Wiggins can be overaggressive and run himself out of lateral run plays.
A common theme with the presence of Harmon, Harris and second-year player Jaylinn Hawkins is that all three has seen time at both safety positions in their respective playing careers, showcasing their versatility and value. Wiggins fits that same category and can be interchangeable in what is sure to be a multiple look defense.
While there are some injury concerns, Wiggins is a valuable defender who is freakishly athletic and has shown to be a difference maker at times for the Bearcats defense. There should not be great expectations in year one if selected but with time and reps, Wiggins can carve a nice role as a multi-year starter for the Falcons defense.
The signing of Harmon makes selecting a free safety a slightly less priority but is still a likely selection at some point in the draft. Wiggins is a mold of clay that can be available late in the third or early fourth round with an impressive ceiling that can ultimately place him as one of the best steals of the draft.