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This post is part of a series on the prospects of Gamecocks in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Measurements: 5’11, 216 lbs
Summary: Darian Stewart has been a starter for the Gamecocks at safety and spur since the second half of the 2007 campaign. In his early days as a starter, he was part of the forgettable late-season defensive collapse that we suffered through. Since then, though, Stewart has been a rock solid player for the Gamecocks. The hard-hitting safety has been very consistent and has made many memorable plays for us. Although he tended to fly under the radar on the league and national levels, he will be remembered fondly by Gamecocks fans.
What the Pros Have Right: Darian has an extremely versatile skill set, as demonstrated by the fact that he’s played both safety and spur throughout his USC career. He believes he can play corner, safety, and linebacker at the professional level. Because of his frame and tackling ability, he projects primarily as a strong safety, but his versatility could be attractive to teams that want him both to provide depth at SS and to be a utility player for various speciality defensive packages. I could see Darian finding a place in the league in this context.
What the Pros Have Wrong: Darian’s “tweener” status is going to play against him in the draft, as measurables-obsessed scouts are going to fixate on how his size, frame, and speed don’t exactly fit into any recognizable categories as the NFL defines them. I’m not so sure I agree with the scouts or the NFL’s general philosophy here. The NFL oftentimes has a very limited understanding of what a player can be, and while they know what they’re doing to a certain degree, I don’t think they should pass on a player like Darian who has proven himself to be more than capable of doing what he’s asked to do. Sometimes the NFL’s rigid sense of what it’s looking for in players blinds it to the potential of a talent like Darian.
Are the Mocks Right?: The mocks I’ve seen project Darian in the 5th-7th rounds or as a free agent. I think that’s probably about right, although I think teams might do well to take him earlier in that range rather than later. Although I doubt he’ll ever be a star in the league, I think he could be an excellent addition in terms of rounding out depth in the defensive backfield.