Jalen Catalon 2023 NFL Draft Scouting Report
- 2020 AP First Team-SEC and Freshman All-American
- Two-way high school athlete who accounted for 101 tackles with three interceptions plus more than 1,000 yards rushing and passing with 28 combined touchdowns as a quarterback for the 2017 season
- Four-star recruit who also garnered offers from Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Texas, and others
- Endured shoulder labrum injury and a broken hand in 2021
- Scheme tendencies: Three-high safety shell, frequent Cover 3 with a three-man pass rush
- 2022 projected role: Starting free safety
Pros: Jalen Catalon is a striking safety who offers firm instincts and a sharp nose for the football. A consistent ball magnet who found ample opportunities in zone coverage to convert turnovers or alternatively jar the football loose at the catch point, Catalon is capable of impact plays in a number of roles. The Razorbacks frequently implemented drop-eight coverage and aligned with three high safeties on the field—a modern defensive layer to accommodate the spacing issues presented in today’s game. And while Catalon served as the center safety in many of these pre-snap alignments, his impact extended much further than just playing high middle. Catalon has a fair amount of versatility; I’ve seen a lot of Cover 3, some quarters coverage, and subpackage looks that drop him down onto the second level of the defense as a sub-linebacker. I think he’s tailor-made for those kinds of roles in the NFL with his play style, particularly the shallow zone roles and playing closer to the line to account for a gap in the run game. Catalon is a blur running to fit the box in the run game and offers some flashes of Budda Baker with his violent finishes and confident tackles. There are effective tackles from all angles—he wrangled James Cook on the edge on one play and in another look stepped up square in the box to tackle head-up. His collisions on in-breaking routes will make receivers think twice before coming across the middle. He’s a bit of a rare breed with his enforcer potential versus his stature as a smaller (but built dense) player. Consider him an overall playmaker. He’s hard to miss on film and plays with disciplined eyes and firm anticipation to create big hits and plays on the ball.
Cons: The evaluation for Jalen Catalon would admittedly be higher if not for the injuries and unceremonious ending to his 2021 campaign. Catalon suffered two separate injuries throughout 2021: a broken hand and shoulder labrum issues that eventually led to surgery and ended his year. The shoulder issue is a bit scary as it clearly affected his ability and subconscious enthusiasm to welcome contact and deliver jarring hits. While playing with the injury, Catalon appeared to be more hesitant and, as a result, missed tackles littered his tape. The good news is that a fully recovered shoulder should allow him to return to form, but we’ve seen these issues break down the habits of hard-hitting safeties in the past so we need to allow Catalon a chance to showcase himself post-surgery and get a feel for his recovery. His play style will always leave a bit of a lingering uneasiness over durability, though. He’s an incredible striker and punches well above his weight class—he plays a violent brand of football that will test his body. On the field, I think I prefer Catalon moving forward as more of a nickel safety who plays lower to the line of scrimmage than as a deep-middle defender. I’m not sure his transitional quickness or range lends itself well to playing as a free safety at the next level, which will beg the question of how well he tackles man-to-man coverage in order to play in the slot and match up with receivers.
Jalen Catalon NFL Draft Scouting Report by Kyle Crabbs