The Philadelphia Eagles selected K’Von Wallace with pick No. 127 in the 2020 NFL Draft. In order to learn more about him, I reached out to SB Nation’s Clemson blog: Shakin The Southland. Tigers writer Drew Schneider was kind enough to answer my questions.
1) Can you recap his college career?
K’Von came into Clemson as one of the lowest ranked (in terms of stars) players in the in the 2016 recruiting class. The secondary had a few unexpected departures, and Brent Venables was looking around for safeties late in the recruiting process. He ended up rolling the dice on two 3* safeties, Isaiah Simmons and K’Von Wallace.
Simmons ended up redshirting while transitioning to a full time defensive player, leaving Wallace to play as a true freshman. Wallace played about 100 snaps at safety and recorded 6 tackles and interception. He looked like a nice, useful player who would probably play a complementary role on the defense in the future. Then he kept getting better.
Wallace’s Sophomore season was a preview of things to come. He was first off the bench at both safety positions, and would come in the game as a slot corner in the nickel. He wasn’t a guy that drew your eye, but at the same time, he was always in the right spot, and when a play was available to be made, he made it. At 5’11, and under 200 pounds, he didn’t stand out on a defense stocked with monsters, but I don’t remember thinking “oh man, K’Von’s in the game, fingers crossed he doesn’t get burned.” He wasn’t spectacular, but he was solid and versatile. He ended the season with 36 tackles, 1 interception, and 4 pass breakups in 428 snaps (including 6 starts).
Clemson’s starting safety heading into the 2018 season made a surprising (and in hindsight poor) decision to enter the NFL draft early, leaving Wallace as one of Clemson’s starting safeties. He paid it off by starting 15 games, making 55 tackles, breaking up 7 passes, and snagging a crucial interception on a two point conversion in the final seconds against Texas A&M that would have tied game for the Aggies. He played 661 snaps, was named Honorable Mention All-ACC and picking up his second National Championship ring, this time as a starter on one of the best defenses in college football history.
Wallace briefly flirted declaring for the NFL after his junior season before announcing his return for his senior season. He was named one of Clemson’s permanent team captains and saw his role in the defense transform from mostly playing safety, to playing all over the field in Clemson’s new 3-3-5 look. Isaiah Simmons drew most of the eyes on the 2019 defense, and for good reason, but Wallace’s versatility was just as important (in my opinion) to the defense. His ability to play multiple positions on the defense (often playing multiple spots on the same drive), allowed Venables to fully weaponize Simmons. His play in the post season was particularly impressive. He recorded 9 tackles and 2 pass break ups against Virginia in the ACC Championship game. He put up 6 tackles, 2 pass breaks ups, and had a crucial 11 yard sack against Ohio State. His 13 tackles led the Tigers in the National Championship game. He ended the season with 81 tackles, 10 pass break ups, two sacks, and 2 interceptions. He started all 15 games, played 698 snaps, was 3rd Team All-ACC, and was an All-ACC Academic selection for the second time in his career.
2) What are his strengths? What are his weaknesses?
This STS article is better than anything I could type in a small space. In summary, at Clemson he was a versatile defender that could line up at either safety position or slot corner, and do so playing mistake free football. In terms of his weakness, it boils down to physical ability. There are some question about his ability to play safety in the NFL because of his lack of short space agility.
3) Are you surprised where he was drafted? Higher or lower than expected? Just right?
The combine was crucial for Wallace. There was no question about his talents as a football player, but there were questions about his speed and explosion. When he ran a 4.53 40 and put up a 38 inch vertical and 133 inch broad jump, he moved to the front end of his projected 4th-6th round projection. I think the 4th round was right for Wallace. He might not be a high upside pick, but he’s a high floor guy that should be able to contribute early in his career.
4) How do you see his NFL career playing out? What’s his best fit position wise?
If he stays healthy (and he was always healthy at Clemson) I see K’Von as a guy that sticks in the league for 10+ seasons, maybe not as a star, but as a valuable contributor in the secondary and on special teams. His best fit, in terms of position, is slot corner. He’s a physical tackler, capable pass rusher, and doesn’t make many mistakes. You can bring him off the edge, and he will find the quarterback. You can play him in the underneath zone and he’ll make tackles and break up passes. He’s a solid fit for the pass happy NFL.
5) Anything to know about him off the field?
I know this is thrown around a good bit with players, but K’Von is an exceptional person. He’s a self made player that had every excuse to fail, but instead, excelled. He’ll be a fan favorite in Philly and will work tirelessly in the community. He might not make an All-Pro team in his career, but I wouldn’t be surprised if was in contention for a few Walter Payton Man of the Year trophies. This article from The State (South Carolina’s State Paper) is a great read, and will tell you everything you need to know about K’Von off the field.
BLG’s take: Wallace has the best chance of any Eagles rookie not named Jalen Reagor to contribute in 2020. He could potentially beat out Will Parks to serve as a third safety in the old Corey Graham role. Wallace profiles in the mold of a Malcolm Jenkins replacement.
Spider graph via Mockdraftable: