Many Alabama fans were confused and upset when Levi Wallace did not hear his name called over the weekend During the 2018 NFL Draft.
Wallace had a fantastic senior season for the Tide: he led the SEC in passes defended, and tallied 48 tackles, 4 1/2 tackles for loss, 2 sacks and 3 interceptions. He interviewed with several teams at the Senior Bowl, all of which loved his intelligence, strength, technique, competitiveness, hands, and one-on-one defense. The former walk-on, battling the flu, even earned an improbable spot at the Combine.
Wallace was riding a cloud of positive regard entering the NFL’s meat market — projected to be as high as a 3rd round selection, with most landing him in the 5th or 6th round.
But the measurables in the Combine, that kingmaker of many workout warriors, doomed Wallace.
Physically, in his plus ledger:
- He is very long, sporting the 4th longest arms of any draft-eligible DB.
- He has good height, coming in at 6’ and 3-tenths of one inch.
- He has big hands, they were were tied for 5th at 9 3/8ths of an inch.
In the negative ledger:
- Wallace did not participate in the three-cone drill, nor did he lift.
- Wallace’s vertical was well-below average — just 33” (vs. 34 7/8ths inches on average for draft eligible DBs).
- Equally brutal was the straight line speed. After a first trial of 4.48, his next attempt was 4.68, and he finished with an official of 4.63. This was more in line with some safety prospects, and much taller safeties such as Tavarus McFadden.
- While his height was good, he was light — just 179 pounds at weigh-in.
The closest comp for Wallace’s size and Combine/Pro Day, Arkansas’ Henre Toliver, was likewise not drafted and also had to sign an UDFA contract.
But, Toliver did not have the season that Wallace had either. There is an entire year of film showing how Levi works against taller, faster players and the body position and hands he has to compensate for it. Moreover, Levi was working out shortly after recovering from the flu, where he dropped over 10 pounds and lost a lot of conditioning.
Is straight line speed valuation another NFL myth — 79% of all NFL passing yards occur between 0-19 yards from the line of scrimmage, per CFB Film Room? Did his overall lack of athleticism in workouts merit dropping him out of the draft entirely vs. what the play that his film showed?