Former Miami Hurricane safety Deon Bush is a perfect representation of a projection player.
Projection players are the kind of players that scare evaluators the most. The ones that require you to take a strong stand, throw out a hot take, and ultimately just rely on a hope and a prayer that the player will develop and prove your point to be correct.
Every evaluation of a draft prospect is a projection is the grand scheme of things, but sometimes you have to go above the typical evaluation methods of painting a picture of what the player is currently and how he fits in the NFL. With some players, you have to make much more extensive assumptions.
Most people would prefer for a player and his skill set to be black and white. If he is good, great. If he is not, that is fine too. Either way you know what you are getting and you can move on. You can trust that what you see is correct and will stand the test of time.
But projection players are tricky. You still have to trust what you see but you have to do more than just evaluate what the prospect currently is as a player. You have to look at more than what you are seeing in the present sense. It is less black and white and there are a lot more scenarios that can be played out.
But this is why players who need to be projected are my favorite kind of players to watch and talk about. Everybody can watch the same player and have the same takeaways about what they currently are, but that is boring. It doesn't play to the imagination and anybody can do it, really. But when you have to actually project players and their futures, you can really let your imagination run and the abundance of scenarios play out. And that is why Deon Bush is such a fun player to talk about.
The case for former Hurricanes
The first point that should be made when you talk about Deon Bush is that he is unequivocally, one hundred percent, a projection player.
The reason why Bush is such a projection is because of how inconsistent he was as a college player despite having the physical traits and the skill set to suggest that he should have been a star college defender.
But the next point that should be made is that this is the case with a lot of Miami Hurricanes under Al Golden.
And then the next point should be that a lot of these players turned out to be much better pros than they were college players.
It is easy to judge coaching from our couches and computer screens, but it is pretty obvious that the coaching staff at Miami from 2011-2015 was below average. This isn't an opinion that isn't widespread obviously, but it also isn't one that hasn't been shared by the likes of former Miami players themselves.
From Allen Hurns to Travis Benjamin, Seantrel Henderson, and Denzel Perryman, there are a ton of former Hurricanes players who were always talented in college but once they got to the NFL, they became monsters.
You expect most college players to get better in the NFL obviously, but you do not expect them to make the huge jumps that many of these former Hurricanes make. And from the viewpoint of Deon Bush, this is a trend that is very encouraging.
Versatility in his projection
One thing that makes Bush's projection a bit easier is the fact that he played a lot of different roles for Miami, and while he was inconsistent, he did flash NFL level ability in each role. These roles he played at Miami are also the type of roles that Bush would play in Jacksonville, from playing as a single high safety, to playing in the box, to matching up with Tight Ends in the slot, to simply being an enforcer in the middle of the field.
As a single high safety, Bush was able to display the range and proper angles that it is needed at the position. He showed the ability to be able to get to his spot and play the ball in the air and separate it from the wide receiver.
There are not a lot of safeties that are Bush's size that can make that kind of play. Could he do this every single time? No. But there is enough flashes and enough physical tools there to make a projection that with the proper coaching, he could excel in this role.
A lot of times with safeties who are able to excel as a single high safety, you do not expect them to be able to be just as effective when they get closer to the line of scrimmage. This is not the case with Bush.
When Bush is matched up with skill players in one on one situations near the line of scrimmage, Bush is able to use his size and quickness to keep them in check and then disrupt the play.
Against the run, Bush flashes similar appealing traits amidst the inconsistency of his game. He is constantly physical in run support and while his angles and tackling could improve, he does show a good understanding of run fits and where his role plays into the run.
All in all, there are not a lot of things that Bush showed he could not do. But on the flip side, there are not a lot of things that he was able to do consistently. You see his flashes and want to bottle them up because the talent is so clear, but he just never seemed to be able to put it all together for long periods of time.
This is why Bush is a projection and this is why he is such a fascinating player. There are a lot of directions his career could take. He has all the tools and traits to develop into the high-quality starter in a league that is deprived of them at the safety position but he could also never develop much from the player he is today and he will remain maddeningly inconsistent.
Either way, Bush is a player worth taking a chance on.