Top NFL Draft Prospects: Scouts hope Irish safety can 'max' his potential

In preparation for the 2017 football season, will profile the top NFL draft-eligible prospects with a different player profile each day. The series will culminate with the preseason top-20 prospects in August.

Max Redfield S / Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Position: Safety Height: 6-1 Weight: 205 Class: Senior High School: Mission Viejo, CA. (Mission Viejo HS)

Star linebacker Jaylon Smith was the obvious focal point on a talented Notre Dame defense a year ago but as scouts kept their eyes trained on No. 9, a smaller version with similar closing speed wearing No. 10 frequently flashed, as well.

That jersey belongs to Max Redfield, a former prep All-American, whose prototypical blend of size, athleticism and physicality has helped him gain a reputation as one of the better young safety prospects in the country. After three seasons of mostly flashing, however, scouts want to see if Redfield can put it all together in his senior campaign -- just like Smith did last year.

Redfield signed with Notre Dame as one of the more touted prep athletes in the country, earning Top 30 overall grades from multiple recruiting services. He played in 12 games as a true freshman, even starting against Rutgers in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl to cap the season. Most of his time, however, was spent on special teams and as a reserve and he finished his first season in South Bend with a total of 12 tackles.

Redfield played in all 13 games as a sophomore, starting 11 times. He was second to Smith on the team with 68 stops on the year and also collected his first interception and two pass breakups. In part due to nagging injury, Redfield was benched for two games (Northwestern, Louisville) in November but returned to the starting lineup against rival USC and registered a career-best 14 tackles in Notre Dame's 31-28 Music City Bowl win over LSU.

Max Redfield has ideal NFL size but is the focus there? USATSI

He posted similar numbers last season (62 tackles, three passes defended, one interception) while playing 11 games. Unfortunately, his junior campaign ended abruptly when Irish head coach Brian Kelly suspended Redfield (and teammate Devin Butler) for the highly anticipated Fiesta Bowl showdown with Ohio State. Though Redfield has since apologized to his teammates, coaches and the Notre Dame fan base for the tardiness to team meetings which led to his suspension, the senior has some work to do to regain their trust, not to mention that of NFL scouts.

Redfield certainly looks the part of an NFL safety with good size and a well-built, athletic frame. The raw athleticism of the former high school three-sport standout (football, basketball and soccer) is clear in his play. Redfield has light feet and loose hips which help him change directions and accelerate quickly. He possesses the straight-line speed to handle deep coverage responsibility and takes good angles in pursuit. Redfield plays safety with a linebacker's mentality, often aggressively crashing the line of scrimmage in run support, demonstrating impressive closing speed and a willingness to launch himself at ball-carriers, resulting in some eye-popping collisions.

While many of the physical traits are there with Redfield, he simply remains too reliant on his talent at this time. Intelligence is not the issue for Redfield, a well-spoken Economics major and Mandarin Chinese minor. Put simply, Redfield has not consistently demonstrated ideal instincts for playing centerfield. Too often he has appeared more concerned with playing the man, rather than the ball, giving up potential interception opportunities in an attempt to land the flashier hit.

This is especially disconcerting because Redfield has a tendency of ducking his head and leading with his shoulder as a hitter, relying on the impact generated to knock ball-carriers to the ground, rather than wrapping his arms for the secure tackle. When he does wrap up, Redfield occasionally lifts ball-carriers and crashes them to the turf emphatically, an action sure to earn praise from fans in the stands but may draw the ire of coaches due to the potential for missed tackles and injury to either player. Further, for a player who saw action at wide receiver in high school, Redfield shows only average ball-skills, failing to secure several potential interceptions over the past two seasons.

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