COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — JT Woods earned the nickname “The Heartbreak Kid” at Baylor because of his penchant for creating turnovers.
The Los Angeles Chargers are hoping he can do the same thing at the next level after they selected the safety with the 79th overall pick in the third round of the NFL draft.
Woods said he got the nickname from Baylor assistant coach Joey McGuire during the 2019 preseason camp for the interceptions he was getting in practice. Woods has had nine picks the past two seasons, including six last year, which tied for the most in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
"It just kind of grew into something a lot bigger than what it was at the time. I started breaking hearts of quarterbacks across the country, not just the ones in the practice facility,” Woods said Friday night after the pick was made.
Besides his knack for picks, Woods also has speed. His 40-yard dash time of 4.36 seconds at the NFL scouting combine was tied for second-quickest among safeties.
Woods predominately played in the deep end of the field as the free safety at Baylor, where he started 28 of 50 games over his four seasons. There were times, though, when we was matched against tight ends and slot receivers.
Woods also had two defensive touchdowns last season — a pick-six in the season opener and then a 97-yard fumble return the following week.
“He’s a safety with a lot of cover ability, with his length and his speed. He shows a little bit of corner movement, so we kind of see him as a defensive back,” general manager Tom Telesco said. “He has really good ball skills, turns the ball over, plays aggressive, really good feel for the game. He’s a really interesting player.”
Woods would likely be paired with Nasir Adderley to play as deep safeties with Derwin James playing closer to the line of scrimmage. The Chargers allowed 221 passing yards per game last season, which was 12th fewest in the league, but they only had 11 interceptions, which was tied for eighth worst.
“If you move Derwin closer to the slot you don't want to lose that playmaking ability in the deep part of the field. And I think JT gives you premium range back there,” coach Brandon Staley said. “We play a lot of different types of five and six defensive back groupings depending on the matchup, so it just gives us more flexibility.”
The Chargers took Boston College guard Zion Johnson in the first round. They did not have a second-round selection after sending that pick to Chicago in the Khalil Mack trade.
Los Angeles will have eight picks on Saturday — one in the fourth, one in the fifth, two in the sixth and four in the seventh.
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