2023 NFL Draft Profile: Boise State DB JL Skinner
The Broncos safety was one of the Mountain West’s most feared defenders. Will a recent injury affect his standing as a top prospect?
A big hitter, but not without risk.
JL Skinner has been selected by the Denver Broncos with the 183th overall pick, in the sixth round of the NFL Draft.
We got ourselves a Bronco.
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) April 29, 2023
For over a decade now, the Boise State Broncos have often been the class of the Mountain West and that caliber of performance has extended to the NFL Draft: Since entering the conference in 2011, Boise State has had at least one player selected every year.
While a few Broncos prospects could extend that streak in 2023, none are better positioned to do so than JL Skinner. A San Diego native, he made one start as a true freshman in 2019 before stepping into the starting lineup for good during the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign. From there, he made his mark as one of the most feared defenders anywhere in the Mountain West, shelling out hits and making big plays in equal measure while earning a second-team all-conference nod in 2021 and a first-team selection in 2022.
Unlike other positions in this year’s NFL Draft class, the safety position is relatively light on top-notch prospects, but a pre-draft injury could change how soon he hears his name. It’s not a matter of if Skinner will be selected, but when.
Measurables (taken from Mockdraftable)
Wingspan: 77 7/8″
If you want a hitter, have I got the prospect for you. Physically speaking, there really is no other safety prospect like Skinner in this year’s draft class and that makes him an ideal candidate to handle certain responsibilities with aplomb. The Draft Network’s Damian Parson described him as a “hunter”, especially in run defense, which seems apt since Pro Football Focus marked him as having 39 stops in 2021, the most among Mountain West safeties that year, and 19 more last fall despite playing just 618 snaps (20th most).
He also demonstrated plenty of ball skills in his time as a starter for the Broncos with seven interceptions and 12 passes defended across four seasons, the by-product of an above-average wingspan and a knack for anticipation that’s mentioned by draft analysts like NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, and Pro Football Network’s Ian Cummings. Add to that his willingness to play special teams and outward confidence, and you have all of the makings for someone you want on your defense.
Skinner’s anticipatory skills aren’t bulletproof, however, which got him in occasional trouble with targeting over the years and led some analysts to point to a lack of fluidity as a sticking point. Cummings, for instance, noted that he “can be late diagnose play directions on runs… [and] sometimes freezes at the snap and is late to trigger downhill” while Parson and The Game Haus’s Joe DiTullio mention that man coverage could be a sore sport if he’s asked to be responsible for more wide receivers than tight ends.
In addition, the pectoral injury that he suffered in training for the draft won’t help his draft standing, though it certainly isn’t a dealbreaker by any means.
There’s no doubt that Skinner has the on-field knowhow and physical skills to make an impact on Sundays, but it remains to be seen how his recent pectoral injury will affect when teams are inclined to pull the trigger on draft day. He isn’t the only player in this year’s draft class in this situation — Hendon Hooker and Dalton Kincaid come to mind — so I’m inclined to believe his stock won’t fall too far. Talent plays, Skinner has it, and I expect he’ll be picked sometime on Day 2, likely in the third round.