To play strong safety in the NFL, you need to be both intelligent and aggressive. On the field, Nebraska's Nate Gerry is like a quarterback on his team's defense. As far as aggressiveness, there are few that can match what Gerry brings to the table.
Despite those traits, the jury is still out in terms of where the former Cornhusker will be drafted.
A major reason for the uncertainty is Gerry's decision-making. Sure, he is a smart player, making sure he and his teammates are constantly in position to make plays. The problem comes when it’s time to make that play. It's at that point where his aggressiveness often shifts from being an asset to a liability. Gerry has become notorious for being penalized for targeting over the past couple of seasons. He is intent on making the big hit – the way the position was played in the past. But in 2017, it's a different game, one where Gerry's style does not always gel with the modern-day focus on player safety.
In addition to his questionable style of play, he missed multiple games as a result of violating team rules.
Another concern is Gerry's speed. In college football, being a step or two slow is often offset by being in the right position. The speed of the NFL game is much less forgiving. For this reason, Gerry projects as a strong safety as opposed to the more traditional free safety role he played at Nebraska. His aggressiveness and physicality could be viewed as an asset at that position – especially against the run.
Gerry has been spotted in most mock drafts anywhere between the fourth and seventh rounds. In some cases, analysts have him going undrafted. He could go a long way in avoiding that by posting solid 40 and shuttle times at the Scouting Combine, as well as showing maturity and the ability to be coached and take criticism during the interview process.
The best case for Gerry to succeed at the next level is to be selected by a team with solid veteran leadership – especially in the secondary – and have a mentor assigned to him. Though talented, his question marks would make it tough for him to succeed in an environment with a lot of young leaders who have not tasted success.
I see his ceiling in the NFL mirroring New England safety Patrick Chung's career. He can be a solid contributor in the right situation, but it all starts at the Combine in Indianapolis.
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.