D.J. Swearinger Scouting Report: NFL Outlook for South Carolina S

Ryan Lownes@@ryanlownesFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2013

COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 12:  D.J. Swearinger #36 of the South Carolina Gamecocks celebrates after making a defensive stop against the Florida Gators during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 12, 2011 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

D.J. Swearinger

Houston Texans

Second Round: 57th Pick

One of several hard-hitting safeties in this class, D.J. Swearinger is an intimidating presence in the middle of the field.

A three-year starter brimming with confidence and swagger, he also possesses the versatility in coverage that NFL teams value.

Will his aggressive style hurt him at the next level? Or is he poised to thrive in a new defensive scheme?

Strengths Weaknesses
+ Versatile, occupied several roles for the Gamecocks - Aggressiveness is a double-edged sword
+ An enforcer capable of making ball-carriers pay - Below-average speed for the position
+ High-energy defender with a great motor - Technique in man coverage needs work
+ Good against the run, showing instincts and toughness in the box - Tackling form leaves something to be desired


At 5’10.25”, 208 pounds, Swearinger is powerfully built with long arms. He is muscular and strong. At the NFL Scouting Combine, he bench pressed 225 pounds 17 times.

Though a decent athlete, he lacks speed and ran an underwhelming 4.67 40-yard dash.

The rest of the workout in Indianapolis helped showcase his athletic talents. He displayed some agility when he finished among the top performers in the three-cone drill with a time of 6.70. His vertical jump (37”), broad jump (10’4”) and short shuttle (4.11) results also were above average for the position group. 



A high-motor, high-intensity player on the field, Swearinger’s presence alone brings an attitude to the defense. The three-year starting safety was a team captain for the Gamecocks this season.

Though he did not miss game action due to injury, a nagging foot problem sidelined him for the 2012 spring.


South Carolina operates out of a 4-2-5 base defense. Swearinger primarily played free safety for the Gamecocks, though he occupied a wide variety of roles in his four years. He was often counted on in man coverage this past season, matching up outside, against slot receivers and in-line tight ends. Typically, it was his responsibility to patrol the deep part of the field. Also a duty of his one-deep free safety role, he was counted on to fill the box and stop the run.

Playing the Ball

Though he had only six interceptions in his college career, Swearinger flashes good ball skills when passes are thrown in his vicinity. He attacks the ball in the air and appears to catch naturally. Body control and leaping ability help him to out-duel receivers as he fights to break up passes.


Against the Run

A feared hitter capable of packing a punch, Swearinger is an effective run defender that can be an intimidating presence in the box. He displays good instincts, reacting quickly and flowing to the ball. Typically relentless in pursuit, he plays the run with impressive range. He shows the ability to maneuver around blockers, working himself into position to make the play.

Sometimes Swearinger takes himself out of position with overly aggressive pursuit angles. When this occurs, his lack of recovery speed is evident.

Man Coverage

Swearinger lined up in man coverage all over the formation during his college career. A physical defender that disrupts the timing of routes in press-man coverage, he has the size and strength to cover tight ends. While maybe lacking the speed to run with faster wide receivers down the field, he is agile for his size.

At the next level, he might lack the fluidity to cover receivers in the slot unless his technique is improved. He often stays too high in his backpedal and is not very smooth or quick transitioning. Playing in off-man coverage helps negate those technical issues to an extent.

Zone Coverage

Though he enjoyed a very productive college career playing primarily zone coverage, Swearinger often looked as if he was in over his head with an enormous area to cover. He appeared lost at times in that one-deep free safety role, occasionally too hesitant or late to react.

Still, he patrolled the deep part of the field fairly well and ensured that the Gamecocks would not be beaten over the top.

In the NFL, Swearinger will benefit greatly from less zone responsibilities. He does not have the speed or range to operate in the same role at the next level. By cutting the field in half, the impact of his strengths would be maximized while limitations could be hidden.



Swearinger is generally a good, reliable tackler. Known to SEC opponents as a dangerous enforcer, he is a hard hitter that goes for the knockout blow with excellent striking force. In the last three years, he has been credited with an impressive 171 solo tackles.

There is room for improvement in his form, however. Swearinger often aims too high or low, tackling ball-carriers up in the shoulder pad area or at the ankle. While he got away with less than perfect form in college, NFL athletes will make him pay.

He must make sure that he can avoid dangerous helmet-to-helmet collisions. It got to the point in college where it looked as if he may have been penalized based on of his reputation.

Future Role/Scheme Versatility

At the next level, Swearinger likely fits best in a two-deep zone where his lack of speed would be hidden to an extent. He will appeal to teams seeking an enforcer on the back end. Range, instincts and ball skills will allow him to compete for a starting job in an NFL secondary. Likewise, the versatility to play man and zone coverage, blitz and defend against the run should make him a candidate for early playing time.

Draft Projection: Late second-early fourth round


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