The Seahawks’ star safety is raving about the Washington Huskies’ star safety at the NFL combine.
The feeling is mutual.
Earl Thomas was among the many impressed by the performance of Budda Baker at the league’s annual scouting summit in Indianapolis that ended on Monday.
Baker, a Washington state-champion sprinter at Bellevue High School, ran a 4.45-second 40-yard dash at Lucas Oil Stadium. That was fourth-fastest among safeties at the combine -- and eye-opening considering he tackled and blitzed like a linebacker while excelling at for the Pac-12-champion Huskies.
Baker ran .02 seconds faster in the 40 than his UW teammate Sidney Jones, who some think will be the first cornerback taken in April’s draft.
Baker ran through his three-cone drill measuring change of direction in 6.76 seconds, fourth-fastest among safeties, and his 20-yard shuttle speed of 4.08, best among safeties, showed his explosiveness.
Thomas sees big things from Baker in the NFL.
Thomas wrote that after Baker’s performance on Monday.
Baker said he loves Thomas, how he dominates the same the position Baker plays.
“For me it’s Earl Thomas, as well, just because I love Earl Thomas, the way he plays the game,” Baker said this past weekend inside the Indiana Convention Center. “Whatever he is doing he is always next to the ball, wreaking havoc. So Earl Thomas.
“And I watch (Arizona Cardinal) Tyrann Mathieu because of his versatility. He can play corner, nickel or safety and he has been playing that. So those two guys.”
Baker said playing in Seattle while Thomas has isn’t the only way he know’s the Seahawks’ star.
“We have the same agent,” Baker said of David Mulugheta from the firm Athletes First, “and (Thomas) was in California two weeks ago and that’s where I trained (for the combine). So he watched me do my DB drills and he helped me out with some little things and all that type of stuff.”
Thomas is recovering from a broken tibia he got in a game against Carolina Dec. 4. Thomas initially contemplated retirement, at least on his social-media accounts. But last week at the combine coach Pete Carroll said Thomas is doing “great” and the Seahawks think he should be able to start the 2017 opener in September.
Baker said Thomas is “walking, not on crutches. ... I feel like he will be ready when the season comes.”
Baker measured 5 feet 10 and 195 pounds at the combine, with 30 3/4-inch arms. He said he drank some water to get his weight up to a better-looking number, a trick he learned on social media from fellow prospects.
“I was 192,” he said, “I drank two water bottles just to be that 195, to look good.
“My ideal playing weight is 195, and I feel like I can make open-field tackles and do all that I can do at 195. So 195 would be my playing weight. That’s just a thing you always learn. You hear it all over social media you hear all the littler guys try to drink a bunch of water, even bigger guys, just to have a good-looking weight.”
Many consider him too small to be a two-deep safety that would cover NFL tight ends.
That’s what they said about Thomas coming out of Texas in 2010, that he was “undersized” and perhaps not a best fit as an NFL safety. All’s he done is become a three-time All-Pro in Seattle’s single-high-safety scheme that has him playing a roving center fielder making plays rather than a closer-to-the-line cover man.
Baker seems best suited for a defense like the Seahawks’, with the single-high safety as the primary scheme. Baker says he met with the Seahawks and just about every NFL team in Indy, and said teams “just said they like my film, whether it’s free safety, nickel. They feel like I can rush off the edge, play man, make open field tackles.”
Asked what position he’d like to play or type defense he’d like to join in the NFL, Baker said: “I feel like I’m equally proficient in all those types of things. I feel like I can be in a post-player type defense, or I can play I the box.”
Baker and Jones weren’t the only Huskies prospect impressing at the combine on its final day.
Cornerback Kevin King had the combine’s fastest three-cone drill time measuring speed in changing direction, 6.56 seconds. King’s 60-yard shuttle run also had the second-highest vertical jump among cornerbacks, 39.5 inches, the fifth-highest in the combine. King’s 60-yard shuttle run of 11.14 seconds was fastest among cornerbacks and third-fastest at the combine. He and fellow UW cornerback Sidney Jones are both candidates to be first-round picks in April.
Many believe Baker could be gone by the end of round two. Malik Hooker of Ohio State is regarded as the top safety in the draft. Maybe it’s loyalty to his pal Baker, but Thomas, at least on Twitter, wasn’t all that impressed by Hooker’s combine.