As freakish as Chase Young was and as productive as Antonio Gibson proved to be, Kam Curl was Washington's best value pick of the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Burgundy and Gold selected the Arkansas defensive back in the seventh round of the event, after 215 other prospects had already heard their names called. All Curl did after that was emerge as a difference maker in sub-packages and then become a high-end starter when given the opportunity halfway through the season.
So, clearly, Curl tremendously outperformed expectations, which also means he tremendously outperformed what was said about him in pre-draft scouting reports, too.
Instead of merely telling you that, though, and ending the story there — a decision that would anger you and various NBC Sports Washington bosses — let's look back through some of last year's write-ups on Curl and point out three parts of his game the plugged-in pundits really missed on.
1) They worried about his tackling
"Curl has solid form and a strong frame that he uses to bring down players when he can get to them. But at times, he is overaggressive in his angling and that causes him to miss some easy tackles. Too often on tape, he finds himself whiffing entirely or getting juked at the last minute by quicker." — Full report here
Washington has seen many of its safeties struggle in the tackling department in the 2000s, but Curl isn't one of them.
From Week 1, in fact, Curl excelled at getting offensive players to the ground in a hurry:
Here's another example of No. 31 reading a run with his instincts and then dropping an opponent as soon as he got his hands on him. Anyone see him being "overaggressive" or "getting juked" here?:
By the time his debut campaign concluded, Curl found himself ahead of all other safeties with 37 stops, according to PFF, and tied for the lead in tackles for loss/no gain among rookies, also according to PFF.
In other words, this perceived flaw of his was actually perhaps his biggest strength.
2) They were afraid he'd get bullied by larger foes
"Physical skills here are present to play bump and run but would need a lot of coaching exposure to get him ready to play here... His size poses issues to staying engaged on TEs with consistency to avoid getting knocked off his landmark." — Full report here
A simple response to this particular critique is to point to this clip from Week 17, in which Curl has no issues "staying engaged" with Zach Ertz and ends up knocking Ertz off of his "landmark", which disrupts the timing of the throw and allows Curl to notch the turnover:
Overall, one would be hard-pressed to remember a situation where Curl was truly outmatched in his first year as a pro.
More often than not, he was the one in control.
3) They doubted how much he could be relied on
"Curl may be regulated to special teams duties to protect him from poor impact and consistency in coverage." — Full report here
To the credit of Washington's coaching staff, they saw something in Curl right away — with Jack Del Rio telling reporters after the opener in September that he believed in the DB from "day one" — and their usage of Curl backs that up.
Over the first month and a half of the schedule, Curl saw regular action in what Ron Rivera called the Buffalo Nickel role. Curl helped out on specials, yes, but he wasn't hidden there by any stretch.
Then, once Landon Collins went down with an Achilles injury, Curl was inserted into the starting lineup, and he went on to play 100%, 100%, 100%, 100%, 86%, 100%, 100%, 95% and 100% of the defensive snaps over Washington's final nine contests of 2020.
In short, Curl wasn't "protected" from anything. Coaches didn't have to give him chances early on and then later tab him as Collins' replacement, but they chose to trust him in both instances and he rewarded their trust with stellar play.