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Gophers safety Jordan Howden taking his versatility to NFL

The defensive back is gearing up for his rookie season in the NFL after being selected by the New Orleans Saints in the fifth round.
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Photo courtesy of Gopher Athletics
The safety player was drafted in April to the New Orleans Saints.

The New Orleans Saints selected Minnesota safety Jordan Howden in the fifth round of the NFL draft in April. Throughout his five seasons with the Gophers, Howden was a productive and crucial part of their secondary.

He showed versatility during his time in Minnesota, playing free safety, slot corner and in the box. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Howden’s greatest strength is his tackling. In his final college season, he posted a 3.1% missed tackle rate, missing just two tackles across 13 games.

Howden continued to impress NFL scouts and general managers after the regular season at the NFL Combine. He clocked in a 4.49 40-yard dash, the fifth fastest time by a safety at the Combine.

The Saints saw this, paired with his experience of over 3,000 snaps played in college, and decided to take a chance on him.

Gophers defensive back Tyler Nubin, who played with Howden for four seasons in the secondary, gave some insight on how Howden is transitioning to the NFL and training camp.

“[Howden] is doing real good in New Orleans, getting nickel reps right now. They moved him to nickel so they are getting to see the coverage skills that we saw here for four years,” Nubin said. “I am excited to see him get a shot at getting on the field.”

Howden’s versatility resembles a commonly sought asset in the NFL. Players of his skill set who can and will do everything asked of them have an increased chance of making the team.

Training camp is just around the corner and with that, various opportunities to impress the Saints coaching staff. Howden will look to leave a lasting impression to make the roster and compete for playing time in the preseason.

But from the looks of it, the pressures that come with transitioning from college football to the NFL are not fazing Howden.

Todd McShay, an NFL Analyst who covers the NFL Draft on ESPN, told the Pioneer Press about his perspective of Jordan Howden and his transition to the NFL.

“You look at the experience he brings to the game, 49 starts at Minnesota as a four-year player, 240 tackles; he has played in the slot in the big nickel role, he’s played as a two-high safety, which I think he can hold up in,” McShay said. “I question if he can be a single-high safety. I don’t see the twitch and change of direction skills. But when the ball is in front of him, he can close in a flash. I like his instincts as a safety as well.”

Additionally, Mel Kiper, NFL Draft expert on ESPN, was impressed with Howden’s body of work at Minnesota.

“He closes quickly, where he reads the quarterback’s eyes and anticipates well,” Kiper said. “I thought he was a good tackler overall in coverage, down the field. He was making plays late in coverage.”

During Howden’s first day of media availability as a Saints player, he was asked if he had a specific vision of how he fit into the New Orleans defense.

“I don’t have a vision. I’m one of those types of players like wherever the team needs me, I’m available,” Howden said. “Anywhere on the field, that’s just how it’s always been growing up. I’m a team player … Whatever the team wants me to do.”

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