Maxwell Worship declares for the 2023 NFL Draft. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)
Maxwell Worship declares for the 2023 NFL Draft. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)
Lexie Perez

2023 NFL Draft Profile: Maxwell Worship

Maxwell Worship has gotten better and better and better during his time at Vanderbilt. Now he’s off to the pros to continue his ascent.

Maxwell Worship has seen quite a few things across his five years as a member of the Vanderbilt football program. 

A bowl game appearance. A winless season. Three athletic directors. Two head coaches. 

Yet, through it all, Worship continued to improve. After turning in his best season yet in 2022, the Florida native has played his way onto NFL Draft boards. 

A top-1,000 recruit out of high school, Worship chose Vanderbilt over offers from North Carolina, Kentucky, Iowa, Cincinnati, Indiana, NC State and more. The 6’0 safety made an immediate impact for former head coach Derek Mason in 2018, playing in all 13 of Vanderbilt’s contests including the 45-38 Texas Bowl loss to Baylor and recording a punt block against Ole Miss. 

Worship played sparingly as a sophomore on the disappointing 2019 team that finished the season 3-9, but began to see consistent snaps in 2020. In a season plagued by COVID-19 cancellations and coaching confusion, Worship was a steadying presence for an otherwise unspectacular defense. The junior collected 31 tackles, two pass breakups (PBUs) and two quarterback pressures across six starts on the backend of the defense. 

It wasn’t until 2021 that Worship really began to shine, though. The hiring of Clark Lea in December 2020 provided a new opportunity for him. Worship’s downhill, attacking style as a safety fit much better in Lea’s defensive scheme than with Mason, and the senior took advantage. In his fourth year in the program, Worship tallied 53 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 tackles for loss and 3 PBUs across 12 starts.

Worship opted to use his extra season of eligibility and returned to West End in 2022, starting 7 games and turning in a similarly successful season. The super senior racked up 49 tackles, a forced fumble and PBU. He was instrumental in Vanderbilt’s wins over Kentucky and Florida, notching 10 tackles combined. 

With five years behind him, it’s time for Worship to turn his attention to the pros. After going through pro days with numerous NFL franchises, including the hometown Tennessee Titans, let’s take a look at how Worship stacks up ahead of Thursday’s draft. 

Numbers and Measurements 

Height: 6’0 

Weight: 207 lbs. 

40-yard dash: 4.76 seconds 

Bench Press: 15 reps 

Broad Jump: 9’ 10” 

Worship checks in at 6’0, 207 lbs., which puts him about average size in terms of NFL safeties. In terms of stature, Worship profiles most similarly to a safety like Alabama’s Jordan Battle, a 6’1, 207-pounder projected to go in the middle of the draft. Similarly to Battle, Worship relies on instinctual playmaking and consistent execution rather than overbearing size. Where Worship deviates from a player like Battle in the speed department; a majority of this year’s safety class hovers in the 4.5 seconds 40-yard dash range. 

https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/players/max-worship-1.html

What Worship lacks in numbers and measurements, he makes up for in on-field production. The fifth-year senior notched 99 total tackles across three different positions (both safety spots and nickel cornerback) during his time at Vanderbilt. Worship’s 49 tackles and three PBUs in 2022 both ranked fifth on the team. 

Strengths 

Worship checks a lot of boxes for prototypical modern-day NFL safeties. He’s bigger than a typical cornerback. He’s faster than your average linebacker. And he’s smart enough to be the quarterback of the defense. 

Overall, Worship profiles as a downhill, run-stopper who has the composure and balance to not overcommit to the line of scrimmage. In 2022, Worship showcased his ability as a disciplined tackler who understands gap assignment in the run game and has the instinctual ability to snuff out plays before they can break into the second level. Worship’s forced fumble against Hawaii is a prime example of his downhill playmaking ability.  

Further, Worship packs a punch on the back end, filling out all of his 207 pound frame. Throughout his career, he has shown a willingness to be pop pads against the SEC’s best and while the NFL is another huge step up, Worship’s physicality shouldn’t be a concern. 

Lastly, Worship has proved to be a reliable, dependable and intellectual player having excelled in multiple different positions for two different coaching staffs across 41 games on West End. His first stint in the league will likely be in a special teams based role, but if his college career was any indication Worship can help his team however needed. 

Areas for Improvement 

While Worship’s size and intangibles fit the bill of an NFL safety, there are certainly areas for improvement. Namely, concerns related to Worship’s speed will hold him back: His 4.76 second 40-yard dash rates on the low-end for players at his position. For reference, the high-end of this year’s safety crop averaged two ticks lower at about 4.5 seconds on the 40-yard dash. 

This lack of speed on the back line of the defense means Worship will have heaps of trouble catching up to the game’s top blazers in the open field like Christian McCaffery and Tyreek Hill. While NFL defenders everywhere have issues keeping players of that caliber in front of them, the NFL exposes even miniscule differences in speed. 

Worship is also not hyper-active as a safety and at times gets lost in the mix defensively. As such, Worship saw his snap count decrease late in the year in times when he would disappear from the action, replaced by younger options like Ja’Dais Richard

NFL Comparison 

Deandre Houston-Carson, Chicago Bears

Like Worship, Deandre Houston-Carson came into the NFL Draft as a safety with average size (6’0, 201 lbs.) and speed after a productive college career. 

While not elite in any one area by NFL standards, Houston-Carson profiled as a core special teamer with the intellect to play multiple positions in a variety of schemes. After taking a chance on the William & Mary product in 2016, the Chicago Bears have gotten that and more out of Houston-Carson for the last seven seasons. Houston-Carson has served as a linchpin of the Bears special teams unit and as a reserve safety that has the wherewithal and veteran savvy to step up when needed on defense. Those skills have kept him around for 94 games in a Bears uniform across three different coaching staffs.

A player of Houston-Carson’s archetype serves as the perfect mold for who Worship could become in the right system. After five seasons of SEC football and an impressive run of workouts in the pre-draft process, Worship is ready to make his NFL mark. 

Draft Prediction

Pick 228 (Round 7), Tennessee Titans

How about the hometown Titans taking a chance on the Vanderbilt product? Titans head coach Mike Vrabel is known as a detail-oriented leader who values special teams and smart football players for his franchise. Worship “excelled” in a local pro day with the Titans. Nashville’s two-tone blue squad hasn’t shied away from picking up Commodores in recent years whether it be Zach Cunnigham, Khari Blasingame or Kalija Lipscomb.

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About the Contributors
Bryce Smith
Bryce Smith, Former Sports Editor
Bryce Smith ('23) is majoring in human and organizational development in Peabody College with a minor in business. Bryce previously wrote for SBNation before joining The Hustler. Hailing from Chicago, Bryce is a die-hard Bears and Cubs fan who is also hoping that the Bulls and Blackhawks may one day rekindle their dominance. He can be reached at [email protected].    
Lexie Perez
Lexie Perez, Graphics Editor
Lexie Perez (‘26) is from Northern Virginia and is majoring in climate studies and human and organizational development and minoring in business in the College of Arts and Science. She enjoys listening to 70s and 80s pop music, doing the daily Wordle and rooting for the Nashville Predators and Cincinnati Bengals. She can be reached at [email protected].
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