Top Five 2019 NFL Draft Prospects- Safety
These guys are he last line of defense and will be required to both play up at the line and cover receivers down field. Today I rank the top five safety prospects for the upcoming NFL Draft.
1. Deionte Thompson- Alabama
Bio: After redshirting as a freshman, Deionte Thompson spent the next two seasons primarily on special teams. After Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ronnie Harrison went pro in 2018, he became the starter and took advantage by being named first team All-American and first team All-SEC honors. He started all 15 games and recording 79 tackles, 3.5 for loss, two interceptions, six pass breakups, and four forced fumbles.
Strengths: Athletic in both run support and pass coverage. Ball hawk nature and skill. Excellent at reading the quarterback's eyes. Play speed is enhanced by instincts. Can easily change direction from back pedal as single high safety. Plays with solid range over the top from Cover 1 formations. Acceleration to the ball is fast and violent. Rather play the ball than the receiver when in position. Tracks and locates the ball to challenge deep throws. Not afraid of a little contact. Willing to get in the pits as a run defender. Flexible and agile in the open field as a tackler. Knows when Torrance downhill and when to finish the play.
Weaknesses: Slim frame and spaghetti legs. Unusual build from the average Alabama safety. Physical nature could lead to durability issues given his body type. Pursuit angles need to be more consistent. Plays with wasted motion and unorthodox movements. Occasionally lacks confidence with his eyes and instincts. Wandering eyes lead to him losing track of the play. Overly aggressive at jumping routs and gets beaten because of it. Path to the ball can be flimsy at times. Recovery speed was lacking in both playoff games. Limited use as a man coverage safety. Only one season as a starting safety.
Pro Comparison: Eddie Jackson
Projected Round: 1
Possible Landing Spot: Los Angeles Chargers
2. Taylor Rapp- Washington
Bio: Despite breaking his hand in spring practices, Taylor Rapp played with a cast and was named the Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year and a Freshman All-American for his efforts. He was a fixture at safety over the next two years and was a constant playmaker against the run and pass with 118 tackles, 9.5 for a loss, seven sacks, three interceptions, and three fumble recoveries in that time.
Strengths: Good size with well built frame. Handyman who was asked to play all over the field for Washington. Football intelligence is second to none. Moves well despite filled out frame. Can handle man coverage responsibilities against tight ends. Easily able to diagnosis the flow in the box. Knows were the running lane will develop like a running back. Pursuit angles are accurate and wise. Good hips and footwork for open field tackling. Keeps his balance and stays wide to tackle. Not afraid to deliver the blows. Talented as a special teams gunner.
Weaknesses: Absorbs his fair share of hits. Trigger is occasionally too early from two high sets. Average lateral acceleration as an open field tackler. Might not be quick enough for speed backs trying to get to the edge. Range over the top in Cover 1 is just average. Ball production hasn't been the same since his freshman season. Conservative routes to the ball. Left some interceptions and breakups on the field.
Pro Comparison: Patrick Chung
Projected Round: 1
Possible Landing Spot: Kansas City Chiefs
3. Nasir Adderley- Delaware
Bio: A triple threat in high school as a wide receiver, defensive back, and return specialist, Nasir Adderley started every game as a true freshman and led the team with eight passes defended. In his final two seasons, he led Delaware with nine interceptions and was first team All-CAA both years.
Strengths: Started at both cornerback and safety. Anxious and explosive as an athlete. Smooth and long backpedal to gain ground as a deep safety. Smooth hips make change of direction a breeze. No real strain when transitioning to any direction. Goes low to wrap up the legs and finish tackles. Has speed to have extended range as a single high safety or recover against deep balls. Good length and closing speed to challenge throws. Swats at ball in pass coverage and tries to punch it out in run support. Instincts and ball skills as a cornerback when in the vicinity. Ball hawk with solid ball tracking and jumping ability. Cousin of Hall of Fame cornerback Herb Adderley.
Weaknesses: Chaotic in anticipating and responsibilities as a deep safety. Patience is needed. Can be manipulated by play action and intelligent quarterbacks. Ultra focused on the target rather than balancing the field. Can't find proper pursuit angle when play goes wide. Inconsistent at finding the ball and reading the running back on downhill carries. Overall technique as a tackler needs refinement. Takes more punishment than he dishes out in run support.
Pro Comparison: Jessie Bates
Projected Round: 1-2
Possible Landing Spot: Los Angeles Rams
4. Johnathan Abram- Mississippi State
Bio: A dual threat and his conference's Defensive Player of the Year in high school, Johnathan Abram initially enrolled at Georgia. After defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt left for Alabama, Abram enrolled in junior college as a sophomore before joining Mississippi State in 2017. In two years as a starter, he registered 170 tackles, 14 for loss, five sacks, 10 passes defended, two interceptions, and a forced fumble.
Strengths: Stout frame with good height, weight, and speed. Very tough and competitive. Feared tackler. Plays tough like a linebacker. Straight line speed to get to the ball carrier. Apex predator with alpha dog mentality on the field. Upper body strength to push aside blockers and finish tackles. Intense attitude is infectious to his teammates. Feet move quickly to help change of direction. Good size and strength to matchup against tight ends. Serviceable short area athleticism to cover man underneath. Communication skills on the backend are solid.
Weaknesses: A little stiff in the hips. Not extremely loose overall. May struggle to handle coverage responsibilities on the backend. Ball production is just average. Anticipation in coverage is lacking. Uses acceleration to close in on the ball carrier rather than going for the football. Will miss tackles when play speed gets too out of hand. Durability concerns could stem from play style. Reckless control at times. Undisclosed personal reasons caused him to miss bowl game while at Georgia.
Pro Comparison: Keanu Neal
Projected Round: 2
Possible Landing Spot: Seattle Seahawks
5. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson- Florida
Bio: As a true freshman, Chauncey Gardner- Johnson led the Gators with three interceptions while playing mostly as a reserve, He became the starter as a sophomore and posted 58 tackles, six for loss, two interceptions, and seven pass breakups. As a junior, he recorded 71 tackles, nine for loss, three sacks, a team-high four interceptions, and two pass breakups.
Strengths: Long, well built frame. Athletic, agile, and fluid. Impressive versatility to play nickel corner or both safety spots. Keeps eyes balanced between the target and the quarterback. Easily mirrors receivers in the slot. Good acceleration to close short and go deep. Good high safety range. Effectively adjusts angles to play the ball. Has enough talent and size to eliminate tight ends from the game plan. Above average recovery speed. Doesn't hesitate as a tackler. Good size and strength to rip the ball away from receivers. Quick to react and help in run support.
Weaknesses: Backpedal is a little tight and upright. Footwork in space needs improvement. Creates holes in coverage due to excessive backpedal as a deep safety. Over extends himself and will lose balance in coverage. May lack instincts to cover against quicker slot receivers. Over committed and got beat by on crossers twice by Georgia. Easily fooled by fakes underneath. On ball production doesn't match his skill set. Relies more on athleticism rather than anticipation. A step late to jump the route and challenge the pass. Concerning missed tackle total over the last two seasons.
Pro Comparison: LaMarcus Joyner
Projected Round: 2
Possible Landing Spot: Dallas Cowboys
Other Notable Prospects
Amani Hooker- Iowa
- Athletic build, borderline reckless
Jaquan Johnson- Miami
- Compact frame, lacks ideal bulk
Marvell Tell, USC
- Rare height, struggles to locate ball in the air
Mike Bell- Fresno State
- Legit athlete, too unpredictable in space
Juan Thornhill- Virginia
- Good ball skills, not as physical as most safeties
Sheldrick Redwine- Miami
- Well built, inconsistent tackler
Marquise Blair- Utah
- Knows his job, questionable ball skills
Will Harris- Boston College
- Good in zone coverage, average speed
Mike Edwards- Kentucky
- Impressive production, not great as last line of defense
Khari Willis-Michigan State
- Good quickness and balance, looks more like a small linebacker