Top Five 2020 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. Xavier McKinney- Alabama
Bio: The Georgia Class 7A Defensive Player of the Year, Xavier McKinney played in 13 games as a reserve his true freshman year for Alabama. He burst onto the scene as a starting sophomore with 73 tackles, six tackles for loss, three sacks, two interceptions, and 10 pass breakups. As a junior, he was third team AP All-American and first team All-SEC after leading the Crimson Tide with 95 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, four forced fumbles, and three interceptions.
Strengths: Praised for high football intelligence and toughness. Versatility to play any defensive back position and cover any receiver. Above average burst and elite transition speed. Smooth backpedal with quick feet and flexible hips to flow with the quarterback's eyes. Good ball tracking and composure when ball is in the air. Enough speed to handle duties as a single high safety. Studies quarterback's clues. Anticipates route breaks and looks for turnover opportunities. Diagnoses route combinations and changes coverage to compensate. Instant closing speed with intent to jar the ball out. Length to finish tackles outside his frame. Takes smart angles into gaps to stuff running lanes. Great blitz option from inside or off the edge.
Weaknesses: Should have twice the career interceptions. Allows separation underneath when eyes are in the backfield. Lost leverage on two occasions during the South Carolina game in 2 deeps sets. Must recognize and derail run routes. Small passing windows stay open as he tries to bait the quarterback. Got beat for scores when matched up against bigger receivers. Gives targets unnecessary room when he has space to collapse coverage. Inconsistent balance and control as an open field tackler. Will get impatient and lose tackle position.
Pro Comparison: Eddie Jackson
Projected Round: 1
Possible Landing Spot: Dallas Cowboys
2. Grant Delpit- LSU
Bio: A four star recruit out of Houston, Grant Delpit started 10 games as a true freshman for LSU while recording 60 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, one interception, and eight pass breakups. As a sophomore, he became the ninth player in LSU history to be named a unanimous first team AP All-American and first team All-SEC selection with 74 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, and an SEC leading five interceptions. In 2019, he won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back while being named second team AP All-American and first team All-SEC and helping the Tigers to a National Championship.
Strengths: Physical demeanor to be a strong run defender. Gets downhill into his fit before blocks setup. Puts his body on the line to make the play. Bursts to the backfield to set the edge when needed. Shoots the gap on stretch runs, sweeps, and screens. Consistent in coverage when healthy. Forces tight ends to adjust from press. Solid anticipation in coverage. Will unload on receivers coming across the middle. Size and length to challenge and win 50/50 balls. Capable of jarring balls free. Good reads and breaks from Cover 1 formations. Played through a high ankle sprain as a junior.
Weaknesses: Fairly stiff hips in coverage which limits pursuit angles. Range in single high sets is just average. Slow change of direction from off man laterally. Takes inconsistent angles in the run game. Wrong shoulder lean leads to lost gap strength. Lean frame could create durability concerns as a tackler. Has shown a lot of ways to miss tackles. Frequently fails to regain balance when making the hit. Needs to drive feet and wrap up to reduce missed tackle numbers.
Pro Comparison: Derwin James
Projected Round: 1
Possible Landing Spot: San Francisco 49ers
3. Ashtyn Davis- California
Bio: After earning a scholarship in track & field at Cal, Ashtyn Davis walked on to the football team. As a redshirt freshman, he was named the team's Most Valuable Special Teams Player and started the final three games at cornerback. He was again the team's special teams MVP in 2017, co-leading the FBS with 39 kickoff returns and also started six times at safety. As a junior, he started all 13 games at safety and was an honorable mention All-Pac 12. The following year, Davis was second team All-Pac 12 with 57 tackles, two interceptions, four pass breakups, and two forced fumbles.
Strengths: Elite athleticism and phenomenal character traits. Blazing pursuit and recovery speed. Experience at safety and cornerback. Smooth backpedal paired with exceptional closing burst. Athletic tools help compensate for his slow eyes. Great range as a Cover 1 option. Deceiving length to disrupt catch point. Aware and active in zone coverage. If recognition develops, could be a dangerous ball hawk. Toughness won't be an issue. Mean streak to race into the hole in run support. Added value as a return man and special teams gunner. Accomplished track star, winning the 2017 Pac 12 meet in the 110-meter hurdles and finishing third in the 2018 outdoor nationals in the 60-meter hurdles.
Weaknesses: Can be reckless as a downhill tackler. Has issues maintaining balance and control while tackling. Needs to reduce stride length in pursuit to prevent overflowing. Long strides in short areas lead to balance issues. Inconsistent instincts due to inexperience. Some hip stiffness. Room for improvement in route squeeze to hinder throws. Route awareness from deep zone sets is a bit erratic. Needs better contain discipline against RPO quarterbacks.
Pro Comparison: Damarious Randall
Projected Round: 2
Possible Landing Spot: Miami Dolphins
4. Kyle Dugger- Lenoir-Rhyne
Bio: Starting in his sophomore season, Kyle Dugger earned second team All-South Atlantic for Lenoir-Rhyne. He was a first-team All-South Atlantic selection as a defensive back in 2018 recording 76 tackles, three interceptions, 10 pass breakups, three fumble recoveries, and two forced fumbles while also being a first team pick as a return specialist, averaging 17.2 yards per punt return and two touchdowns. As a senior, he repeated the feat while winning the Cliff Harris Award as the top defensive player in Division II.
Strengths: Played like a man amongst boys. Checks the box under every athletic trait. Rare combination of size, speed, and burst. Stat monster with monster impact. Restless play to pursue ball carriers or disrupt passes. Swoops in to snatch timing passes. Boxes out man to contest balls downfield. Can hit with control or force when needed. Knowledge of pursuit leverage. Enough range to play deep and toughness to play in the box. Speed and angles to contain inside or pursue out on the edge. Seven career return touchdowns.
Weaknesses: Must prove he can maintain same production against more elite competition. Questionable motor at times on the back side. Inconsistent rush to fill the gap downhill. A little stiff in the hips. More reactive than instinctive. Fundamentals of footwork need coached up. Eyes get focused on receivers rather than quarterback's clues. Some injury concerns. Missed almost all of 2016 with an undisclosed injury and missed five games as a senior with an injured hand.
Pro Comparison: Kevin Byard
Projected Round: 2
Possible Landing Spot: Denver Broncos
5. Antoine Winfield Jr.- Minnesota
Bio: As a true freshman, Antoine Winfield Jr. started nine games for Minnesota while recording 52 tackles , 2.5 tackles for loss, four pass breakups, and an interception returned for a touchdown. In 2019, he was a first team AP All-American and first team All-Big Ten selection after leading Minnesota with 88 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, seven interceptions, and a pick six.
Strengths: Compact frame with above average strength. Highly instinctive and always maintains control. Looks for clues from the quarterback. Recognizes the play early and adjusts to the ideal positioning. Anticipates route breaks in space. Natural ball tracker. Turns to find the ball when back is to the quarterback. Strong pursuit leverage and angles to the ball. Maintains balance and keeps head up when tackling. Strikes are focused and intense. Looks to punch out the ball and create turnovers. High IQ. Three time Big Ten Academic All-American. NFL bloodlines. His father, Antoine Sr., was an All-Pro cornerback for the Minnesota Vikings. Learned the game from an early age by watching game film with his dad.
Weaknesses: Looks more like a slot corner. Lacks length and height to contest 50/50 balls. Range deep is a bit spotty. Short size shows up as a tackler. Struggles to wrap and finish if positioning and footwork aren't perfect. Tight hips prevent smooth change of direction. Slow to recovery when he bites to hard on play fakes. Below average acceleration to drive on passing lanes and make a play on the ball. Missed 16 games over two years with hamstring and foot injuries.
Pro Comparison: Desmond King
Projected Round: 2
Possible Landing Spot: Philadelphia Eagles
Other Notable Prospects
Brandon Jones- Texas
- Fluid athlete, poor tackle technique
Jeremy Chinn- Southern Illinois
- Intimidating strong safety, not great long speed
Jordan Fuller- Ohio State
- Unquestioned leader and worker, limited speed and explosiveness
Julian Blackmon- Utah
- Long and lean, overly timid
JR Reed- Georgia
- Well built and technically sound, poor burst and change of direction
Jeremiah Dinson- Auburn
- Loves to hit, slightly undersized
Antoine Brooks Jr.- Maryland
- High energy and effort, not a great athlete
K'Von Wallace- Clemson
- Versatile former quarterback, little room for more muscle mass
Jalen Elliott- Notre Dame
- Solid in man coverage, limited range
Josh Metellus- Michigan
- Box safety build, questionable long speed
Brian Cole Jr.- Mississippi State
- Agile and athletic, still learning the position as a former receiver
Alohi Gilman- Notre Dame
- Lined up all over the field, poor tackling technique
Kamren Curl- Arkansas
- Experience at cornerback, not overly productive
Terrell Burgess- Utah
- Polished in man schemes, poor recovery speed
Geno Stone- Iowa
- Physical and emotional leader, average speed and athleticism
Shyheim Carter- Alabama
- Good ball skills, lacks length for the position
Marc-Antoine Dequoy- Montréal
- Walk on mentality, built more like an outside linebacker
Jaylinn Hawkins- California
- Former wide receiver, borderline reckless