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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. Kyle Hamilton- Notre Dame
Bio: After playing as a reserve as a true freshman, Kyle Hamilton was named a starter the following and was selected to the All-ACC first team. As a junior, he was a consensus All-American.
Strengths: Enormous size with room to grow. Versatility to line up anywhere in any scheme. Competitive, physical, and immediate with a high football IQ. True intimidator to anyone on the offense. Pure tackle strength to annihilate receivers. Great dexterity for a safety his size. Skillset to press and cover really good receiving tight ends. Looks to jump routes with accurate angles to the ball. Long strider with the speed and ball tracking to be an umbrella defender. Size and length to bully receivers on 50-50 balls. Effective in the box and has the potential to be a gap blitzer. Excellent tackler in the open field. No hesitation recognizing and going in the run game. Length and agility to recover from lapses and still make a play. Come from an athletic family, his father played professional basketball in Europe.
Weaknesses: Height hinders his change of direction quickness. Room for improvement with route anticipation and recognition. Poor short area agility to cover small slot receivers. Can be spun around by more complex routes. Balance is erratic when trying to chase down. Pad level too high as a face up tackler. Mental mistakes in space led to some big runs as a junior.
Pro Comparison: Kam Chancellor
Projected Round: 1
Possible Landing Spot: Houston Texans
2. Dax Hill- Michigan
Bio: As a true freshman at Michigan, Dax Hill saw playing time in every game. In 2021, he split time playing safety and nickel corner and was named to the All-Big Ten first team with 69 tackles, eight passes defended, and two interceptions.
Strengths: Elite speed and explosiveness for the position. Versatility to play at safety or as a slot corner. Fluid and nimble backpedal in single high formations. Nice burst to challenge passes from off coverage. Slides feet to change slot receiver's leverage from man coverage. Instant acceleration from a stand still. Knows to look at quarterback's eyes and look for clues. Vision to see routes develop. Anticipates and breaks on passing lanes. Agility to challenge inside passing lanes. Fast reaction to close in on the line from safety spot. Sideline to sideline range to find and pursue.
Weaknesses: Needs to know when to slow down and focus on his responsibilities. Could be inconsistent at trailing vertical threat slot targets. Rub route recognition is erratic. Run support skills lack aggression. Dynamic athlete, but lackadaisical tackler. Hands lack power when taking on blockers. Big blocking receivers could neutralize him each time.
Pro Comparison: Eddie Jackson
Projected Round: 1
Possible Landing Spot: Kansas City Chiefs
3. Jaquan Brisker- Penn State
Bio: After spending two years in junior college after being academically ineligible, Jaquan Brisker transferred to Penn State. In his three seasons with the Nittany Lions, he amassed 151 tackles, 13 passes defended and five interceptions.
Strengths: Pro ready size with giant hands. Played through injuries as a senior. Versatility to play just about any safety role. Fluid backpedal with no wasted steps. Technically sound. Instincts to go for turnovers in any coverage capacity. Eyes to read quarterbacks or targets to anticipate route design. Footwork to adjust to target's route breaks. Tough, willing and able box safety. Forceful tackler that drives and finishes plays.
Weaknesses: Eyes are fixated on the quarterback and loses path of the route. Takes inconsistent angles to the ball. Average recognition of combo routes. Blockers climbing to the second level get in his frame when trying to navigate. Must improve at finding better pursuit paths against faster ball carriers. Struggles to maintain balance at the point of attack. Lacks ideal range for single high sets. Had a few dropped interceptions.
Pro Comparison: Justin Reid
Projected Round: 2
Possible Landing Spot: Philadelphia Eagles
4. Lewis Cine- Georgia
Bio: As the Massachusetts Defensive Player of the Year as a high school junior, Lewis Cine signed on at Georgia and played in every game as a true freshman. In 2021, he was a first team All-SEC selection while helping the Bulldogs to a National Championship victory and was named the game's Defensive MVP.
Strengths: Appropriate play style for the pro game. Hits the hole, hopping to deliver the lumber. Raises the play of his teammates with his tackling. Played big on the biggest stages. Storms to the line looking to close off running lanes. Smooth switching routes in zone schemes. Awareness to speed to catch point and challenge passes. Decent man coverage on intermediate routes. Obliterates receivers to force drops or fumbles. Attitude to be a day one special teams gunner.
Weaknesses: Average size and core strength. Stiff and choppy backpedal. Reading quarterbacks and targets could improve. Hips and feet aren't always in sync. Occasionally loses balance and leverage in coverage. Might need to bulk up to continue delivering strong hits for the pro game. Body control is average. Over steps in pursuit from time to time. Issues sifting through bodies.
Pro Comparison: Xavier McKinney
Projected Round: 2
Possible Landing Spot: New York Jets
5. Jalen Pitre- Baylor
Bio: As a true freshman at Baylor, Jalen Pitre started eight of 12 games in 2017. He was a full time starter as a safety/linebacker hybrid in his final two seasons and was a two time first team All-Big 12 as well as the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year as a redshirt senior.
Strengths: Elite football IQ and character traits. Great competitive fire and intangibles. Versatile and quick to process plays. Mental skills help him play faster than he is. Instincts to take advantage of stare down quarterbacks. Proactive attitude against the run. Studies and looks to make plays in any situation. Sprints from backside to chase down ball carriers. Able to adjust pursuit angles on the fly. Capable of setting the edge against sweeps or tosses.
Weaknesses: Scheme dependent. Clunky hips that take time to loosen up. Stiff movement in coverage. Lacks pure speed to be a deep safety. Stagnated strides limits his closing speed. Will struggle covering pro route runners in the open field. Comes in too fast and high as a tackler. Lacks desired frame to bulk up and be linebacker. Lacks the fluidity needed to prevent getting lost in coverage responsibilities.
Pro Comparison: Budda Baker
Projected Round: 2-3
Possible Landing Spot: Carolina Panthers
Other Notable Prospects
Nick Cross- Maryland
- Quality range, still a work in progress
Vernon McKinley III- Oregon
- FBS leader in picks in 2021, lacks athleticism
Reed Blankenship- Middle Tennessee State
- Excellent multi sport athlete, injury concern
Smoke Monday- Auburn
- Great length, must add mass
Quentin Lake- UCLA
- Good closing speed, give up ground when tackling
Juanyeh Thomas- Georgia Tech
- Elite length and build, poor ball tracker
Leon O'Neal Jr- Texas A&M
- Downhill tackler, focus must improve
Dane Belton- Iowa
- Trusts eyes and goes, limited in coverage
Bryan Cook- Cincinnati
- Instinctive and alert, average athleticism
Kerby Joseph- Illinois
- Good range in run game, lacks pure speed
Bubba Bolden- Miami
- Long strider to cover ground, slow to process
Brad Hawkins- Michigan
- Bulky frame, zero interceptions in college
Sterling Weatherford- Miami Ohio
- Impressive coverage skills, likely pro linebacker
JT Woods- Baylor
- Great ball skills, wont fit in man coverage schemes
Yusuf Corker- Kentucky
- Lots of experience, lacks standout traits
Nolan Turner- Clemson
- Highly productive, poor athleticism
Percy Butler- Louisiana
- Solid range, lacks ideal length
Elijah Hicks- California
- Vicious tackler, limited athlete
Tycen Anderson- Toledo
- Good length and quickness, average straight line speed