As I am starting to wrap up the finishing touches on quite a few of these draft prospects, I’ve started to run each player through my own personal grading scale and rank my top 10 prospects. I will try to get two position groups out per week (one offensive, one defensive) leading up to the grand finale of the enormous wide receiver class. This is my 2nd article of this series, this time focusing on the safety class. There isn’t a Jamal Adams, Derwin James, or Minkah Fitzpatrick in this group, but I like the potential of many of these guys.
Note: I decided not to do pro comps for this article. Roles and responsibilities for safeties shift with each differing philosophy, and I felt it unfair to myself and the prospects if I tried to pigeonhole them into a specific player.
1. Deionte Thompson, Alabama
Rangy, athletic ballhawk. Thompson flies around in coverage and I project him best as a deep coverage safety. He doesn’t come without his issues, as he’s still improving the mental side of his game (route recognition and instincts mainly), but if this is Thompson still developing, he’s going to be a stud in the coming years.
2. Nasir Adderley, Delaware
Small-school, versatile Swiss-Army knife style players are my favorite guys, and that is where Adderley thrives. He’s got great range in the back end to cover sideline to sideline and makes fantastic plays on the ball. He’ll need to prove he can handle man coverage responsibilities and improve as a tackler going forward, but the potential is there.
3. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Florida
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is an athletic cover safety who can come down and play in the nickel as a slot defender and then drop back and play deep in coverage just as well. His mental game is still developing like Thompson, but CGJ has a bright future.
4. Marquise Blair, Utah
Fans of former Utes’ teammate Marcus Williams will probably also like Marquise Blair’s tape. Blair’s a playmaker on the backend with good ball skills, which usually translates well to the next level. Utah used him quite a bit in the box, but I believe he is best used deeper where his range suits him better. Blair is a hard-hitter as well, for good and for worse. He needs to better his instincts in coverage and work on his technique in man, but I am a huge fan of his potential.
5. Will Harris, Boston College
I first heard of Will Harris at the Senior Bowl, where he showed off in practices and a couple times in-game. I only heard positive reviews about him from several guys I trust, so I went ahead and dove into his tape. Wow. Harris is something else. An incredibly fluid and rangy coverage safety, Harris makes splash play after splash play all over, and he isn’t afraid to stick his nose down in the run game. He’s the best of the three Boston College DBs going into the 2019 draft and his name will quickly rise in the offseason.
6. Darnell Savage, Maryland
Savage is a wave of righteous fury on one tackle and then the next play can get caught napping on a lazy attempt. He’s effective at that robber role and in zone coverages. He’s athletic enough to be effective early as a rotational safety and elite special teamer. Savage has the instincts and upside to develop into a very effective box safety who can play underneath and cover TEs down the field with time. Savage has tremendous upside and could develop into a great player in a few years.
7. Taylor Rapp, Washington
Rapp is going to be one of the more polarizing prospects in this class (as if there aren’t enough already). He’s great at what he can do, but he has his limitations. His play drops the further downfield he gets, which points me to believe Rapp’s best game at the next level lies playing mostly underneath in the box, where his technical smarts and tackling ability will let him play immediately. I don’t think Rapp will ever reach a top-tier level, but his future is bright.
8. Amani Hooker, Iowa
Amani played the “Star” role in Iowa’s defense, as a safety/nickel hybrid. Like many recent Iowa DBs, Hooker displayed great technique and awareness in zone coverage and is an excellent run defender. The downside of being an Iowa DB comes into play as he doesn’t have many reps in man coverage. He’ll need to answer questions at the Combine drills in terms of explosiveness and overall athletic ability, but there is a definite role for Hooker at the next level as a nickel defender.
9. Juan Thornhill, Virginia
Thornhill has some fans on Twitter, and while I liked his tape, I didn’t love it and the tape gave me more questions than I originally thought I would have. Thornhill has a role at the next level, but it would definitely have to be scheme specific. He fits best as a S2 in a primarily zone coverage scheme. His draft stock will ultimately be decided by his Combine testing.
10. Mike Bell, Fresno State
Bell is an underrated name to know, but I think he’ll have a good showing at the Combine and rise from there. He’s got great size at 6’3 203 pounds and he can fly. He gets too aggressive in run support and can overrun a lane, but when he reads it correctly, Bell makes it count. I want him playing deep where his explosiveness and size can be used.
Johnathan Abram (Mississippi State) and Malik Gant (Marshall) came within a few points on the scale, so they’ll get an Honorable Mention on this list.
That’s it for this article. I want to clarify that these are *not* specified for IDP players, but strictly for the draft. While some players on this list may certainly end up as great IDP players, I am not enough of an expert at IDP to offer any advice on that end.
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