2017 Draft: Safety Rankings

You know where I stand with this secondary. I’m not very fond of the cornerback play and I can’t find too many positive thoughts for a certain safety. I highlighted the need for a Reggie Nelson replacement early on this offseason:

Despite Nelson’s suspect play, it appears the Raiders are content with rolling out the aging safety with a similar workload in mind. Still, it would behoove this front office to take a long, hard look at this incoming safety class. The talent is stronger than in recent years, boasting plenty of depth. If my initial reaction to Nelson’s role in 2017 is accurate, Oakland could still tack on the heir apparent mid-late, as opposed to an early-round selection.

Oakland could choose to replace Reggie Nelson with a player already on the roster in Karl Joseph, which would open up a spot in the box. Either way, there are plenty of enticing options.

Round One

1) FS Budda Baker, Washington — It’s the size of the fight in the dog. Effortlessly moves down hill; able to stick with tight ends, although I imagine the size differential may become more apparent in the league. He can cover the slot and move like a cornerback. Also has the ability to drop deep and play center field. He’s an outstanding athlete with the range to match. No notable flaw other than his “build”, I suppose. Wrote about him:

2) SS Jamal Adams, Louisiana State — Many have pinned Adams as a top five or ten pick from the beginning. Should a box safety go top ten? Should a safety go top ten? He comes downhill with the best of them, and packs a punch. He’s nasty. You’re getting a leader; intangibles are there if you’re looking for that. Moves a little too aggressively at times, however, which leads to some pretty bad whiffs. Don’t believe that pro day 40 time.

3) FS Malik Hooker, Ohio State — Speaking of high praise, there was a point in time where Malik Hooker was drawing Ed Reed comparisons. I think a lot of that talk has simmered down (I hope), but at the end of the day, Hooker’s still a great player. Is he the transcendent talent that Reed was? Probably not. Does he possess the same elite range? If your answer’s no, the tape shows a player that’s real close.

4) SS Jabrill Peppers, Michigan — The most polarizing prospect in this year’s draft class is still a first round player for me. We know about the lack of turnovers, and the inconsistencies in coverage. There’s also the questions about his size and how he matches up. Heck, he’s still a running back or special teams player (only) for many evaluators. For me, he’s a strong safety and an elite athlete who’s one of the better hitters. Let him spend time at one position before writing him off.

Round Two

5) SS Obi Melifonwu, Connecticut — Obi’s an alien who put up some silly numbers in Indianapolis. Physically, he looks like the next Kam Chancellor. Problem is, he doesn’t play like it – at least not consistently – on tape. Could play him at either spot. Shown enough in coverage, and the range is certainly there. Some teams are looking at him at corner (that would be a mistake). I want him in the box as he’s one of the better pure tacklers in this class, for my money. Talked more about Obi here:

6) FS Tedric Thompson, Colorado — Thompson, not Hooker, has the best ball-skills in this safety class. Supreme instincts. Frame/weight will come into question. Some tackling concerns, mainly stemming from the lack of impact. Takes some odd angles as well. Listen to Kyle:

7) FS Josh Jones, North Carolina State — Physical around the line of scrimmage and enough of a playmaker when the ball’s in the air. We saw him run step-for-step again David Njoku and record a pass break-up or two. It’s real. He’s just a really well-rounded safety, and a heck of an athlete too. The top 50 talk might be legitimate. Tends to play a bit fast at times, leads to some reckless reps.

Round Three

8) FS Xavier Woods, Louisiana Tech — My pick for the player that’ll go notably higher than many expect. I’m thinking he has a shot at/around the top 50, or so. Check out the stat sheets and box scores as he tends to fill those up (14 interceptions over the past three seasons). Ball hawk. He can hit too, if you wanted to bring him down and mix things up. Versatility is a plus. If he had even another inch or two on him (or a bigger school?), I think we’re talking about a Day 1 player.

9) FS Marcus Williams, Utah — I’m probably a bit lower on Williams than most. Knew he was athletic, but didn’t expect him to test as well as he did. Rangy safety who’s instincts are coming along. Notched double-digit interceptions numbers over the past two years. Despite his fluid play in the back-half, quarterbacks have controlled him a little too consistently to put him any higher. Good discussion on that here.

Round Four

10) SS Marcus Maye, Florida — Made some money at Florida’s pro day. Feels like Keanu Neal all over again. Fair comparison, as both players are forces in the box but I think Maye offers more coverage than Neal did coming out. He’s able to make plays on the ball, but from what I’ve seen, more of a liability back there if you’re considering him for full-time play at free. You want him making noise at the line of scrimmage vs. back-peddling in coverage. Suffered season-ending broken arm.

11) FS Justin Evans, Texas A&M — I think Evans’ was a name that was being thrown around early-Day 2 as the season was ongoing. Zeirlein compares him to Karl Joseph last season. “His heart is bigger than his body.” Could use a few more pounds going forward. Angles are weird at times, just given the speed he plays at. Tackling is good, but not great.

12) FS John Johnson, Boston College — Enjoy Johnny’s versatility (cornerback turned safety). A little lackluster in the speed department. Hips look good and the feet definitely work – the time at cornerback paying off. Overall, smooth in coverage. Tackling is solid, but he isn’t the physical presence many teams may be looking for.

13) FS Eddie Jackson, Alabama — Jackson made the move from cornerback to safety and never looked back. Unfortunately, a broken leg cut his return to Alabama short. Decent instincts and a “natural” athlete. Impact on special teams as well, factoring in on the return game. Being able to move with the ball in his hands, coupled with the ball skills, make for some fun plays off turnovers. Touched on the injury questions, could probably talk about his frame (on the leaner side). Doesn’t contribute much vs. the run.

Round Five

14) FS Montae Nicholson, Michigan State — Checks every box physically, supported by a strong Combine. Problem is, the tape doesn’t match-up. Doesn’t play imposing. Despite obvious athletic gifts, looks a bit hesitant in coverage. Hips are questionable and he tends to play stiff. He’s a projection at this point, but I’m content rolling the dice on an athlete more times than not.

15) SS Delano Hill, Michigan — Physical safety who carries it well. Effective working down hill, where his run fits consistently impressed. One of the better pure tacklers in this group (he’s up there with the likes of Obi, etc.) Aggressive. Won’t “wow” you as an athlete. Like a few others in this class, Hill can flash in coverage but you’re drafting him with the intent of playing him in the box. Clearly defined strength and weakness.

16) SS Johnathan Ford, Auburn — He’s like a discount version of Jabrill Peppers. “Hybrid” linebacker/safety who should settle into a full-time strong safety role. Former running back, so you see how this Peppers picture gets painted. Similar to Jabrill, Rudy lacks turnover production. Doesn’t have the instincts to handle duties in coverage full-time. Appears he can run?

Round Six

17) SS Chuck Clark, Virginia Tech — Effective tackler; missed only 19 of 230 attempted tackles, per PFF. Like him pressing the line of scrimmage. Decent length if you want to play him out of the slot. High football IQ and character in general as a two-year team captain.

18) FS Shalom Luani, Washington State — Another player with a nose for the ball. Tackling, notably, needs a lot of work. Good tester with strong work in the turnover department as alluded to.

19) SS Nate Gerry, Nebraska — Savage on the field. Over a dozen interceptions so he checks that box. Can credit the turnovers to his ability to read and react vs. sheer athleticism. Average in that department. Reportedly a poor interview. Character flags. Suspended a couple times at Nebraska for “violating team rules”. Read into all that as you will. Sixth might be his ceiling; good depth.

Round Seven

20) FS Fish Smithson, Kansas — Great name. Also does some good work in coverage. Undersized for play at/around the line of scrimmage. Tackling suffers as such.

21) FS Rayshawn Jenkins, Miami — Another height-weight-speed kid, essentially. Brings all the physical attributes to the table that you’d probably write down when talking about a safety from the University of Miami. Plays big and hits like it, too. Unfortunately, other than looks and the occasional pop, Jenkins is largely average.

22) Josh Harvey-Clemons, Louisville — Big name recruit who never lived up to the hype. Booted from Georgia after multiple strikes (drugs). Measurements are still really impressive as he just towers around the field at 6’4″. Range is effortless. Tackling is “as expected” from a big safety. Instincts are incomplete; worry about leaving him deep. He should find work at SS or LB in the league where he’s just too good of an athlete to go undrafted.

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