2018 Draft: Safety Rankings


For reference, my thoughts on 2017’s safety class can be found here.

Additionally, I highlighted what I deemed as the Raiders’ “top needs” heading into the draft over here.

What does Oakland do?

Reggie Nelson snuck back on the roster this season. One could assume for his “leadership qualities” or something, right? We now know, without a shadow of a doubt, that Jon Gruden covets his veteran players. Nelson checked the “30 or over box” with a Sharpie, not a pencil.

Additionally, this new Raiders’ staff has inherited players like Karl Joseph and Obi Melifonwu, once-high round selections, each with question marks to their respective games. How does this team now approach the position given the players currently available?

In my opinion, it would be hard to pass on one of the top options, especially if your justification is simply “waiting to see what you have” in Obi Melifonwu for example (who I think still has a chance to be a good player). If the opportunity presents itself, and one of these game-breaking talents is available (see: Derwin James, Minkah Fitzpatrick), I’d like to think there would be little-to-no hesitation as early as 10 overall.

This year’s class:

Player’s to note:

Derwin James is the best defender in the class. Elite athlete with the ability to affect the game from multiple spots. He’s like an angry version of Obi Melifonwu if Obi Melifonwu could cover. You’ll read Jamal Adams and Eric Berry comparisons, amongst others, but James has the chance to be better than many who came before him (and may already be). Draft him at 10 overall.

Minkah Fitzpatrick has been a mainstay in my top five for a while now. While he’s not the man/cover player that Derwin James currently is, Saban’s son’s versatility is another obvious plus. Think Honey Badger, but bigger, stronger, and faster. Scary stuff. I think he can make the jump to outside cornerback, but you may see better return on investment in that box/nickle corner role.

There are #bloodlines for Justin Reid, who’s brother Eric was a standout in his own right. Size/speed kid with ball skills. Able to operate in the box, lined up over the slot, and obviously deep at free (where I’d play him on Sunday’s). He shouldn’t get out of the first round.

Ronnie Harrison possess an all-around game. He’s a hitter, and he’s going to be a factor working in and around the box at the next level. Per Lance Zierlein: “Harrison was a second-team All-SEC pick in 2017, tying for the team lead with 74 tackles, making 4.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage including 2.5 sacks, intercepting three passes, and breaking up four others.” Instincts led to production; he just “feels” like a safe selection.

Not many players have skyrocketed more so than Tarvarius Moore (hat-tip to Kyle Posey for circling his name early on). I’ve probably overrated him a bit as such, but I’m an absolute sucker for difference-making athletes at the position. He’s a legit 4.3-something kid with a 38″ vertical and 11′ (plus) broad jump. PFF is a fan, if you’re into that sort of thing, as they note his versatility and knack for getting his hand on the ball in coverage.

Dane Cruikshank is athletic enough to lineup on the boundary. However, I’m more interested in growing his role in the box at the next level. Physically, he’s able to run with tight ends right now, while effective (athletic) enough to lineup over the slot. It’d be a leap of faith to throw him outside in the beginning (he’s just raw), but again, those testing numbers at least give you a leg to stand on. It’s the same back-and-forth we’ve seen with Minkah Fitzpatrick. In fact, Jonah Tuls calls Cruikshank “Fitzpatrick-lite”.

DeShone Elliott is an impact player that can play at either position. While he’s versatile to an extent, his athleticism doesn’t “pop” as it does with others, so teams may opt to limit him to the box where he can put his physicality on full-display.

Pennsylvania’s top recruit during his cycle (hey, there’s that Saquon Barkley kid), Jordan Whitehead burst on to the scene at Pittsburgh where he went on to receive freshman All-American honors. After that, things somewhat slid downhill. A broken arm ended his sophomore campaign and he followed it up with a three game suspension to start his junior season. This is certainly more projection at this point of course, but we’ve seen the talent flash. I like his ability in coverage notably.

I wonder if Jessie Bates is being overrated by some at this point? While I enjoy the red shirt sophomore’s well-rounded game, I can’t get onboard with some of the top 32 talk I’ve been reading. I believe the tackling concerns are a bit overblown, but there may be some questions about his build at the next level (at least regarding immediate impact; he appears leaner than most). Like others in this class, his versatility and ability in coverage will keep his stock hot enough.

The aforementioned Dane Cruikshank, for reference and comparison’s sake, has an 87th percentile SPARQ score. Two late-round names to circle, based on strong testing numbers alone, are Troy Apke and Godwin Igwebuike. Both could be potential cornerback-converts, like Cruikshank, sitting in the 99th and 94th percentile respectively. That’s elite. These numbers will get them drafted perhaps even a round or two earlier than where I have them tabbed at the moment.

Catch me on Twitter: @StillRyanFive


2 thoughts on “2018 Draft: Safety Rankings

  1. Wow it’s like I’ve found my long lost Raiders brother…we are again on **** near exact same page for Safetys…I too have Cruikshank as 3rd rd prospect and got heat on sbnation. I also am an avid Sparq enthusiast. I JUST HOPE WE ON SAME PAGE WITH PJ HALL.

  2. Though saw last years ranks for safety. I had Marcus William’s as my #2. I love hooker, but had him red flagged for injury concerns kinda like Bob Sanders (health and prod) elite prod who ed n on field, but when will he be on field. Obi injury was freak.

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