Take Five: 2019 Safeties

The “Take Five” series aims to preview prospects for the 2019 NFL Draft.

These names will appear in a one-through-five order and “ranked”, but given the publish date, thoughts and opinions are far from finalized. Rather, it is best to use this list as a starting point of sorts, in order to get familiar with some of the top names in the class and how they might satisfy a need and fit on the Raiders’ roster.

Currently, the Raiders’ depth chart reads as follows:

Karl Joseph — Top-20 selection who has yet to make an impact. Appears he may have fallen out of favor with the new regime; “surprise” roster cut this offseason?

Marcus Gilchrist — Versatile defensive back who turns 30 in December.

Erik Harris — 28-years old who could probably stick around as a depth piece; great story.

Reggie Nelson — Turned 35 in September. Despite the recent Pro Bowl nod, he’s been a liability in coverage. Has a connection with defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, who has caped for him plenty this year. It was time to move on a season or two ago.

Looking ahead:

Passing on Derwin James will haunt this team until the former Seminole hangs up his cleats. Passing on Minkah Fitzpatrick will hurt for mostly the same reasons. There’s been talent that’s fallen in the Raiders’ lap, and they’ve looked the other direction. By “they”, I obviously mean General Manager Jon Gruden and Assistant General Manager Tom Cable. Anyway, however you want to spin it or look at it, end of the day, Oakland’s secondary has been a weak spot for several seasons now. The aforementioned Karl Joseph isn’t seeing the field, and Gruden’s new staff made the call to part ways with early-round selection Obi Melifonwu (there were questions about his love for the game, coupled with injury). Oakland needs to get more talented in the back half immediately.

Early “top 5” prospects: 

Deionte Thompson, Alabama, Redshirt Junior — Surprise: Alabama has a first-round talent at the safety position. Thompson checks all the boxes you want in a deep safety; range and closing speed make him special, but he can also hit and work down hill. He’s a PFF favorite for obvious reasons.

Taylor Rapp, Washington, Junior — Standing at 5-11, 212 per NFL Draft Scout, I want to Rapp in the box vs. hanging out deep. Play to your players strengths, and Rapp’s one of the more sound tacklers in the entire country. Notched 4 interceptions during his freshman campaign. From that standout season:

Jaquan Johnson, Miami (Florida), SeniorThe leader of a fun Canes’ defense, Johnson’s a playmaker through-and-through. 5-10, 195, he led Miami with 96 tackles and 4 picks in 2017. Take advantage of his physicality and keep him closer to the line of scrimmage, but his ball-hawk mentality should allow you to do a few different things with his skill set.

Brandon Jones, Texas, JuniorElite four-star and 247’s top safety prospect for the 2016 cycle, Jones is an ascending talent. The Draft Network’s Brad Kelly detailed him in this great piece here; production and athleticism pop.

Lukas Denis, Boston College, Senior — 7 interceptions and 10 passes defensed in 2017 put him on the radar for many. Denis projects as a true free safety, who could use some work cleaning up tackles. A strong senior season that showcases those improvements will no doubt have the needle moving. 5-10, 185.

Catch me on Twitter: @StillRyanFive