2018 NFL Draft Safety Rankings

2018 NFL Draft

(Photos Courtesy: Melin Vastola – USA TODAY Sports, David J. Phillip – AP Photo)

 

Oh boy. We’re just one day away. Weeks, months, and years of anticipation have all culminated in the events that will procure over the next 72 hours. All of the research will seem to matter so little after it’s all said and done and we’re left waiting another four months until any of these rookies even touch the field. My defensive player rankings wrap up today with the safety position, featuring two of the biggest defensive stars in the 2018 NFL Draft, including the number one overall defensive player on my board. Cleveland Browns, you’re almost on the clock…

 

Stay tuned as these articles will be released on FakePigskin.com throughout the following days:

Interior Defensive Linemen: CLICK HERE

Edge Rushers: CLICK HERE

Off-Ball Linebackers: CLICK HERE

Cornerbacks: CLICK HERE 

Safeties: Today (4/25)

Four Round Mock Draft: Tomorrow (DRAFT DAY) (4/26)

 

 

2018 NFL Draft

(Tim Heitman – USA TODAY Sports)

1: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama

Grade: Top 5

Scheme Fit: Free Safety

What. A. Player.

Minkah Fitzpatrick is everything that a defensive back should be on film. While Fitzpatrick was primarily used as a slot corner in Nick Saban’s defense at Alabama, his best fit as a pro would be as a free safety. Fitzpatrick can be a ball hawk in the secondary and a player that the QB has to be aware of the whereabouts of on every single snap. He shows excellent mental processing and intelligence, a characteristic that boils over from his endless film study. He is able to make excellent plays on the ball in the air and has the speed to cover a great portion of the field from a single-high set. In today’s passing league, having a player like Fitzpatrick in your secondary is gold, and that’s why he’s my number one defensive player.

 

2018 NFL Draft

(Don Juan Moore – Getty Images)

2: Derwin James, Florida State

Grade: Top 15

Scheme Fit: Strong Safety

Derwin James has the athletic profile and IQ that coordinators would love to get their hands on in their defense. He profiles well as a physical, safety against the run, and can excel in both man and zone coverages. James has an aggressive demeanor and is not afraid to take a few risks to make a big play. James has All-Pro talent and will be the leader of whatever defense he is drafted by. James missed almost the entire 2016 season with a torn meniscus, but with modern medical advancements, will have no problem playing at 100% over his NFL career.

 

2018 NFL Draft

(Associated Press)

3: Justin Reid, Stanford

Grade: 1st Round

Scheme Fit: Strong Safety

If you’re looking for a safety with balanced traits across the board, look no further than Justin Reid of Stanford. Justin, younger brother of NFL safety Eric Reid, should be a day one contributor to any NFL team, whether it be at either safety position, or even playing in sub packages at the corner position. Reid excels most in zone coverage, where he reads the quarterback well and shows great anticipation. Reid will likely fall out of the back end of round one and be selected early on day two.

 

2018 NFL Draft

(Greg M. Cooper – USA TODAY Sports)

4: Jessie Bates III, Wake Forest

Grade: 2nd Round

Scheme Fit: Free Safety

Looking for a centerfielder to lock down half the field on passing downs? Jessie Bates III of Wake Forest is the man you should have your eyes on. Bates has excellent awareness and intelligence on the field, which honestly makes up for his subpar athletic profile. Bates doesn’t have the top-end speed that a player like Derwin James possesses, but his proficient technique and footwork in man coverage allow him to hold down players with more impressive physical features than his own. Bates is a great pick for teams looking for a single-high safety at the end of round one or beginning of round two.

 

2018 NFL Draft

(Associated Press)

5: Ronnie Harrison, Alabama

Grade: 2nd Round

Scheme Fit: Strong Safety

Ronnie Harrison may be Alabama’s second-best safety in the 2018 NFL Draft, but don’t use that as a knock against him. The hard-hitting box safety shows excellent physicality on tape and should slot in as a day one contributor to whatever team he lands on. Harrison excels against the run but also shows proficient skills in man coverage due to his excellent technique and ability to play the 50/50 ball. He doesn’t possess the athletic abilities of his teammate Minkah Fitzpatrick, but the larger Harrison should still find his way as a starter at least midway through his rookie season and the possibility of being top-ten at his position by the end of his rookie contract.

 

2018 NFL Draft

(Ben Queen – USA TODAY Sports)

6: Kyzir White, West Virginia

Grade: 2nd Round

Scheme Fit: Strong Safety

Starting out less refined than Harrison, but with a higher ceiling, is West Virginia’s Kyzir White. The younger brother of Chicago Bears wide receiver Kevin White, Kyzir has the physical profile of a safety/linebacker hybrid and has the skills to be a starter from his rookie year in the NFL. White’s best features are his run stopping abilities, with excellent play strength and open field tackling. White takes sufficient angles towards the ball carrier and is a natural at fighting off blocks at the second level. Where he does struggle though is while being targeted in man coverage. White can only be trusted to cover tight ends man up, as shiftier running backs or slot wide receivers will trip him up with quick cuts and fakes. As an in the box safety or linebacker hybrid, White has a high ceiling that should get him drafted on day two.

 

2018 NFL Draft

(Associated Press)

7: Siran Neal, Jacksonville State

Grade: 3rd Round

Scheme Fit: Strong Safety

Excellent athleticism,  aggressiveness/physicality, and excellent man coverage skills from the safety position are all positive traits to small-school product Siran Neal out Jacksonville State. Neal is one of my favorite under the radar prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft, and I think he has the chance to be a STEAL on day three. Teams will overlook Neal at the safety position because he was used primarily as a slot corner during his senior season, but I wouldn’t hesitate to say that Neal has the upside potential of being a pro bowl caliber safety in his second contract. Neal has the coverage skills of a corner with the run stopping abilites of a top tier strong safety, and I will be very excited to watch where his NFL career will play out.

 

2018 NFL Draft

(Texas A&M Athletics)

8: Armani Watts, Texas A&M

Grade: 4th Round

Scheme Fit: Free Safety

Armani Watts is a very athletic, yet undersized safety from Texas A&M who loves to seek out the big play but will get burned when he doesn’t connect. Watts loves getting physical with tight ends and wide receivers in man coverage and is among the hardest hitters at the position against running backs. Watts is very rangy at the free safety position and has the power to deliver blows that will separate the receiver from the ball. He reads out screens very well but also gets his eyes caught in the backfield on play action far too many times. While his mistakes are coachable, he will need to improve his talents over the next year to become a starter you are comfortable with as your last resort against big plays.

 

2018 NFL Draft

(Jake Roth – USA TODAY Sports)

9: Trayvon Henderson, Hawaii

Grade: 4th Round

Scheme Fit: Free Safety

Trayvon Henderson of Hawaii is a player who will need some grooming in the NFL to reach his full potential, but his ceiling high as a roaming deep single-high safety. Henderson has the athletic profile and range on tape to handle covering a large portion of the field and he excels in zone coverage against the deep ball. Henderson displays great hip fluidity and acceleration from the snap, with good closing speed on outside passes and screens. Henderson did tear his ACL back in 2015 at the beginning of the season but has fully recovered since then. He has high upside for a day three pick, especially for a team that has an expiring free safety contract in the next couple years.

 

2018 NFL Draft

(Jeremy Brevard – USA TODAY Sports)

10: Jordan Whitehead, Pittsburgh

Grade: 4th Round

Scheme Fit: Strong Safety

While Jordan Whitehead may be undersized for a prototypical box safety in the NFL, his physical nature to the game and relentlessness against the run make him a perfect candidate for teams in the need of a run-stopping defensive back in this year’s draft. Whitehead, who was a three-year starter at Pittsburgh, was a playmaker in the Panthers defensive backfield and should contribute towards sub package situations during his rookie season. Whitehead should earn himself a special teams role as well, but he does have the upside of a three-down strong safety if he can improve his man coverage skills and ability to play the ball in the air, especially against larger targets that he’ll face in the NFL.

 

Best of the Rest:

11: Jeremy Reaves, South Alabama

Grade: 4th Round

Scheme Fit: Strong Safety

 

12: Deshon Elliot, Texas

Grade: 4th Round

Scheme Fit: Strong Safety

13: Godwin Igwebuike, Northwestern

Grade: 5th Round

Scheme Fit: Strong Safety

 

14: Terrell Edmunds, Virginia Tech

Grade: 5th Round

Scheme Fit: Strong Safety

15: Marcus Allen, Penn State

Grade: 5th Round

Scheme Fit: Strong Safety

 

16: Natrell Jamerson, Wisconsin

Grade: 6th Round

Scheme Fit: Free Safety

 

17: Anthony Sherrils, Missouri

Grade: 6th Round

Scheme Fit: Strong Safety

 

18: Damon Webb, Ohio State

Grade: 6th Round

Scheme Fit: Free Safety

 

19: Tracy Walker, Louisiana-Lafayette

Grade: 6th Round

Scheme Fit: Free Safety

 

20: Kameron Kelly, San Diego State

Grade: 7th Round

Scheme Fit: Free Safety

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