I’ve finally reach the last position group, the safeties. The safety position is always a fun group to scout because you get a good mix players from box, coverage and deep safeties. Because of that, this is one of the most scheme specific positions to scout. A good box safety like a Landon Collins is a good fit in New York, but would be a bad match for a defense that likes to match-up its safeties in coverage frequently.
In terms of the Philadelphia Eagles perspective, they really don’t need a safety at this point. Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod are a outstanding safety duo. My first thought was that eventually the Eagles will need a to replace Jenkins, which is true, but he doesn’t turn 30 until December. It feels like Jenkins has been in this league forever, but he easily has another good 4 or 5 seasons left so drafting his replacement this year makes little to no sense.
What the Eagles could use at the safety spot is a reliable backup and someone who can take over Jenkins’ role at safety when they line him up in the slot so they don’t necessarily have to play so much single high coverage. That allows them to match-up Jenkins against tight ends and good slot receivers while still allowing for more help over the top with their corners.
1) Malik Hooker/Ohio State- Hooker is that Eric Berry type safety prospect in that he does everything at a high level. He couldn’t workout before the draft because of labrum surgery, but if I had to guess I’d say he would have ran a 4.4 40, sub 7 3-cone and about a 38 inch vertical. He’s a great athlete who is physical, can cover receivers and has incredible range. He’s a day one start that can fit into any scheme.
2) Jabrill Peppers/Michigan- He wasn’t the player I expected to see on tape. I expected to see a coverage specialist at safety or possibly a slot corner, but instead I saw a player who reminded me of Troy Polamalu. He is an outstanding blitzer, in terms of athleticism, timing and getting around blocks. I love him as a strong safety you keep near the line of scrimmage, but can also cover multiple positions. He’s a weapon on third down and a weapon in the return game.
3) Jamal Adams/LSU- Another safety I gave a first round grade to, but he is a little bit behind Hooker and Peppers because he won’t be a great coverage safety. I love him attacking near the line of scrimmage and I love his awareness and range as a deep safety, but he isn’t someone who can line up like a corner and cover a receiver.
4) Chidobe Awuzie/Colorado- Malcolm Jenkins 2.0 is what I saw on tape with this kid. He has a great understanding of the game and can play inside and outside corner as well as any safety role. He lacks deep speed to project well as an NFL outside corner, but he’s so versatile that safety makes too much sense not to happen. I know some see him as an outside corner and others as a slot, but being utilized as that Jenkins type safety is his best fit and worthy of a second round pick.
5) Josh Jones/NC State- A very raw version of Deone Bucannon, which is very hard to find. He plays like a linebacker but moves like a safety. I love him as a nickel linebacker and base strong safety, but he needs a lot of things cleaned up such as his angles in pursuit, positioning in coverage and his leverage when shedding blocks.
6) Budda Baker/Washington- Less physical version of Earl Thomas. Only 5’9 195 pounds with short arms, but he’s a fluid athlete in coverage and is outstanding as the deep safety.
7) Justin Evans/Texas A&M- A pure coverage safety that is always around the ball. Will be scheme specific prospect as he is not a good fit for teams that like their safeties to fit gaps and play the run often, but is ideal for teams that use their safeties as a centerfielder or an extra corner.
8) Obi Melifonwu/UCONN- A future combine hall of famer, but a really hard player to project on tape. He’s much better near the line of scrimmage than he is in coverage which is strange based on his combine numbers. I think he is a raw nickel linebacker/strong safety that you want attacking downhill more than you want him dropping back.
9) John Johnson/Boston College- Lack of deep speed is my biggest concern with him, but there is a ton to love about the rest of his game. He has outstanding tackling form, a good frame and is ultra quick. I think he is a versatile strong safety type who can cover tight ends and slot receivers, but isn’t ideal as your back end safety.
10) Xavier Woods/La Tech- I almost moved him to slot corner instead, but he does enough things well at safety that he should be more of a coverage safety than just a slot corner.
11) Marcus Williams/Utah- I’ll make this evaluation very simple- Williams is an elite athlete that has no idea how to utilize that athleticism. He looks lost on the field at times and is always late finding the ball and takes poor angles in pursuit. A nice project, but you’re drafting him based on what he might become, not based on anything you’ve seen on tape.
12) Shaquill Griffin/UCF- Could play any corner spot or free safety at the next level, but I haven’t seen enough quality tape from him to have any idea which one will stick at. He is a very raw defensive back prospect with elite speed and athleticism that is worth taking in the later rounds.