Part 4 of the series today and we’re back over to defense and more specifically, we’re on to safeties.
This year’s safety class is a pretty fun one, however I don’t see much depth after the top 5 or 6 guys and I don’t think the top guys are in the same class as those that have recently come into the league such as; Derwin James, Minkah Fitzpatrick or Malik Hooker.
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Junior, Florida, 5’11, 207 lbs
Fits; Green Bay, Jacksonville, Houston, L.A Chargers
So Gardner-Johnson is another guy who has seen a big increase in his draft stock over the past 12 months. I feel like the main reason for this is that he can actually tackle now. In his Florida career he’s gone from 32 tackles to 58 to 71 this past season. CGJ also registered 9 tackles for loss and 3 sacks in his junior year but from 6 TFL’s and 0.5 sacks. This is the kind of growth and development I love to see from prospects.
Gardner-Johnson Is also another modern day defensive back who can play a bit of safety and a little bit of corner in sub packages. Although he almost exclusively played in the box rather than free safety, along with playing some corner. Which is kind of strange to me, because I thought he looks pretty quick and rangy on tape and that was backed up with a 4.48, 40 yard dash time in Indy.
Nasir Adderley, Senior, Delaware, 5’11, 200 lbs
Fits; Philadelphia, Seattle, Kansas City.
Adderley kind of came from nowhere after the college season and out of nowhere we was a really hot name in draft and scouting circles and shot up draft boards and risen in the minds of draft analysts everywhere.
Coming from Delaware in the FCS, he’s obviously a small school guy which for me, is quite a big deal. I place a fair amount of emphasis on a prospect’s level of competition and I really need them to dominate at their level.
Adderley has done that, he also was only of the best players on the field throughout the East-West Shrine game. Adderley has the versatility to play either safety spot and also as a nickel corner. From what he’s been saying recently, he sees himself as a deep safety as opposed to a box guy but from what we saw at the Shrine game and practices, Adderley is good in man coverage against tight ends and that versatility is a big plus for defensive coordinators in today’s NFL.
Darnell Savage, Senior, Maryland, 5’11, 191 lbs
Fits; Kansas City, L.A. Chargers, Philadelphia
I’m a big fan! I like safeties who are athletic, move well in space and are quick to sniff things out… and once they do sniff out what’s going down, they go and take out the ball carrier. To me, that describes Darnell Savage pretty well.
Savage is far from the finished article in coverage but he’s a great tackler and he should test well in Indy once the combine comes around.
Savage has also shown good ball skills in his time as a Terrapin.. case in point his pick 6 against Temple where he beautifully undercut an out route and walked in to the end zone. I also like that he’s been a multi-year starter so he comes in with a good deal of experience and a good level of college football.
Deionte Thompson, RS Junior, Alabama, 6’2 194 lbs
Fits; Green Bay, Seattle, Kansas City.
Thompson is a physical and aggressive safety who looks to dictate with his size, speed and power. His long speed could be an issue but it doesn’t stop him from making plays regularly or from him playing as a deep, middle of the field defender.
The cons with Thompson that he sometimes takes bad angles and whilst he’s a good player I’ve heard a lot of people say that the NFL isn’t as high on him as you’d think. So with that in mind, I wouldn’t be shocked if he didn’t hear his name called on day 1 of the draft.
Further to that, his play did slip towards the end of the college season so that could also hurt his draft stock.
Taylor Rapp, Junior, Washington, 6’, 212 lbs
Fits; Houston, Oakland
I’ve got a little bit of a soft spot for Washington defensive backs, Rapp is one of 3 guys on the back end for the Huskies that I’m a fan of.
Rapp projects as a box safety who can cover the slot in the NFL. He’s a strong and sure tackler showing strong and sound technique and has a little tendency to force fumbles by kind of headbutting he ball out of the ball carrier’s hands.
Movement wise, Rapp moves quite fluidly but I don’t think Rapp is super quick over long distances which means for me, he’s a box guy. Which is fine, just limits him as a player and his draft stock.
Rapp is decent in coverage but again only in short areas closer to the line of scrimmage. Which is again, absolutely fine, because if you’re drafting this guy you should only be playing him in the box. If you draft Rapp and play him deep a lot of the time he’s going to look bad… (it’s one thing that a lot of coaching staff do with young guys, they mistake trying to stretch a player and take him out of his comfort zone with just deploying a guy incorrectly).
Another reason why you don’t want to play Rapp deep is lack of ball skills. Rapp’s splash plays are sacks, fumbles recoveries and forced fumbles… he only has 7 interceptions and 6 pass break ups in 3 years in Seattle. I think this is a product of his play style more than anything, because as I’ve said, he is decent in zone and man coverage… he’d just rather level an opponent than pick the ball off.
Sleeper. Sheldrick Redwine, Senior, Miami, 6’1, 195 lbs
Fits; Oakland, Houston
My sleeper in this safety class is Sheldrick Redwine out of Miami. He’ll be a day 3 pick who, like most day 3 guys, will start on special teams and work his way up and if he can, crack the starting line-up.
Why do I like Redwine? He’s a good tackler, a sure tackler and he’s physical in everything he does and has discipline when setting the edge. He’s going to be a box guy in the NFL as I don’t think he’s got the athletic ability to cope as a center fielder. Closer to the line of scrimmage, it plays into his strengths; tackling, edge setting and flying to the ball. Redwine doesn’t have good zone coverage skills but can man up with tight ends or big slot guys.
One thing he definitely needs to improve upon is getting off blocks in the run game but hopefully that’ll come once he is coached on how to use his hands better.