Safety is the last defense on almost every single play. If a WR can beat a safety down the field than you almost always have a touchdown. The safety position like so many others is in a state of change across the NFL. These days you need a safety who deliver big hits while also being able to properly diagnosis every single route in front of them. If you take note of a lot of the safeties in the NFL are much smaller than they use to be. This safety class is not very deep in my personal opinion despite being pretty strong at the top. So many of these players have fundamental tackling issues and it was sad to watch. This season we have seen a record number of free agent safeties unsigned for the upcoming season. This could be due to them commanding too much money or the NFL has figured out a breakpoint for aging safeties. Either way, the safety market has become quite odd and these five prospects are about to enter that odd market.
- Jaquan Johnson/ Miami
The Miami Hurricanes defense on paper looks like one of the best in the country with talent at all three levels. Joe Jackson my edge 3, Mike Jackson is my CB 5, Shaquille Quarterman is my LB 6, and now we have Jaquan Johnson as my safety 1. Johnson is a great tackler who comes in hot but plays with balance and a good throttle. He is amazing in run support which is something I always look for in my safety prospects. Watching him weed through blocks to get to runners is so satisfying. Johnson displayed great ball skills throughout the season when he lead his team in interceptions. Speaking of his production Johnson also lead his team in tackles last season. My only concern with Johnson is that he will struggle to cover anybody one on one. If you ask him to cover a tight end he might get beat up the seam but if you ask him to play in the box he is going to wreck a lot of havoc.
- Taylor Rapp/ Washington
Rapp was going to be my number one safety until I started watching tape on Jaquan Johnson so he gets the number two spot for now. Taylor rap is the hardest hitting safety in this entire class and it is so fun to watch. Rapp is a fantastic tackler coming downhill in the run game. I watched him wrap up so many big running backs on tape. When watching his tape one thing that surprisingly stuck out to me was how fast he looks. On so many plays he just came flying at top speed to make a tackle or a hit on a WR who is about to catch the ball. His man coverage skills are serviceable but not exactly great. Something that bothered me about his tape though is that his footwork can get sloppy at times. He gets caught flat-footed or he is not sidestepping enough. He has a whole year to clean up these minor issues and compete for the safety 1 spot.
- Deionte Thompson/ Alabama
Thompson has shown the scouting world a lot of talent in a really short sample size. He has made very few starts over the past couple of years but that has a lot to do with the talent in front of him. Thompson shows tremendous upside in his athleticism, he jumps high, runs fast, and plays strong. Also, this a personal thing but Alabama safeties are almost always productive in the NFL in some regard. Thompson showed on limited reps that he is a good tackler and an attacker in the run game. He makes great adjustments in the air and at the point of attack. He showed up big time in the national championship game knocking down several passes from Jake Fromm. The big concern with Thompson is again that he has not started a lot of games and has limited game experience. Occasionally he can fall suspect to over pursuing ball carriers at times but I would rather see that than him not attacking at all.
- JR Reed/ Georgia
JR Reed is flying under the radar at this point in the season. Nobody is talking about him at all and I do not understand why. He is one of the few safeties in this class who plays with any type of consistency. Reed like the other prospects on this list is a very sound tackler in the open field and at the line of scrimmage. Reed seems that have high IQ on the defensive side of the ball. He will quickly analyze a route that is taking shape in his zone and make a play on the ball. Reed like Jaquan Johnson from earlier is great at weeding through blockers to make stops on ball carriers. Reed also displayed some smooth hips in man to man coverage when he had to mirror defenders going down the field. The big knock on Reed’s game is that he does not seem like a great athlete. He might be good enough to get along in the NFL but he is nowhere near the level of the three prospects above.
- Lukas Denis/ Boston College
Boston College quietly has one of the best defenses in the ACC. Lucas is a big part of that under radar defense because he serves as the last line of defense. Lukas is a ball hawk who has some solid ball skills. He makes good plays on the ball turning them into interceptions which something NFL teams are always looking for. Lukas should be considered exclusively at the free safety position where he can just roam around the field and contest passes. Lukas does occasionally struggle with tackling which killed him in his game against Notre Dame. Josh Adams made him look bad several times in the open field and at the line of scrimmage. Denis should also look to put on some weight this season because he is rail thin so he gets pushed around the running game a lot. Denis has a lot of areas to improve but in a shallow safety class, his ability to ballhawk might get him into the second or third round come April.