Like when I ranked the defensive tackles in the draft, like when I'll rank centers, there are quite a few safeties in this draft that will be able to come in and help you right away. I think there are 10 safeties that are worth a draft pick before the 4th round.
PUNT YOUR DRAFT FOR HIM
Jalen Ramsey, Florida State 6'1, 209
Go full Mike Dikta with the Saints and draft Ricky Williams here. Just leave him around the line of scrimmage and watch him be disruptive. If can be the type of player like the Packers defensive MVP of 2009 was. Whatever you do, don't be the idiot team that passes up on the best player in the draft.
Karl Joseph, West Virginia, 5'10, 205
That's the feeling I get when watching this missile of a centerfielder. Especially considering the Chargers just let go a playmaking safety of their own. You can concentrate on the couple plays he misses, I'll concentrate on the dozens of plays he makes.
There's a gap between the 2 listed above and the rest. That's no slight to the rest of the 8 players listed. Ramsey and Joseph are just really freaking good.
Justin Simmons, Boston College, 6'2, 202
One of the better athletes at the position, Simmons changes directions incredibly well and that helps him when he is in the coverage in the slot whether he is in press or off man.
I do think he's better in press and has really showed that he can stick with slot receivers, which is encouraging. As a single high safety, each of the games the QB was able to hold him just long enough so he couldn't get to the pass.
Or just flat out fool him by holding them with their eyes.
Cover 1, can't let anybody behind; Corner at top gets beat immediately, but late seeing it and almost gives up a TD. pic.twitter.com/9Rhiixv8Rp— Rob Donaldson (@DraftCharge) March 30, 2016
First play of the game against Clemson, Justin Simmons (#27) got looked off big time by Deshaun Watson. pic.twitter.com/3Ot45Bgtuy— Rob Donaldson (@DraftCharge) March 30, 2016
The good news is Simmons learned from his mistakes in each of game and was able to come up with an interception or break up a pass. If Simmons were more physical/stronger at the point of attack, he might have been a 1st round talent in my eyes. That's what's really holding him back. Like the 1st clip in the first video above, and this clip below, Simmons is a willing tackler.
My favorite part of Simmons' game is his ability to come up and finish against the run; decisive and forceful. pic.twitter.com/5AjWGrq6iU— Rob Donaldson (@DraftCharge) March 30, 2016
That's what you like to see. Instincts coming forward and a willingness to come up and hit. Simmons has that. He will be a solid starter and can play multiple roles and excel at them.
Su'a Cravens, USC, 6'1, 226
Cravens is best suited around the line of scrimmage and is a dominate run defender. He's no slouch in coverage, and his freshman tape has good exposures of him playing a deep safety role. That's likely 15 pounds ago, though. Cravens will be an interesting watch because his athletic testing was below average but he's a damn good football player.
Darian Thompson, Boise State, 6'2, 208
Thompson is a guy that we haven't talked too much about but for my money is certainly worth the pick at 33 and I wouldn't argue you if you're a fan of another team and wanted him at the end of the first.
Darian Thompson's A missile vs run, can play underneath zone & CF role. His Aggression & recognition=top 15 talent pic.twitter.com/woPRp6owPK— KP (@KP_Show) January 21, 2016
Thompson fits the profile of the 1st 2 safeties I listed where he's physical and can not only play but succeed in multiple roles. Like Ramsey and Joseph he missed his fair share of tackles, too. The difference is Thompson isn't on their level when it comes to excelling in man coverage and that's why he's lower. In man his lack of change of direction and burst was exposed.
There's a reason he's this high, though. As you can see in the clips above, he's uber aggressive in the run. I had him for 13.5 stops in 5 games, that's pretty ridiculous. He also does a fine job of getting a jump on passes by reading the QB in zone, whether it's deep or underneath. Thompson is a top 30 player in this class.
A minimal gap between the next player and the 3 safeties in front of him.
Keanu Neal, Florida, 6", 211
He's a *gasp* hammer.
Neal played all over as a S.He missed more tackles than you'd like but also created TO's & will knock your block off pic.twitter.com/EQw0qoxujy— KP (@KP_Show) February 23, 2016
He missed a bunch of tackles, there's no denying that. He also jarred the ball loose on plenty of pass plays and when he hits you he erases you. I think Neal is being sold short based on his ability in coverage. Sure, he has some lapses, but has more range and better instincts and I can see why the NFL is high on him. He's going to go ahead of probably everyone on the list not named Ramsey. He shouldn't, but the talent is there. He's what former Gator safety Matt Elam was supposed to be.
Jalen Mills, LSU, 6'0, 191
I can see your instant reaction by seeing his size and wanting to pass. Don't worry too much about that. Mills fills the alley and comes downhill willingly as a run defender. That's what matters. I like Mills a bit more than most major media. His role was basically a slot CB this past year but he has some exposures as a deep safety. Mills is smart. That's why I like him. Underneath as a zone defender he does a good job of "finding work." In man he can be sticky in the slot. Nothing really jumps out at you but getting him in the early third round area would be ideal. His feet are too good for him not to be solid at the next level.
Kevin Byard, Middle Tennessee State, 5'11 216
On one hand, Byard left a little to be desired
Kevin Byard left a lot to be desired. Tested off the charts but you don't really see it. Wonder if it was his rolepic.twitter.com/RQ0wYgnV4Q— KP (@KP_Show) April 6, 2016
It seemed like he didn't turn it on unless he had to.
There was too much of this vs Bama & this gm. I don't think he's aggressive or trusts what he sees.pic.twitter.com/IQmjLTrV48— KP (@KP_Show) April 6, 2016
Tough to tell whether he trusts what he sees or if he's just on cruise control and going through the motions. On the other hand he is arguably the best single high safety in the draft. Only Joseph could get to passes he could.
Byard is 216, but he isn't an impact hitter like you would think. I think his motor runs hot and cold. He has great hustle when he has to. He plays the ball too well and has too good of range to not be at least a solid starter in the NFL. He'd be a great option at the top of the third if available.
Sean Davis, Maryland, 6'1, 201
Davis played corner this year for the first time. I don't think that's where his future is. He was burned pretty good when isolated against better receivers. He peeked in the backfield too much and his route recognition was blah. I was surprised he only weighed 201 pounds because he looks much bigger than that. Davis is a high end athlete that has the arm length where if he's in the vicinity of the pass he has a chance to break it up or make a play on the ball. His athleticism shows when he's coming up to tackle from his safety position in the run game. He is far from a sure tackler but he has some pop in his pads and you saw ball carriers go backwards when he hit them. Davis is also a great gunner and you know San Diego values special teams.
Davis is such a projection because he already had questions at safety before moving to corner this year. When the ball is in front of him, he looks fine. You can see him breaking on passes and getting his hand on balls. He can really close. He has some range and will make plays on the ball. It's when he bites on shorter routes and let's the deep routes get behind him that is concerning. This 6 minutes cut up against West Virginia best highlights his strengths and weaknesses. Davis is he ultimate wildcard at the position.
Vonn Bell, Ohio State, 5'11, 199
Bell should be so much higher on this list. I wanted to like him a lot more than I did. He is not as willing in the run support as you want your safety to be, even if he is the last line of defense. He also struggles mightily when it comes to breaking up passes at the point of attack.
want to like Vonn Bell more but he's just not physical enough at POA & I don't think he has a 2nd gear pic.twitter.com/GuNAp4EQCU— KP (@KP_Show) April 13, 2016
A lack of physicality and strength is a bad combo to have. Then you factor in Bell doesn't have another "gear" to catch up if he's late and those are all causes for concern. He's no bum, though. Bell is great at reading the QB and gets a very good jump. In underneath coverage, Bell doesn't get fooled by route combinations and was seemingly always around the ball. You can fake 23 pass breakups in 2 years. His interception against Minnesota is a good illustration of what kind of player Bell can be underneath.
That's where you want him. Reading the QB underneath and using his instincts.
Jeremy Cash, Duke, 6'0, 212
Cash is a scheme specific player. He was exposed in man coverage when I watched and his change of direction is the worst of any player on this list and it's not really close. If a team drafts Cash thinking he can play a slot corner or single high safety they are setting him up for failure.
Where you do want Cash at is in the box and playing the run. He's as good as it gets as a run defender.
Also on the perimeter, slot receivers are not going to block him.
Where the risk comes in is when he is isolated in coverage. For as well as Cash played the run, against Georgia Tech, UNC, and Northwestern, he missed eight tackles. If this is his niche, he will need to tackle better if he wants to stick around in the NFL.