Today’s NFL is firmly based on the passing game which means safeties are a vital position for a successful team. My series on evaluating each positional group in the Draft starts with the safety position. Who is the best player in the position group? Safest pick? Boom-or-Bust pick? Underrated? Sleepers? Let’s Dive In!
Best Player in the Position Group: Malik Hooker (Ohio State)
His range as a fee safety is possibly the best we have seen since Ed Reed. You will notice I have Malik Hooker higher on my Draft Prospects board, but I think Jamal Adams is the best safety in the class right now. After he gains some experience, Hooker should be a game-changer on the back end of a defense — just like Ed Reed. Hooker also has a knack for being able to take a pick back to the house and turning an interception into 6 points very quickly. There were some points during Ohio State’s season that he changed the momentum of the game. He has the highest ceiling of the safeties as a ball-hawk and can make it very difficult to get big plays against.
Safest Pick: Jamal Adams (LSU)
He can do it all at the safety position. Respectable defender against the pass and play-maker against the run. Jamal Adams can be a very good rookie and help a team that needs a leader in the back end of the secondary — which elevates him to best player in the position group. He will be an all-pro caliber player from Day 1 on whatever team is lucky enough to take him in this year’s Draft.
Boom-Or-Bust Pick: Obi Melifonwu (Connecticut)
The physical skills are off the chart. He is the “physical tools are elite, but still needs to become a better football player” prospect. Byron Jones, also from Connecticut, had a similar combine to Melifonwu where he blew it out of the water and gained attention from the NFL and scouts. Byron Jones came on this past season as a solid player and teams that are considering Melifonwu will hope he can follow that same lineage.
Underrated: Desmond King (Iowa)
A cornerback at Iowa that may have to move to safety once he enters the NFL. He was high on a lot of people’s draft boards very early in the college football season, but has fallen due to “physical inadequacies” noted by most scouts. What I know is that he is a solid football player with great natural skills. He reminds me of Justin Bethel (Cornerback/Safety for the Cardinals,) and Darius Butler (Slot Corner/Free Safety for the Colts.)
Sleepers: Rayshawn Jenkins (Miami) & Lorenzo Jerome (St. Francis)
Sometimes players are decent in college and just need the NFL style of play and coaching to become a better player. Jenkins could be that kind of a player for a team looking to take a flier on a safety late in the Draft. He will get drafted because he can be a good special teams player as a rookie as he develops. He likely will be a strong safety in the NFL and has the nasty demeanor necessary to play the position. He has good build and bulk and with some coaching should be a decent back end player in the league.
Lorenzo Jerome has the natural instincts you want in a safety. He knows how to play the position but lacks the ideal biometrics to get you excited. He reminds me of Kurt Coleman from the Panthers. Coleman is a starter in the league because of his instincts and ability to make plays because of them. Jerome in the right defense and scheme could be a player that can impact the game.