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2018 Pre-NFL Combine Overview/Mock Draft: Safety (FINAL)

Air Date:
February 26, 2018


Ground Rules on this NFL Combine preview scouting:

 -- Looking at the initial performance data from their college years in our system.

 -- Watching 10-15+ minutes of tape

 -- Giving an initial knee-jerk reaction to what I am seeing/feeling.

 -- Will rank them as if I am drafting them for the dynasty rookie draft, and I will also break them into tiers

 -- We don’t have the full host of measurables, so my reactions could change when I see the physical times and attributes. Sometimes your scouting eyes deceive you on how fast a player is moving, etc. We will be doing all the full-fledged scouting of these players after the Combine data is in.

 -- This ‘draft’ and analysis will drop in a player at a time at various times throughout the day. Check the clock on the title to see when the latest post was made.

 -- Height/weight is latest estimates we have from their listed info or all-star games, etc. Not official.

 -- Going prospect by prospect in alphabetical order.



The NFL Combine Safeties…


Current consensus top 5 SAF prospects in the mainstream…

1) Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama

2) Derwin James, Florida State

3) DeShon Elliott, Texas

4) Armani Watts, Texas A&M

5) Ronnie Harrison, Alabama



*Five Tiers: A, B, C, D, F…like school grades. Players listed in ‘my favorite’ order.



**Tier A**

Derwin James, Florida State (6’3”/215)

2016 season cut short with an ACL tear but looked fine in 2017. James has something that most others in this Draft/Combine don’t – elite NFL speed. His burst, chasing, and closing speed is high-end. Real high end…best I’ve seen at any position so far in my studies, possibly. Great in coverage, and a so-so enough tackler. James shows signs of being an ‘it’ prospect. You can’t teach that kind of speed and it comes in a sizable package. Looking forward to his Combine and more tape study but the possibility for an A+ is here. A


Jordan Whitehead, Pitt (5’11”/195)

Perhaps the best stop-start speed ability of any player at the NFL Combine. Terrific feet to pursue, avoid blockers, cover receivers, and race into traffic and snuff a ballcarrier out. Tough hitter for his size. Very impressed with his movements, effort, and ability. A

Kameron Kelly, San Diego State (6’2”/200)

On my list, the Combine showed him as a safety but he’s much more schooled at corner, and he’s a legit NFL CB prospect -- maybe one of the best CB prospects at the Combine. Has great length but also terrific feet. Stops and starts wonderfully. Has long speed. Plays with a safety’s mindset more than a corner. He’s a tough, long, quick CB or SAF prospect…he’s be a top ranked guy in either category. A

Terrell Edmunds, Va Tech (6’2”/220)

I really enjoyed this tape. I was led to believe he wasn’t near as good as top CB prospect/teammate/brother Tremaine Edmunds…but I thought he was NFL legit right away. Good movement for his size. Impressive coverage of crossing receivers with his speed and length. Sound tackler. I think he’s a great SAF/LB or Moneybacker prospect. A-


**Tier B**

Kyzir White, West Va. (6’2”/216)

Brother of high-pick bust WR Kevin White and 2018 NFL Draft hopeful WR Ka’Raun White. Kyzir is not soft like Kevin is…Kyzir may be the stongest hitter among the 2018 DB group. Has NFL speed for sure and uses it to fly after ballcarriers and hitting them with big impact…but he isn’t out of control with his speed and hitting. Has a nice throttle on when to turn it on and off. Plays the run more on instinct but wasn't bad in coverage…did cheat up for the run a bit but that can be corrected. Possible ‘A’. B++

Natrell Jamerson, Wisconsin (6’0”/198)

May be the fastest 40-time safety prospect at the 2018 NFL Combine. Has returned a kick and a pick for TDs in his career. Nice size and movement skills. Decent enough tackler but good, borderline great in pass coverage. I need to watch more tape before I apply an ‘A’ because I didn’t get the ‘A’ feeling from the short preview…but I saw ‘A’ potential here. B++


Damon Webb, Ohio State (5’11”/195)

Didn’t play as much first three seasons – was stuck behind all the top draft pick OSU DBs who left in 2017. I didn’t expect much from Webb because of him not seeing as much time early but I have to say I loved this tape. Great closing speed and nice tracking skills on ballcarriers. A lot of safeties get blocked out of plays…almost like they want to be, but Webb is evasive and aggressively moving towards ballcarriers without wildly running to/past them. Had the speed/skills to hang with WRs in coverage and the tackle ability to take down TEs in the open field. Liked him a lot. B+

Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama (6’1’/190)

From our CB preview: I don’t get this Minkah Fitzpatrick hype at all. He’s a good player but he’s not one of the three best players in the country. Hell, he’s not one of the three best CBs at the 2018 NFL Combine. He’s not the best CB on Alabama. He’s not a cornerback anyway, he’s a safety…which is an auto downgrade in NFL value. He will probably be a nicely rated, but overrated safety because ‘Alabama’. How hard is it to play roving free safety/linebacker when you have two legit NFL CBs on your team? I thought his cover skills were weak (for a supposed top guy). We’ll rate him with the safeties officially but I wanted to fire an opening shot here because I was curious on what position he should be classified at and I watched his cover work when he did come and cover slot guys, etc. Not impressed. C+ (as a CB)

As a SAF prospect: Better as a safety for the NFL. Has NFL size and movement. I know he’s a legit NFL starter, but I have not, in two sitting, watched Fitzpatrick in play and ever gone ‘wow, that’s obviously one of the five best players in this draft'. There’s nothing he does all that well that should send anyone into a tizzy…except EVERY national draft analyst has just parroted respect for him as a top non-QB prospect. I don’t see it…and I'm not saying he’s not good. I just don’t know what anyone sees to point him out as an undisputed top guy – he's not ultra-big, powerful or fast. He’s fine. B



**Tier C**

Trey Walker, La-Lafayette (6’2”/200)

Nice tackler…underrated how well he tackles. Nice pursuit instincts. Looks like NFL speed. Great against the run. OK against the pass, but he leans towards playing the run. His gifts are more his tackling and instincts, things that wont show at the Combine. He’ll a nice late-round grab for some team. C++, with ‘B’ in range with good times at the NFL Combine.

Joshua Kalu, Nebraska (6’1”/195)

Quality character and football player. Doesn’t jump out at you at first, but the more I’ve watched him I see how smart a player he is. Works as a free safety and works as a cornerback. Has really nice cover skills, but I think safety is his best spot but he’s a utility guy for the NFL. C++


Marcell Harris, Florida (6’0”/208)

2017 season lost due to an Achilles injury. Good tackler, very good open field tackler. Nice closing speed. Better against the run…so-so instincts against the passing game but solid enough for the NFL. Might be more of a ‘B’. C+

Max Redfield, Indiana PA (6’1”/205)

Started at Notre Dame, a top national high school recruit…booted from the Fighting Irish for marijuana and gun possession. Aggressive, tough, hard-hitting but sometimes sloppy SAF prospect. Maybe the best hitter in the safety class. There are positives and then some worrisome off-field stuff. C+

Marcus Allen, Penn State (6’2”/202)

Nice size for an NFL safety. Seems to have OK speed-agility for the NFL. Noted as a big hitter but I saw that ‘big hitter’ label as his flaw on the tape I watched. Allen is always seeking to play the run and/or make a big hit…so he cheats towards the line of scrimmage and gets sucked in on play action too much. In addition, he tries to make highlight hits, so he waits/seeks opportunity and lunges/overshoots some tackles trying to make too big a pop. Occasionally, he gets one but at the price of a lot of other missed opportunities. It can be coached out of him but it’s a flaw he’s walking into the NFL with. C+

Ronnie Harrison, Alabama (6’2’/214)

Seems more interested in hanging back, roving around than attacking. I saw a poor tackler without a lot of velocity or effort on his hits in many cases. Moves around nicely…had the movement of an NFL starter but didn’t see any ‘it’ factor. Nice size for the NFL, has the potential to be a better tackler. He’s NFL-worthy but I was led to believe he was better than this. C

Tre Flowers, Oklahoma State (6’3”/200)

Great size and length, I look at him and want to make him a big ole cornerback. He looks fast enough for the NFL but more low-end speed…like 4.55-4.60. Decent tackler. Decent in coverage. A nice college player and maybe a solid NFL hand. Not special. C

Siran Neal, Jacksonville State (6’0”/199)

Dominated the lower levels of college play. Held his own OK at the Senior Bowl. I need to see more work but he seems NFL-worthy but unsure of his upside. He’s also 24+ years old, a little older than most prospects here. C-

Justin Reid, Stanford (6’1”/204)

Liked him on tape, didn’t love him. His output numbers are not jumping out at me good or bad. I’m kinda shoulder shrugging him at first glance. NFL-level speed but not high-end. He’s just OK. Might be better after more study and the Combine, right now ‘meh’. C-

Armani Watts, Texas A&M (5’11”/205)

I watched the tape and then went and re-looked at his national ratings…and how he’s a top 5 SAF prospect for many, I have no idea. He’s not bad, he’s just not that good. Sloppy tackler against NFL-sized/skilled RBs. Gives effort. Moves well. Just isn’t great at what he does. ‘College good’. He has tools to work with but I don’t think he’s a top 5 SAF for this class at all. C-

**Tier D**


Deshone Elliott, Texas (6’2”/205)

2017 was his 1st-year starting and he was a consensus All-American. I thought I was going to see a possible ‘best in class’ the way people were talking about him. However, I thought he was wildly overrated. Very stiff runner…he may a 4.65+ runner with bad three-cone at the Combine. Has nice size and is a decent player but he’s getting credit for sitting back and getting some INTs thrown his way…like that’s something special. I didn’t see him as an ace tackler or great instinct player. He’s good, useful, but not near the best in class. I think he’s going to fall in the draft and fall from memory withing three-years in the NFL, potentially. Big disappointment. D+

Van Smith, Clemson (5’11”/185)

Good effort player. Average athleticism. Smaller in stature. Can hang in the NFL but as a prospect to get you excited…it’s really not happening. He might make it in the end on effort/hard work. D+

Jessie Bates, Wake Forest (6’2”/195)

Plays safety with a CB’s mentatlity. Likes to float around in coverage more than play the run or hit. Is long and lanky like a corner. If his Combine numbers support it, he’s a potential move to CB. NFL length, OK athleticism, too skinny for starting in the NFL today. Has work to do. I wasn’t all that impressed at first glance. D

Dane Cruikshank, Arizona (6’1”/206)

Has NFL size and decent NFL movement skills. Didn’t see anything special with him. Seemed more like he preferred coverage to playing the run/getting dirty. Fringe free safety prospect. D

Sean Chandler, Temple (6’0”/195)

I saw a guy who plays way off the line of scrimmage a lot and then races in to get in on gang tackles. He made tackles he was supposed to but on open field one-on-one or chase situations, I saw him get beat. He lacks the upper-end speed needed for the next level, in my preview. I didn’t see anything to get excited about here. More of a free safety…plays safety with a cornerback’s mindset. D

Quin Blanding, Virginia (6’2”/215)

I may have picked a bad game to watch but I was not impressed at all. Blanding has NFL size and made 100+ tackles four-straight seasons for Virginia…I thought he’d be better. He’s a solid tackler. He’s making a good effort, but he always seemed a step late or getting lost in coverage. I expected to see a leader of a defense but what I watched was a guy floating around looking to pile onto a tackle…not creating or dominating, just existing. D-

Godwin Igwebuike, Northwestern (5’11”/210)

No thanks. Watched him against Penn State and Saquon Barkley burned him repeatedly with basic moves. Hate to make a snap judgment like this on one quick session…but Godwin doesn’t really seem into the play/hitting. He’s a solid enough college athlete but I thougth he played kinda one-step late and soft. D-

Dominick Sanders, Georgia (6’0”/193)

15 games played in 2017 and 40 tackles and 5 PDs but did have 4 INTs. From what I saw, Sanders just plays back deep waiting to try to break up a pass play and on occasions slips up to the line and rushes off the EDGE. I didn’t see a lot of great, classic safety work. His body didn’t look NFL-strong, muscular. I don’t see anything to get excited about here. D-


**Tier F**

Troy Apke, Penn State (6’1”/200)

Quiet college career. ‘College solid’, as a player, but doesn’t look like a serious NFL safety prospect at all – not fast enough and body isn’t great. Could work his was into NFL physique but probably won’t get the chance. F

Stephen Roberts, Auburn (5’11”/189)

Not for me. I don’t know how he got an NFL Combine invite. Has NFL speed, but terrible instincts. I see him whiffing on tackles, tackling too high; just did not show me much at all. F



About R.C. Fischer

R.C. Fischer is an NFL Draft analyst for College Football Metrics, and a football projections analyst and writer for Fantasy Football Metrics. 

Learn more about RC and the College Football Metrics system >>