The safety class entering the 2020 NFL draft is a solid group filled with 10 or more guys who could make an impact on Sundays. There are all types in this crop of defensive backs patrolling the back-end, and where each player lands could hinge largely on how a team predicts they will make an impact in their scheme. Here’s my list of the top 5 safeties entering the NFL draft:
5. Ashtyn Davis - 6’1 195*
SAF Ashtyn Davis, California. Potential draft target for the Raiders in 2020 pic.twitter.com/cwRvHOvEd9— BD Williams (@BDWilliams18) January 30, 2020
Davis is a missile on the field, running to the ball with relentless aggression. When he lands a shot it makes ball carriers go backwards. He also shows off impressive range getting sideline to sideline to disrupt passes, or when sprinting across the field in man coverage while stride for stride with receivers running crossing routes. He can be a little stiff, however, and his short area quickness leaves him missing tackles or allowing separation in the quick game.
Best trait: Range
Needs to work on: Breaking down in space
Pro comparison: Marquise Blair (Cyril gave me that one)
4. Antoine Winfield Jr- 5’10 195*
SAF Antoine Winfield Jr, Minnesota. Potential draft target for the Raiders in 2020 pic.twitter.com/XlllyzCjzG— BD Williams (@BDWilliams18) January 30, 2020
Son of the NFL CB by the same name, Winfield Sr. passed down his hard-hitting ability to his son. The Golden Gopher safety is a fantastic tackler who lays the wood on opposing ball carriers. He’s always around the ball, and while he might not have the athletic measurables or size of some of the other players on this list, his acumen for football shines through. Tasked with playing in a relatively basic scheme in college, Winfield will have a steep learning curve when acclimating himself to an NFL defense.
Best trait: Tackling
Needs to work on: Man coverage
Pro comparison: D.J. Swearinger
3. Alohi Gilman - 5’11 200*
SAF Alohi Gilman, Notre Dame. Potential draft target for the Raiders in 2020 pic.twitter.com/rEyBXK4iLe— BD Williams (@BDWilliams18) January 30, 2020
After transferring from Navy, it took Gilman no time to make an impact at the most historic program in the country. The Notre Dame product flies around the field, making impact plays from multiple positions. Gilman shows advanced technique, playing man coverage like a CB or filling rushing lanes like a linebacker. Some have knocked his athleticism and his size, but I don’t see that being a problem at the next level.
Best trait: Creating turnovers
Needs to work on: Perfecting technique to maximize athleticism
Pro comparison: Budda Baker
2. Xavier McKinney - 6’1 200*
SAF Xavier McKinney, Alabama. Potential draft target for the Raiders in 2020 pic.twitter.com/pY71I9Xk3T— BD Williams (@BDWilliams18) January 30, 2020
A Swiss army knife in the back end, McKinney played several positions for the Crimson Tide secondary; free safety, strong safety, nickel corner, dime linebacker. He is at his best coming towards the line of scrimmage. He is a big hitter and doesn’t back down from his opponent. He didn’t make enough impact plays and lacks the same range of other safeties at the top of this class.
Best trait: Man coverage
Needs to work on: Deep coverage
Pro comparison: Malcolm Jenkins
1. Grant Delpit - 6’3 200*
SAF Grant Delpit, LSU. Potential draft target for the Raiders in 2020 pic.twitter.com/AvZfDCEIJj— BD Williams (@BDWilliams18) January 30, 2020
What can you say about Delpit that isn’t a glowing reference? He has rare range to play single high in a cover 1 scheme and break with anticipation on deep passes to the sideline. He has outstanding feel for route concepts, and he positions himself to squeeze holes in zones closed. Some have knocked his tackling technique, but while watching the film of these safeties, they’ve all missed tackles. Don’t worry about that part of his game.
Best trait: Anticipation
Needs to work on: Physicality
Pro comparison: Darren Sharper
Jalen Elliot - Notre Dame: Gilman’s tandem safety. He popped at the Senior Bowl showing how he excels in man coverage. Lacks the athleticism of the rest of this group.
Kyle Dugger - Lenoir-Rhyne: The small school product is rumored to be a freak athlete. He showed that he has the technique to match at the Senior Bowl.
Geno Stone - Iowa: Undersized and perhaps under-athletic, but he has a nose for the football and shows no fear in his game. He will make some one’s 53 man roster and make an impact.
* All weights and heights are unofficial.