2016 NFL Draft: Top 5 Safeties
The safeties in this 2016 draft class are a little underwhelming when it comes to overall talent. I left Jalen Ramsey, who many people, myself included, think is the best overall prospect in this draft, off the list due to the fact he will split time at corner once drafted.
1. Karl Joseph, West Virginia
I really like the explosiveness and playmaking ability Joseph brings to the secondary. Has the ability to cover man to man as well as make plays on the ball. He is also not afraid to tackle and brings the wood as a hitter. Teams may have concerns over his average frame (5’10” 205 lbs.) as well as a torn ACL he suffered before entering the draft. However, I think the coverage ability, playmaking skills, tackling ability and leadership Joseph possesses prove he’s the best safety prospect in this draft.
2. Keanu Neal, Florida
Neal is an explosive athlete who delivers huge hits. He is very good in the run game and gets downhill in a hurry. He’s able to reach top speed quickly and closes quickly in coverage. He has a high motor that allows him to be all over the field and not get fatigued. Concerns about Neal involve his tackling. He missed 15 tackles in 2015 trying to deliver big hits and they will take a toll on his 6-foot, 211 lb. frame at the next level. Ultimately, his explosiveness, run stopping ability and high motor should cause NFL teams to see Neal as the second best safety in this draft class.
3. TJ Green, Clemson
One word describes Green: fast. The former wide receiver ran a blistering 4.34 sec 40 yard dash. Due to this speed, his coverage range is wide. Has ability to cover man to man and showed he can help out in run support. Green is an effective blitzer using his speed and also returned kickoffs in 2014 for Clemson. The biggest issues surrounding Green is his weak tackling and limited experience in coverage. He missed 17 tackles in 2015 due to poor positioning and not enough wrap-ups. Despite the concerns surrounding Green, taking the 6’ 2” 209 lb. safety would be based on his potential. My personal opinion is someone with his size and speed doesn’t come around often and he will grow into his potential, which is why he’s my third-ranked safety in this year’s draft.
4. Darian Thompson, Boise State
Thompson is a 6’ 2” 208 lb. safety who has incredible ball skills. He had a record 19 interceptions during his time playing for Boise State. Can make game changing interceptions. Thompson also showed he can hit and play around the line of scrimmage to help stop the run. He’s willing to sacrifice his body to take on pulling offensive lineman in order to cave the edge and also finds the correct lane to tackle the running back. Concerns over Thompson involve his coverage skills. A lack of instincts and awareness has caused him to be labeled as undisciplined. Is average in man-to-man coverage and has poor instincts in zone. Also gives up big plays due to busted coverage. Despite all the coverage issues Thompson has, I really like his playmaking ability and physicality. There’s a place for Thompson as a box safety and I think he’s the fourth best safety prospect in the draft.
5. Vonn Bell, Ohio State
This might raise some eyebrows since Bell is listed very high on a lot of people’s safety prospect list. Bell is solid in man coverage and has good instincts. Good at playing the ball. He had 23 pass deflections in the last two seasons. Has a great feel for his responsibilities and is rarely out of position. His average speed is concerning and has hard time closing in on receiver once beaten. Bell is weak in run support and allows the running back to deliver first blow. He lacks pop in his pads and is a drag down tackler. Ultimately, Bell is a solid coverage safety but is a small guy who plays small, which is why he’s my fifth-ranked safety prospect.
Brad Wakai is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.