NFL Draft

Top 10 safeties in the 2018 NFL Draft:

We are about to wrap this thing up! After we’ve talked about the running backs and linebackers, wide receivers and cornerbacks, offensive and defensive lines and now tight-ends just recently, we are down to the safeties, before finishing up with the QBs.

This safety group includes a bunch of different players and body-types. Some of them might lack the speed for a high-safety role, others might not have the physicality to come down in the box, and then there’s a bunch of them, who have the versatility to take on different tasks. The NFL is looking for matchup pieces and the safety position has never been this diverse.

In my rankings, I have two safeties, who I believe are both top ten prospects. After that, a lot of the evaluations depend strongly on taste and scheme fit. I could see up to ten safeties drafted within the first two days in Dallas.


Minkah Fitzpatrick

1. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama

While most Alabama recruits are limited to watching games from the sideline for a year or two, no matter how highly regarded they are, this young man started immediately for Nick Saban. It has been Fitzpatrick’s love and intelligence for the game that made him a coach’s favorite and now one of the premier draft prospects. During his three-year stretch he was a consensus All-American and national champion twice, in addition to winning several other awards.

Fitzpatrick started his career at outside corner and quickly emerged as the Tide’s top cover-man. When Eddie Jackson went down in the middle of 2016, Fitzpatrick was asked to take over the free safety role and did a tremendous job at it. This past year, the coaching staff used him in a variety of ways. He was a safety in base defense and moved into the nickel on passing downs or played dime linebacker. He worked his way through some stingers and took over the role as the leader for the Bama defense, but not in terms of jumping up and down and shouting around, rather he’s calm and collective, setting an example for his teammates.

Charles Woodson and Patrick Peterson had been the only two, who won the Jim Thorpe and Chuck Bednarik trophy in one season, until Fitzpatrick did so last year. He displays a phenomenal ability to change directions. He is aggressive towards the ball all the time and goes through his blocker to get to the ball-carrier. Minkah plays the ball in the air exceptionally well and has soft hands to pick off a bunch of passes (six in 2016). Once the ball is in his hands, he knows what to do with it. He also does an excellent job avoiding penalties by not panicking and reaching in, when the ball is in the air. He has no problem going over the top of his corner and the respective receiver, to catch up to his man on crossing fade routes.

The 6’1’’ swiss-army knife shows tremendous pursuit when he blitzes and the ball is thrown over his head. He doesn’t mind lowering his shoulder into an offensive linemen either and pops right back up, when running backs cut him. Fitzpatrick can basically play any position you want him to in the secondary and he can used in a multitude of ways. He can blitz, cover out wide or in the slot, be the deep safety and probably pick up a carton of milk on his way home. Fitzpatrick’s combination of athleticism, instincts and football IQ are what make him a unique player, plus he adds special teams value.

His biggest problem at this point, is the fact he gets himself into trouble at times when coming in too hot and being forced to grab onto some part of the ball-carrier on his way past him. He’s also too high in his paddle when bailing and might have problems coming out of breaks that way. However, I thought his hips were plenty good in his lone season as a full-time starter on the outside.

Fitzpatrick could easily be the number one corner prospect on the boards of a lot of scouts, but his versatility might be his best aspect and coaches will be tempted to show off all his talents. When I try to envision what Minkah will look like at the next level, I see a longer Malcolm Jenkins. Someone, who can be a true safety on base downs, with no hesitation to come up and hit people, and drop down into the slot on third down, to cover receivers and tight-ends, or blitz from that nickel spot. To me, Fitzpatrick is absolutely a top-five overall prospect in the draft and I have no clue how his name is getting lost in this process.

 

Derwin James

2. Derwin James, Florida State

This former top-ten overall recruit put up one of the most impressive freshman campaigns I have seen in recent memory. James was off to a strong start as a sophomore, but suffered a meniscus tear in his second game and missed the rest of the season. Last year, he came back even better, but I feel like he hasn’t been discussed as one of the elite prospects in the draft. I had James as my number one player in all of college football when the season started, but he suffered a little bit, as the Florida State program had a horrible year and didn’t nearly coming close to their standard. Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop me from declaring James a flat-out baller.

The versatility of this 6’2”, 215-pound safety is off the charts. He can line up at nickel, as a box safety or even dime linebacker. Moreover, he has the size and tools to cover different body types in the passing games. James is an extremely dangerous blitzer off the slot, because he doesn’t give anything away to the offense, but then arrives at the QB in a heartbeat. He also shows some blitzing success through the interior, where he has the power to push back even offensive linemen or shake backs and get around them. Then he uses his length extremely well to take away passing lanes along the line of scrimmage. While I don’t think he’s at his best there, he can play deep coverage as well and is an outstanding open-field tackler to complement that, who also can shed blockers. James was used as a spy linebacker vs. Alabama’s Jalen Hurts in the season opener at times and excelled at doing so.

The new FSU star doesn’t hesitate to come up and lay some wood. He shows great change-of-direction skills and pursuit, plus he can lower the boom with the best of them. That’s in large part due to his very explosive lower body, which he displayed at the combine with an 11 feet broad and a 40 inch vert. A lot of people compare James to Kam Chancellor due to his ability to obliterate backs and receivers, but the Seahawks All-Pro safety never had the kind of coverage ability this young stud possesses. His skills to put hands on people in space and run with them is off the charts. When playing zone, he has shown tremendous instincts and his closing speed when the ball is in the air is just ridiculous for a guy his size, plus he uses his long arms very well to stick a hand in-between the palms of the receiver.

Occasionally, James trusts his speed too much and flattens his pursuit angles too late, which allows some extra yardage for his opponents. At the same time, he runs himself into trouble at times, when he locks into his first read. Overall, James is a very intense competitor, but he didn’t quite bring the same intensity every single game throughout the Seminoles’ disappointing 2017 season. I think he could still learn how to be a split-second earlier at recognizing plays and be a step quicker.

James is a physical specimen, but an even better football player. Similar to Fitzpatrick, who I just talked about, I think James should be used in a couple of different roles. The Florida State coaching staff did so as well, deploying him to a bunch of different tasks, depending on the opponent and the according game-plan. However, I like him better near the line of scrimmage. He would probably be at his best as a strong safety on base down, possibly in a robber role, and then either cover big bodies in the slot or move inside as a dime linebacker, where he can blitz, spy or simply cover hook-to-curl. I have him as a top ten overall prospect.

 

Ronnie Harrison

3. Ronnie Harrison, Alabama

After graduating a semester early as a quarterback and safety out of Florida, Harrison joined the Crimson Tide and made an impact right away, as he saw game action in all 15 contests in his freshman campaign and started every game from the start of the next year on. In 2017, he was a second-team All-SEC member, ending his three-year career with 174 tackles, seven interceptions and 17 pass-deflections.

This dude has a jump to his step and an attitude to his game. Harrison is just a maniac at coming up and defending the run. In contrast to a lot of other guys he isn’t just a hard hitter, he rarely misses any tackles. Harrison was yelled at quite a bit by Nick Saban for cheating to the inside and losing contain in 2016, but he was more consistent in that department last season. The big Bama safety is hard to put hands on in space, because of the bounce he plays with and the way he can slip opponents or extend and shed with his long arms.

Despite his ability to drop into the box and stop the ground game, Harrison also has the speed to run down the seams with slot receivers and stay tight to them. He likes to get into the face of his opponents, but maintains good technique throughout plays in coverage. The 6’3’’ safety is outstanding at staying on top of routes and following receivers throughout multiple breaks. In addition to that, Harrison is a specialist at separating receivers from the ball with a perfectly timed hit. He has nice length and uses it well to wrap around receivers and knock the ball down. I anticipated him to be used as a dime linebacker more often in 2018, but that’s what his partner in crime – Minkah Fitzpatrick – did more of. Yet, he still showed some upside as a blitzer.

Although I’m a big fan of the activity and aggressiveness of Harrison reacts, he reacts too heavily to what he sees develop. He still uses inside leverage on some occasions and can be beaten to the edge, when ball-carriers set him up with a little shake. I said that Harrison usually brings down his opponents, but he will need to stop purely leading with his shoulder and bring his arms with him as a tackler.

Harrison’s ability to run and hit is outstanding. He should be a valuable contributor as a run-stopper and makes receivers earn catches, when they come near his area. I think his success in the passing game will heavily depend on the team that drafts him. While he has played a high-safety role and has the range to cover large areas of the field, I think he will be best served in a scheme, where he can be aggressive and jump on routes. He is definitely more than a box-safety, but I would want him in the short and intermediate levels.

 

Justin Reid

4. Justin Reid, Stanford

Here we have the brother of 49ers Pro Bowl safety Eric Reid. Much like the former LSU star, Justin stands out with his athleticism and impressive stature. He led the Pac-12 with five interceptions, which also brought him second-team AP All-American honors. In addition to the takeaways, he recorded 6.5 tackles for loss and six passes knocked down

Reid displays a lot of versatility and instincts from the safety spot. Stanford rotates their safeties a lot from low to high. With the experience he possesses, Reid can play deep, drop down and cover in the slot or blitz on passing downs. As the last line of defense, he finds the ball in the air and makes sure not to get beat deep. He does a great job jarring balls loose at the catch point, when he attacks it with his shoulder. Reid doesn’t overrun the initial break and stays on top of double-moves. I believe he is best in zone-coverage, where he can see what happens in front of him and uses his outstanding ball-skills to make things happen once the QB releases the pass.

The 6’1” DB comes downhill quickly and slips blockers on his way, with no intent on letting them hold him up. When an opponent does put hands on him, Reid can extend and disengage. He doesn’t mind cutting pulling guards down at their knees either and typically is a very dependable tackler on all levels. Reid reacts to sweeps and reverses and doesn’t lose outside leverage. In addition to that, he attacks screen passes aggressively and blows them up before receivers can shield him.

However, Reid gets his eyes trapped in the backfield at times and lets smart QBs like Josh Rosen manipulate him with his own pair. The same is true for a bunch of play-fakes, which leaves a voided area behind him occasionally. Reid has had his fair share of struggles in pure man-coverage against quick receivers in the slot. That was apparent versus USC’s Deontay Burnett in their first meeting. Therefore, he gets a little grabby at the top of routes, which will lead to penalties at the next level.

Still, he’s one heck of a player and despite that, he allowed a passer rating of just 46.4 according to Pro Football Focus. Reid can play in the box on base downs to keep the opponent’s ground game under control, as well as being a dime linebacker in sub-packages. Yet, he can be equally as valuable on the back-end if he plays a little more balanced. I think he could develop into a Pro Bowler a few years into his NFL career.

 

Jessie Bates

5. Jessie Bates, Wake Forest

Bates redshirted his first year with the Deacon Demons to build up his body, before being named a Consensus Freshman All-American in 2016 with 100 tackles and five interceptions, two of which he took to the house. Despite seeing those numbers drop quite a bit last season, he was still an honorable All-ACC mention and decided to declare for the NFL draft with just two years of collegiate experience.

The 200-pounder brought a lot of leadership to the Wake Forest program the day he stepped on the football field. He is extremely fluid and instinctive in space. Moreover, he just has a knack for the football and the ball-skills to produce takeaways. Bates was a great baseball player in high-school and that helps him track the ball on the back-end. He likes to gamble at times, trying to squeeze in-between the throw and the receiver, plus he can make up for it with outstanding closing burst. Bates knows how to extend for every single inch and make a play on the ball at the latest moment. With the make-up speed he owns, he can bait quarterbacks into trying to fit the ball in-between him and another defender and get his hands it.

Bates trusts what his eyes tell him and triggers quickly, which led to him recording six tackles for loss last year. He shows excellent pursuit towards the sideline and certainly has the speed to chase down guys from behind. He might not be the biggest guy out there, but he won’t let anybody punk him and is coming up to get involved quickly. In addition to what he does on defense, Bates is dangerous as a punt-returner, when he has a seam.

However, when he does run towards ball-carriers on the edge, he opens up his hips too much and allows them to beat his angle, by cutting back against the grain. Bates takes his eyes down too much as a tackler and misses some of them in the process. He’s just a step behind on his angles and is forced to try to clip ball-carriers from behind on several occasions. While he can come up and dish out some hits, he doesn’t always wrap up and can’t only hold onto ankles. Bates allows offenses to bind him on bubble-screen fakes and takes himself out of the play on inside runs that way. While he shows tremendous potential, you can’t forget that he has just two years of starting experience.

Despite a high number of missed tackles, Bates is a willing tackler and will only get better in that department going forward. He has the versatility to be the free in a single-high safety scheme, be a part of a cover-two or quarters coverage and drop down into the flats. I like his combination of athleticism, energy and ball-skills. Bates isn’t a reliable solo-tackler on the back-end quite yet, but neither was Malik Hooker a year ago. I think he should still add some muscle to finish those just-miss tackles.

 

Kyzir White 2

6. Kyzir White, West Virginia

This guy definitely is one of my favorite players to watch on tape. The way he punishes people with the ball in their hands is insane. A brother of former West Virginia receivers Ka’Raun and Kevin White (top ten pick for the Bears in 2015), Kyzir spent two years at junior college, before following his siblings to Morgantown. He became an immediate impact performer for the program and was noticed last season with second-team All-Big XII honors.

White has been a safety/linebacker hybrid for the Mountaineers with a muscular frame, who lined up a bunch in the slot. He is super-aggressive in run support and at blowing up screens, while staying true to his assignment. He also is a ferocious blitzer from multiple spots and if the run is going away from his side, he will chase it down hard. White recorded 14.5 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles over his two seasons with WVU. He was a tone-setter for West Virginia and will continue to be one at the next level. The big safety is a selfless player, who doesn’t mind throwing his body around to open things up for his teammates and hustles a lot of people down from behind. Despite being such a big hitter, White will break down in one-on-one tackling situations in space and make secure tackles.

He has quality experience man-covering receivers and tight-ends in the slot. In zone, he can break on routes and stick his long arms in-between the ball and the hands of the receiver. White usually doesn’t get fooled by play-action and he recorded three interceptions last year. While I don’t think it’s his natural spot, I find some discussions about him possibly moving the outside interesting, because he really has excellent man-coverage skills. Yet where I see him at his best is a strong safety, who can drop down in the box or the slot. He will show up at a target more quickly than you’d anticipate, because of how long his strides are, and on passing downs, he is threat at timing up blitzes and putting hits on the QB.

Unfortunately, he is just a step late on a lot of passes, because he doesn’t have premier speed. White gives up the edge on some occasions, when he tries to shoot the gap and the receiver across from him just holds him up enough, for the ball-carrier to get around them. White doesn’t displays very fluid movement in coverage and is a little tight in his hips. I think he will struggle against the quick slot receivers of the NFL and probably be limited to an underneath role in zone coverage.

White is a much better player than pure athlete. He was a team captain for the Mountaineers and his teammates described him as a leader. He is an imposing hitter and has no problem with giving up his body for the good of the team. White is extremely competitive and if a team finds a role, where he can play free and punish receivers, he will a great addition to their squad.

 

Marcus Allen

7. Marcus Allen, Penn State

No, this Marcus Allen has no connection to the legendary Raiders and Chiefs running back with the same name, but he is the godson of another Hall of Famer – Curtis Martin. The young safety was a valuable four-year contributor for the Nittany Lions. He was an honorable mention for the All-Big Ten team in 2015 and received third-team all-conference honors as a junior – a year that included him blocking the decisive fourth quarter field-goal against Ohio State, which one of his teammates took back to the house.

Allen presents a strong physique and amassed 320 tackles in his collegiate career as a reliable tackler. He can move into the box or come up in run support when aligned high. It’s obvious he likes to get involved on every play. Allen smacks a lot of receivers and tight-ends looking to block him in the run game. He also pops ball-carriers and usually puts his helmet right on the ball, being the lower man on pretty much every hit. I think he 6’2’’ safety at his best in the box or in small areas in general, where he has the quickness and ability to wrap around targets. Allen is a frequent visitor in the backfield, with 17 total tackles for loss in four years at Penn State.

Yet, he does some outstanding things in deep coverage as well. Allen anticipates route-pattern very well and has the speed to undercut some throws and knock the ball down. He does an excellent job pursuing receivers, while staying balanced and keeping himself ready to change directions. when the ball is out and he comes up, Allen is looking to take the ball-carrier’s head off and he can separate receivers from the ball, when he arrives at the moment of the catch. I don’t think I saw any safety in the country kill running backs, coming out swing and flat routes in the backfield, quite like Allen did. In addition to that, he comes in like a flying missile as a blitzer.

On the down-side, Allen plays with tunnel vision at times and comes in too hot, leading to him running past the ball-carrier. It took him until his senior year to finally record his first and only interception for the Nittany Lions and he totaled an underwhelming 10 pass-breakups in four years. In general, Allen is not very smooth in open space and his footwork is a little uncoordinated on the back-end. With him running 4.59 at his pro day, I don’t see him lining up as a high safety in the NFL.

The lack of ball-production is concerning for Allen, but with the way he blows up offensive players, I picture him being an enforcer at the next level. He was a leader and team-captain for the Nittany Lions and I think he has flexibility in terms of moving up as a linebacker in sub-packages. I don’t believe he should be utilized in deep coverage on a consistent basis, but he will knock around people underneath and earn his defensive snaps as a special teams demon.

 

Quin Blanding

8. Quin Blanding, Virginia

I had this young man on my radar ever since I saw him come out as a freshman and he has been one of the most productive college safeties in recent memory. In four years with the Cavaliers, Blanding recorded a total of almost 500 tackles, ten interceptions and 16 pass-deflections. He returned to the Virginia program in 2017 after an All-ACC season and good ratings by scouts, because he wanted to lead his team to a bowl game win.

At 6’2’’, 215 pounds, Blanding has excellent size for the safety position. He reads his keys and rarely gets out of position. Generally, he doesn’t panic about being beat deep and rarely gets turned around by receivers, but he can struggle finding the ball once he turns his back towards it. Blanding is a quality cover-man on slots as well and he is extremely versatile. He was used as the high-safety, in the flats, stops the run as a box-defender, can absolutely pop ball-carriers and never gives up on plays, no matter if his opponent might be faster than him.

When he comes up against the run, Blanding slips blockers and attacks his targets low. He can go over the top of picks and get the receiver on the ground. The versatile DB uses a lot of pre-snap movement to his advantage, delivers some big blows along the sideline and gets involved when his teammates are on the tackle. He has been a great last line of defense for the Cavaliers with secure tackling skills, in addition to sniffing out end-arounds or reverses and not giving them any room to even get going.

However, Blanding runs himself into trouble on some plays and allows receivers to cut back against the grain. He also gets caught overcommitting towards the sideline in coverage occasionally and gives up room to the post. The 4.6 in the 40 confirmed what I saw on tape – Blanding lacks elite make-up speed and sometimes is left with having to tug a receiver’s jersey, who is running by him. He’s just not the most fluid athlete in space, in terms of changing directions, and I don’t believe he has the hips to cover NFL slot receivers one-on-one consistently.

Blanding played 98 percent of Virginia’s defensive snaps and put up some mind-blowing numbers in the process. While there definitely are superior athletes in this class, I have no clue why Blanding is not talked about at all in the draft process. He’s an incredibly smart, tough, durable and productive football player.

 

Tarvarius Moore

9. Tarvarius Moore, Southern Miss

This guy is very long for a safety at 6’2’’, with more than 33-inch long arms, and he gets his paws on a bunch of passes you wouldn’t anticipate he could. He spent most of his collegiate career as a reserve, but broke through his senior campaign, recording 87 tackles, three interceptions and ten pass-breakups, while earning honorable All-Conference USA mention on the way.

Moore uses his length to keep blockers away from his body and get to the ball-carrier as well. The former Golden Eagle displays large range and an ability to close the gap or recover on receivers, who have a step on him. Moore turns his head around late and tries to find the ball in the air. He breaks on the ball hard and puts his shoulder right in the chest of the receiver, to knock the ball out of that guy’s hands. The athletic safety comes downhill immediately once he reads run or screen and usually is a very dependable tackler, in addition to dishing out some big shots along the sidelines. When I watch Moore’s tape, I see a guy, who operates smoothly in space and can handle both man and zone coverage responsibilities, while displaying a downhill approach against the run.

However, Moore presents a rather lanky frame at just 190 pounds and will have to prove he’s the same type of play speed at ten or 15 pounds extra. I’m not quite sure if he can deliver a blow quite like he did to the C-USA competition. Moreover, he has just one full season of FBS starting experience, even if that one was excellent. He will have to start push his head further into his neck and keep his eyes up to avoid injuries as a tackler.

I started scouted this young man’s tape pretty late into the draft process, but I came away highly impressed. Moore displays excellent athletic abilities and really put his name on the map with a 4.32 in the 40 at his pro day. While just one season of starting experience indicates a work in progress, I think ball production and ability to impact both the run and passing game, will put him on the field sooner rather than later. You will probably hear his name called earlier than you’d think.

 

 

DeShon Elliott

10. Deshon Elliott, Texas

In his only season as a starter, Elliott came up with six interceptions and returned two of them for touchdowns. He also recorded nine pass-deflections and three fumbles forced. This earned him unanimous All-American honors and led him to leave Texas as a junior. With the ball-production and size he brings to the table, scouts are certainly doing their homework on him.

Elliott gets involved quickly against the ground game from his free safety spot and it doesn’t matter to him, if he has to through an opponent on his way to the ball. He chases full-speed when coming off the back-side of running plays. Therefore he shows up in the backfield on several occasions and he recorded an exceptional 8.5 tackles for loss last year. Elliott can lower his shoulder and dish out some punishing hits, which he also uses to separate receivers from the ball. When he doesn’t get a clear shot, he makes a large amount of ankle-tackles at the last second.

The 6’2” safety has covered tight-ends and slot receivers one-on-one, with the speed to run with any of them. He possesses excellent flexibility to pluck balls from a couple of inches off the ground. Elliott breaks on the ball as if he and the receiver were fighting for the last chicken wing. He had two picks against Sam Darnold, with one of them going to the house and followed that up with another two in the Iowa State game, which were thrown right into his hands. The ball just somehow finds him.

However, a lot of those passes were thrown right into his hands and it wasn’t him being in perfect position and ball-hawking. Elliott is so worried about being the deepest man, that he sees a bunch of easy seam and post routes completed in front of him. When he drops into the flats, he is so concerned with being in the area that is drawn up on the whiteboard, instead of playing smart and bailing once he sees the receivers to his side go vertical. Elliott struggles at changing directions and re-accelerating, which limits his involvement to passes thrown the way he is already running towards or over the top. He put up a disappointing 40-time in the high 4.5s at the combine.

Even though he controlled the back-end for the Longhorns and came up with those six picks, I don’t think Elliott has the sideline-to-sideline ability you want to see from a true free safety. I love his downhill approach against the run and on quick completions, but I think someone will probably overdraft him due to his INT numbers. I definitely see a place for him at the next level, but not in a single-high role, where NFL quarterbacks would make a living at the intermediate level against him, with that style of play.


 

Just missed the cut:

 

Jordan Whitehead, Pittsburgh

Whitehead came in as the top recruit from the state of Pennsylvania and instantly made an impact for the Pitt program, earning First-team Freshman All-American mention. Over the next two seasons, he was an excellent last line of the defense for the Panthers and even lined up in the offensive backfield occasionally. Whitehead comes up to tackle with a purpose and upends a bunch of guys. He doesn’t waste much time at racing up against the run and goes through blockers on his way to the ball. He also has strong arms to finish ankle-tackles. The honorable mention for the All-ACC team displays outstanding hip rotation to stay on the hash and doesn’t flip them until the receiver definitely commits to the post. However, he is vulnerable on double-moves and was embarrassed on one of those by Miami’s Braxton Berrios for a long touchdown. Moreover, he is fooled by play-action on some occasions and gets beaten over the top. I don’t think he really improved on his feel or smarts for the game since his freshman season. Whitehead needs to bring his arms with him more consistently as a tackler, instead of just trying to hit his opponents as hard as possible by leading with his shoulder. Nevertheless, his effort in run support is outstanding and he plays fast all the time. Whitehead might not measure six feet or 200 pounds, but he never lets anyone suspect that with his style of play.

 

Armani Watts, Texas A&M

A four-year starter for the Aggies, Watts has amassed some impressive statistics over his collegiate career. That would be 324 tackles, 24 of them for loss, ten interceptions, 17 pass-deflections, seven fumbles forced and five recovered. Watts is an impressive overall athlete. He was the leader of the Aggie defense last year and brings a ton of passion to the table. The 200-pounder shows up all over the place and cleans up a lot of plays for this unit. He races up against the run or against screens and knives through blockers when they try to seal the outside on him. Watts came up with a crazy ten TFLs from his safety spot. In coverage, Watts shows light feet and trust in his instincts. He has the range to make plays outside his area and isn’t afraid of gambling on plays. He attacks inside-breaking routes aggressively and undercuts throws, when he sees a chance for it. Watts flies in on blitzes and arrives at his target with some thump. I believe the A&M safety feels most comfortable when he’s close to line of scrimmage, but at 5’10’’, he doesn’t really have the size to cover big bodies and match the way they can shield him from the throws. Watts struggled quite a bit with double-moves in man-coverage, as he completely lost UCLA’s Caleb Wilson on a couple of stick-nod routes in week one last year. He also takes some wrong turns in deep coverage and loses vision on the quarterback. While he can strike people as a tackler, he is inconsistent with his technique and angles. In terms of his athletic abilities and aggressive approach, Watts is already on an NFL level. The most important areas for him to improve on are more consistent tackling and playing under better control in coverage, instead of guessing on some routes

 

 

Stephen Roberts, Auburn

This guy jumped out to me when I watched Carlton Davis’ tape. Roberts shows up all over the field and can play high or low. He displays quick acceleration and excellent range. Despite that, he only came up with two career picks, but I saw an easy one knocked out of his hands by a teammate versus Georgia last season. In that senior year, he recorded 50 tackles and 7 PBUs. Robert shows has good lateral agility and an ability to mirror ball-carriers. He always keeps active feet, has excellent recognizing skills and a quick trigger to react. Unfortunately, he presents a slender body build at 190 pounds soaking wet and doesn’t look like he could add much more to his frame. In addition to that, he gets pretty handsy with his back to the ball and more of an effort-tackler than striker. Yet, has a way of avoiding blockers by side-stepping them and doesn’t mind throwing his body around in traffic. I think he possesses most of the traits scouts covet from safety, outside of size. I’m not sure how much of a concern his frame is and if he can add some more strength, but I was highly impressed with what I saw from him on film.



 

The next guys up:

 

Jeremy Reaves (Southern Alabama), Dane Cruikshank (Arizona), Godwin Igwebuike (Northwestern), Jaleel Wadood (UCLA), Kameron Kelly (San Diego State), Terrell Edmunds (Virginia Tech), Dominick Sanders (Georgia), Tracy Walker (Lousiana-Lafayette)

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