2020 NFL Draft safety rankings: Unique class lacks elite options but delivers depth


Mississippi State’s Johnathan Abram and Maryland’s Darnell Savage were taken in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Alabama’s Xavier McKinney and LSU’s Grant Delpit are the two safeties most involved in the first round conversation for the 2020 NFL Draft as of now. Having said that, investing in the safety position could be an emphasis for NFL teams in the future as there is a bit of a valley in terms of the talent provided in recent years.

CBS Sports updated the composite rankings recently, which means there is a big picture view of the prospects available at the safety position. The safeties will be broken down into three tiers for the sake of this article. Tier 1 consists of the players expected to be taken in the first round. Tier 2 are the players projected to be taken Day 2. Tier 3 are the Round 4-5 caliber players. There are several players that would fall beyond the latter category so the remaining list of safety prospects can be found in the aforementioned composite rankings.    

Tier 1

1. Xavier McKinney, Alabama

McKinney is the most versatile of the bunch. He has the ability to play field or boundary cornerback in addition to either safety role. He is being projected to go in the latter half of the first round, which would be a great value for any team. McKinney has missed more tackles than expected so that number will need to come down. The Georgia native does a good job of reading and reacting.

2. Grant Delpit, LSU

It was not that long ago that Delpit was considered a Top-10 lock by many. He is a really gifted player that was hampered by injuries this season. He is explosive when he makes his read. The Texas native allows too much cushion but should still be taken in the first round. There are a lot of teams at the bottom of the first round that need a safety. 

Tier 2

3. Ashtyn Davis, California

Davis was the recipient of Justin Herbert’s first interception of the season. He is a good form tackler and shows tremendous awareness to rip at the football late in plays. It has led to more than a few turnovers. The California native looks to involve himself in any play when at all possible. 

4. Antoine Winfield Jr., Minnesota

The son of former Vikings All-Pro cornerback Antoine Winfield has developed into a talent worth monitoring. He is a hard hitter that seeks contact, which is why he is destined for a strong safety role in the NFL. The Texas native does a good job tracking the football in the air and has made some nice open-field tackles. His production was off the charts this season with three sacks, two forced fumbles, seven interceptions, and a touchdown. 

5. Terrell Burgess, Utah

Burgess is a physical player that spends a lot of his time in the box. He displays good speed and range to make tackles. The California native is not one to give up on a play. His ability in coverage remains a bit of a mystery because he plays so close to the line of scrimmage. 

6. Kyle Dugger, Lenoir-Rhyne

Dugger’s stock has leveled off a bit since the beginning of the process when everyone was trying to learn about this under-the-radar safety from Lenoir-Rhyne. He is so big that he could play linebacker in the NFL. In fact, that is probably where he should play. Dugger has a second gear that he should show more often. 

Tier 3 

7. J.R. Reed, Georgia

Reed is a smart, instinctive player that trusts his eyes. He needs to do a better job of wrapping up his tackles and his athleticism will be lacking in comparison to other top prospects. The Texas native is a bonafide leader and communicator though, which could lead to longevity in the NFL.

8. Brandon Jones, Texas

Jones’ stock was higher going into the season than it was at the end. He missed too many tackles this season and does not look particularly fast or rangy. The Texas native does appear to be a smart player that is going to play to the whistle. After the catch, he does a good job at trying to free the football from the arms of its ballcarrier. Jones has ideal size for the position.

9. Julian Blackmon, Utah

Blackmon is a really fluid player that has occasionally lined up at cornerback. He covers the entire field and is always aware of his surroundings. There are times when he will come off his man to make a play elsewhere. Blackmon is another great communicator on the back end of the Utes secondary. 

10. Brian Cole II, Mississippi State

Cole originally played for Michigan before transferring to a junior college. He covers the slot a bit but does not look particularly fast or comfortable in coverage. He does move pretty well and is capable of bursting forth when he trusts his eyes. Mississippi State asked him to play close to the box a lot. 

11. Jeremy Chinn, Southern Illinois

Chinn is a physical player looking to be called to the box. He harnesses his speed too much and seems to second guess his reads, which will lead to some big plays in the NFL. His footwork needs to improve but he is a tall, well-built safety. The Indiana native is a great leader for his team. 

12. K’Von Wallace, Clemson

Wallace will probably rise up this board as we draw closer to the draft. I bumped him up because he was playing more aggressively this season compared to the prior year. He is a fast player but will not be confused for the strongest. Wallace does trust his eyes and that puts him in some opportunities to make big plays. There are also times that he takes bad angles. 

13. Jordan Fuller, Ohio State

The New Jersey native takes some bad angles to the football. He is a long, lean player that could stand to add some mass to his frame. Fuller needs to do a better job of wrapping up on tackles rather than hoping the contact is able to take care of business for him. 

14. Shyheim Carter, Alabama

Carter looks as though he might be able to excel in a nickelback role as well. He played a lot of slot this season and looked fairly comfortable in those moments. His hips look a bit stiff but his speed is not a concern. Alabama asked him to do a lot, which led to some confusion but he was a valued communicator. Carter could be a good value for a team on Day 3. 

To see more of the safety class and where each of these players are rated, check out the CBS Sports composite prospect rankings.   





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