With the growing hype of the 2017 NFL Draft Cornerback class, many are failing to recognize the number of high-quality safeties in this draft as well. It is looking to be a very stacked safety class. The likes we haven’t seen in quite a number of years.
Who are they and why should we be so confident?
Most are familiar with Jabrill Peppers and Jamal Adams. Highly productive and talented guys, these players are almost completely different from one another.
Peppers Is not a ‘safety’ per say but is more of a free-ranging linebacker that played all over the field for Michigan. The exciting thing about Peppers is he is only a redshirt sophomore and is barely scratching the surface of his ability. Many are over analyzing him because of his lack of experience in coverage. Others are knocking him because of his overaggressive angles at times.
While that isn’t to say those aren’t worries, Peppers is a stud. He’s one of the best return guys in the nation possessing incredible open field ability and ball skills. He’s one of the best athletes in the country and is reminiscent of a certain old Michigan defensive back. Many are projecting his position and his best possible fit, but in my opinion, he needs to be a free-ranging safety ala, Troy Polamalu.
Using him in this role would allow him to use his natural instincts, athleticism and closing speed to make plays all over the field, and I’m confident he can do that.
Adams is more of a single high or center field type of free safety that can be used in the slot to cover or cover over the top. Adams has an innate ability to find and track the football. Always tends to be at the right place at the right time, and is much more refined in the coverage aspects of playing safety then Peppers, although not quite the athlete.
The thing that really separates Adams from others is his internal processing. He can process and digest plays before they even begin to fall in place, his read and react is off the charts. He is just a flat out playmaker AND he will lay you out!
But besides Adams and Peppers, there are others to get excited about. Malik Hooker is another redshirt sophomore from Ohio State and is incredibly talented. He still is learning the position but is one of the most talented kids in the country. He plays with incredible ball skills. Many have him as their top rated safety in the draft now. While I’m not as high on him as others, I think his upside and ceiling is through the roof. But his tackling ability and inexperience make me a bit worried.
Marcus Williams from Utah and Budda Baker from Washington are also ball hawking FS’s that can make a ton of plays with the ball in the air in coverage. If you want downhill SS type’s that can play in the box and light guys up, Justin Evans from Texas A&M and Marcus Maye from Florida.
Others like Quin Blanding, Eddie Jackson, and Obi Melifonwu are very intriguing players that certainly have an upside and will be taken somewhere in the middle rounds. Melifonwu had an outstanding senior bowl week, and many scouts were impressed by his measurable and showed more fluidity in coverage than anticipated.
There are a lot more players than just this, and we are just scratching the surface of the talent in the safety class. Stay tuned, and get excited!