This year’s class of safeties lacks the elite prospects that warrant a first-round selection, but it is not lacking in talent. This year’s prospects offer high upside and have a skill set that can translate to the NFL early. They’re a tough group project, but if any of them reach their potential, they could be great.
- Jeremy Cash: Cash had his season cut short following a surgery in December, but is still the best safety prospect in the class. He’s an extremely versatile player- lining up back deep for coverage, rolling down as a run defender, or playing nickel corner. He is a great run defender who rarely misses tackles and his coverage skills are seen best when he has to cover tight ends. Cash will play near the line in the NFL and be a run supporter, but he could be a linebacker type player in the mold of Arizona’s Deone Bucannon.
- Vonn Bell: Bell was one of the biggest playmakers for the Buckeyes when they won the National Championship in 2014 and has shown great skills as a two-year starter. Bell played as a single high safety in his time at Ohio State and showed great coverage skills. He stays with receivers and has a great nose for the ball. What really holds Bell back is his tackling ability. He has a light frame for a safety and takes people out by their ankles and knees. For the most part he dives at players with ball and he cannot roll down as a run supporter. If he can fix this problem, he could become an exceptional player at the next level.
- Jayron Kearse: Kearse offers more potential than any other safety in the class. He is bigger than most NFL receivers, coming in at 6’4”, while having elite speed. Kearse covers extremely well and closes in on the ball as if he’s already an NFL player. He also delivered some of the hardest hits in college this year. Kearse has all the tolls to be a first round pick in the NFL, but he’s held back by two flaws. The first is that he has slight frame and teams are worried about him holding up in the NFL when he has to go against more powerful players such as a Gronk or Dez Bryant. The biggest flaw in Kearse’s game though is his reliance on athleticism. Often times he got lazy with his technique or pre-snap reads because he knew he was a better athlete than his peers. He will still be an elite athlete at the NFL level, but he will be playing against smarter quarterbacks, and the opposing receivers will be better. He can become an All-Pro, but he must sure up his technique if he wants to become the player he can be
- Karl Joseph: Before going down with a knee injury this season, Joseph was arguably the best defender in college. He is extremely explosive and goes full speed at all times. He makes quick decisions and gets involved in both the run and pass game. Before getting hurt, he showed a better all-around game than all other safeties in college and was leading a very good West Virginia defense. His only concern is his size. At under 6’0” and under 200 pounds, he is very small for the safety position, but he is also one of the strongest players there is. Outside of how Joseph will come back from a knee surgery, there are no questions about his game and he could become a key steal in the middle rounds
- Jalen Mills: Mills is the only player on this list to play free safety for his team. He lacks elite athleticism, but he is not a minus in the department. What makes him such a good prospect is his intelligence. He recognizes plays at the snap of the ball and is rarely found in the wrong position. He does a great job of calling out pre-snap adjustments and is a true leader on the field. He’s an extremely solid prospect all around with little doubt about transitioning to the NFL.