NFL Draft: Top Five Safeties
Joe Esquivel-Murphy, Joe Skinner and Hunter Pitcoff discuss the top safties in the 2018 NFL draft class:
While not as highly valued as cornerbacks, safeties are an integral part of a secondary. Their ability to play centerfield, but also be a factor in the run game is something that NFL teams value.
This year’s safety class might be one of the deepest in recent memory, with the top two prospects potentially going in the top 10. Below are the top five safeties in the upcoming draft.
1. Derwin James FSU RS SO
The decision for the top safety spot has been up for debate since the end of the college football season as James and Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick have separated themselves from the pack. The Florida State product gets the edge due to his superior size and athleticism as James’ 4.47 40-yard dash was only a hundredth of a second slower than Fitzpatrick’s.
His injury history might scare teams away from taking him too high, but his ability to make plays at the line of scrimmage is unmatched by anyone in this draft. His combination of size, athleticism and playmaking ability give him the potential to be a perennial Pro Bowler and All-Pro.
2. Minkah Fitzpatrick ALA JR
In most draft classes, the junior from Alabama would be the clear-cut top prospect at the safety position. His versatility to play either corner or safety allows for defensive coordinators to put him anywhere on the field and his four defensive touchdowns prove that he can make plays in space.
His football IQ separates him from the rest of the field as Fitzpatrick devoured the playbook under Nick Saban. His size, speed and coverage ability will be valued on draft night and should join James in the Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams.
3. Justin Reid STAN JR
The brother of former first round pick Eric Reid, Justin Reid shares some of the same characteristics that made his older brother a top 20 pick in 2013. His ability to make plays on the ball is evident as he recorded 99 tackles, five interceptions and six pass break-ups in 2017.
Reid has great cover skills and speed to match up with either tight ends or receivers in the slot. Like Fitzpatrick, his versatility projects well for the NFL and could be more successful than his brother at the next level.
4. Jessie Bates WAKE RS JR
Bates is one of the best athletes at the position as he ran a 4.5 40 and had a vertical jump of 35.5 inches. His quick instincts and recognition allow him to fly to the ball to make the tackle.
He does not possess the largest frame in this year’s draft, but is capable of making plays against bigger running backs and tight ends. Bates has the ability to play from the start and will impact any team that drafts him.
5. Ronnie Harrison ALA JR
The second Alabama safety to make the top five, Harrison is the big hitter in the back of Saban’s defense. He can be a little over zealous in trying to make the big hit, but takes good angles to the football.
His cover skills are good enough for the next level and has the makeup speed to track down ball carriers. Harrison is the boom or bust prospect in this draft with the potential to be a Pro Bowler or be consistently benched for missed tackles.
Joseph Esquivel-Murphy is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and Spanish. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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Hunter Pitcoff is involved in multiple clubs and organizations in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. He is the Executive Producer and On-Camera Personality for Penn State Sports Night, the News Producer for PSN News, and member of the Centre County Report. Hunter holds a part-time live events support position with Penn State Athletics, too. On top of that, he also does a weekly radio show with CommRadio called “The Shootaround”, and hosts the podcasts “Ball Don’t Lie” and “Run N’Gun” with Penn State Sports Night. Hunter hopes to pursue a career in the sports media industry when he graduates in 2021.