NFL Draft analyst Rob Rang offers his evaluation of the top safety prospects in the 2019 NFL Draft class.
Deionte Thompson, Alabama, 6-1, 195, 4.50 (est.)
Strengths: Quality athlete. Above average fluidity in changing directions as well as very good straight-line speed for the position. Savvier in coverage than his experience (one season as a starter) would suggest, showing an understanding of route development. Only has three career interceptions but looks like a natural catching the football. A reliable open-field tackler who isn’t afraid of physicality. Good hand-eye coordination to rip the ball free. Forced four fumbles in 2018 alone.
Weaknesses: Takes risky angles in run support racing through the alley, lunging at the legs of the ball carrier. A bit high-cut and has a thin lower body, which leaves him vulnerable to shorter, quicker ball carriers when in man-to-man coverage. Charges were ultimately dropped but character requires vetting following an April 2017 charge of felony aggravated assault in which he and three former high school teammates allegedly beat a man severely.
Nasir Adderley, Delaware, 6-0, 206, 4.50 (est.)
Strengths: Ideal build for the position. Legitimate NFL athlete with good initial quickness, change of direction and acceleration - including impressive closing speed when delivering tackles. Above average speed is enhanced further due to stellar instincts, forged by starting 40-plus games over his college career. Good route awareness and timing to break up passes. Terrific ball-skills (11 career INTs) and doubled as a returner in 2018, scoring a touchdown. Plays bigger than his listed size, routinely delivering aggressive (but clean) hits and throwing his body into the pile or to take out would-be blockers with little apparent regard for his own welfare. Starred at the Senior Bowl.
Weaknesses: May need some time adjusting to the greater speed of the NFL, often taking very aggressive routes in pursuit. Slightly undersized for the position, especially given his physical style of play. High ankle sprain kept him from participating in field drills at the Combine, requiring a closer look from team doctors.
Taylor Rapp, Washington, 6-0, 208, 4.55 (est.)
Strengths: Compact, well-muscled frame that provides the perfect body armor for his highly aggressive, physical style of play. Jedi-like instincts in locating the football with magnets for hands, resulting in seven interceptions and five fumbles (two forced, three recovered) in just three seasons. Remarkable body control as a tackler, racing in from the secondary to make difficult tackles on elusive ball carriers look easy. Awareness also shows up in coverage, where he displays excellent route recognition, as well as impressive coordination and quickness in changing directions to stick in the hip pocket of potential receivers.
Weaknesses: Quicker than fast and may lack preferred top-end speed for deep duties, especially for defenses planning to run a lot of single-high safety looks. Too willing to concede the reception and make the tackle rather than attack the ball.
Amani Hooker, Iowa, 5-11, 210, 4.48
Strengths: Thick, broad-shouldered frame and excellent overall weight distribution. Much more athletic than his bulk would suggest. Easy mover with greasy knees, loose hips and light feet, which allow him to dance in and out of tight spaces like a slalom skier. Proven standout at nickel. Highly aggressive, confident tackler, often racing in at full speed to cut out the legs of ball carriers. Exceptional ball skills for a defensive back with several highlight-reel worthy grabs on tape, demonstrating excellent hand-eye coordination, body control and timing on his leaps.
Weaknesses: Takes extremely aggressive - borderline reckless - angles to the ball and comes in so fast that he leaves himself vulnerable to cutbacks with some missed tackles on tape (Iowa State, Mississippi State). Just an average arm length (30 1/8 inches) for the position, limiting his tackle radius and ability to highpoint passes.
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Florida, 5-11, 210, 4.48
Strengths: Compact, athletic frame. Best attributes are his positional versatility and instincts. Eager to attack the running game and shows terrific route-awareness and click-and-close quickness for zone coverage. Comfortable playing near the line of scrimmage or back. Good quickness and change of direction for man coverage responsibilities. Highly confident and a smack-talker. Trusts his eyes and shows zero hesitation when he sees the ball, resulting in several impactful plays made over his college career. A natural with the ball in his hands, demonstrating vision to set up blocks, elusiveness and enough speed to turn turnovers into points.
Weaknesses: Even with his instincts, does not appear to play as fast as he timed. Too often finds himself in trailing position, surrendering receptions too easily. Manipulated by savvy quarterbacks who can look him off and then come back to attack him after he is left flat-footed.
Best of the Rest:
- Jonathan Abram, Mississippi State, 5-11, 205, 4.45
- Darnell Savage, Maryland, 5-11, 198, 4.36
- Will Harris, Boston College, 6-1, 207, 4.41