Pre-Combine Safety Boards Stacking up Around the League

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

The safety class for 2018 is weak, and as a result, grades for players at the position are over the place. There are very few center field-type players at the position, and most prospects are viewed as traditional strong safeties. Here’s a look at how team boards at the position stack up heading into the combine.

It comes as no surprise, but Derwin James of Florida State sits atop the safety board followed by Alabama’s Ronnie Harrison. If Harrison is not selected in the first round, he’ll be off the board early in Round 2.

The order of those graded as second-day safeties is jumbled between Justin Reid of Stanford, Kyzir White of West Virginia, Terrell Edmunds of Virginia Tech and Jessie Bates III of Wake Forest.

Teams like Reid as a long, athletic safety. I don’t disagree with that assessment, but his game film screams last-day prospect to me. His ball skills are mediocre on a good day, and Reid makes more poor plays than positive plays when the ball is in the air.

This is the second time we’ve been told Bates could land in the second day of the draft; our initial report came three weeks ago, immediately after the Super Bowl. I’ve been told the Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys both like the redshirt sophomore from Wake Forest and could make a move on him in the third round should he turn in a solid combine performance.

Marcus Allen of Penn State, Armani Watts of Texas A&M and Virginia’s Quin Blanding grade as late-third or early fourth-round prospects.

Blanding’s appeal rests not only in his ability in the secondary but also as a special-teams player on coverage units. I’m told he’s definitely a New England Patriots-type of player (wink, wink). This is a bit ironic, as our mock draft has the Pats selecting a safety who also doubles on special teams in Round 1 in Harrison.

There seems to be a wide range of opinions on DeShon Elliott of Texas. We presently grade the junior as a borderline second-round prospect, as do a number of teams. But several franchises have stamped him with a fifth-round grade. 

I would expect a bump in Elliott’s draft stock after his combine workout. He’ll measure right around 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds and is expected to run in the 4.5s. While many criticize his ability to make plays moving in reverse, Elliott is a force up the field as well as laterally and makes a lot of positive plays defending the run and the pass.