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2024 NFL Draft: 12 Safety Prospects to Watch

2024 NFL Draft: 12 Safety Prospects to Watch

With the college football season approaching, it’s time to take a deeper look at some of the top NFL Draft-eligible players at each position. This will help us assemble an early list of prospects to watch this fall.

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2024 NFL Draft: Safeties to Watch

Below are 12 Draft-eligible safeties who I’ll be keeping an eye on this coming season.

Cole Bishop (Utah)

A big, well-built safety at 6’2″, 206, Bishop totaled nearly 400 snaps in 2021, primarily as a box/slot defender, and reprised his versatile defensive role last year as a full-time starter. Playing with a sense of urgency, he does a good job of reading keys to locate the ball and flowing in the play direction by sifting through defenders. He has quick feet when backpedaling as a high safety and can make clean transitions to drive on a spot, but his snaps in that capacity have been relatively limited thus far in college. He’s made strides in coverage but hasn’t been much of a ballhawk thus far (one career interception).

Calen Bullock (USC)

After starting six games and totaling nearly 500 snaps as a freshman, Bullock served as a full-time starter last year, taking far more snaps at free safety, whereas the 6’3″, 180-rounder played a healthy dosage of snaps as a slot corner in 2021. His frame and functional strength are impediments in run support, but he’s willing to stick his nose in and cut down on missed tackles last year. Teams will primarily be interested in him as a ball-hawking high safety after a five-interception, running one back for a 93-yard touchdown. The Trojans regularly trust him as a single-high defender.

Aubrey Burks (West Virginia)

One of the most well-rounded safeties in college football, Burks can play as a high safety or closer to the line of scrimmage but appears more eager to play downhill. He reads keys quickly and navigates through congestion effectively to get himself involved in the play. For a first-year starter, he showed solid technique to stay square and limited the amount of snaps in which he was caught out of position in the run game. He stands 5’11” and didn’t make a ton of plays on the ball last year, but another consistent season should make him one of the better safety prospects in the class.

Jack Howell (Colorado State)

Howell has over 1,200 snaps of college football under his belt and looks like one of the more disciplined prospects in the class. He’s got a strong build, typically lines up in the box, and shows good discipline on the back side. Although he stands just 5’10”, he shows a willingness to take on blockers when needed and has established himself as a reliable tackler as well. Capable of functioning in underneath zones, he limits big plays by opponents and picked off three passes last year. It’d be interesting to see him handle high-safety duties a bit more often.

Kamren Kinchens (Miami)

Kinchens had a productive freshman year, starting five games and playing just over 550 snaps spread around the secondary, but really broke out last year with a six-interception season to establish himself as one of the hottest safety prospects. He flows well to the football when playing downhill and reads keys quickly when aligned over twins/trips looks. Generally, Miami had him in two-high looks during my limited review, but he has solid speed to play in single-high. Cleaning up his tackling and honing his aggression would be nice steps forward in the coming season.

R.J. Mickens (Clemson)

Mickens wasn’t a full-time starter last year but totaled over 500 snaps and six starts. He’s a well-built player at 6’0″, 205, and was often aligned as a high safety during my limited review. He’s been at Clemson for the past three seasons, and it shows in his patient approach to the game. Mickens plays with appropriate balance, breaks down well, and has been a reliable tackler when on the field. After intercepting five passes over the past two seasons, look for his role to expand this coming year.

Rod Moore (Michigan)

Moore had an excellent season for the Wolverines last year, his first as a full-time starter, and looks like one of the more pro-ready free safety prospects in the class. He’s built more like a cornerback at 6’0″, 185 pounds, but looks explosive once he commits to playing downhill in the run game. The team trusted him to play as a single-high safety at times last year, and he shows the patience to keep things in front of him, with his speed giving him solid range. Coming off of a four-interception 2022 campaign, he’ll be one to watch.

Andrew Mukuba (Clemson)

One of the more enigmatic prospects on this list, Mukuba has totaled almost identical numbers of snaps in each of his first two seasons, with nearly 600 in both 2021 and 2022. However, he was significantly more efficient as a freshman, so it remains to be seen whether he can regain that form this year. The team trusts him as a single-high safety, and he has the athleticism and flexibility teams look for there, which also allows him to play closer to the line, including in man coverage from time to time. He’s a fast, decisive player who really looks the part.

Tyler Nubin (Minnesota)

Nubin’s decision to return to school was surprising, given that he’s averaged over 500 snaps per year over the past three seasons. At 6’2″, 210, he has pro-ready size and is capable of playing both as a high safety or in the box. He reads keys quickly and shows impressive flexibility and toughness, being at his best when playing downhill, where he combines a wide tackling radius with reliable technique. In coverage, he’s racked up seven interceptions over the past two years. He may not be the most explosive or graceful safety on this list, but has been getting better each season and has put a lot of snaps on tape.

Lathan Ransom (Ohio State)

Doing a bit of everything for the Buckeyes over the past two seasons, the former four-star recruit is a well-built defender who has solid flexibility for his size. He does a good job of reading keys when playing downhill and has the lateral quickness to slip by would-be blockers. Although he’s one of the bigger defensive backs in this year’s class at 6’1″, 205, he hasn’t been a very reliable tackler. Reading keys and working through congestion are strengths, so let’s see whether he can finish off ballcarriers more consistently in 2023.

Demani Richardson (Texas A&M)

Richardson is the most experienced safety on this list, with over 2,500 snaps played for the Aggies over the past four years. His size stands out on tape; at 6’1″, 210, he’s got a thick, strong build that pro teams should appreciate. Having played extensively in the box, as a high safety, and shaded over the slot, his learning curve at the pro level could be a little bit milder than some of the other safety prospects in the class. I’d like to see him play more proactively at times and increase the efficiency with which he navigates through congestion and slips past blockers.

James Williams (Miami)

By far the bigger of the Hurricanes’ two top safety prospects, Williams stands a whopping 6’5″, 224 pounds, and lined up in both the box and deeper as a part of the team’s two-high looks. He can help set the tone defensively with thudding hits, and the team even let him work opposite slot receivers at times. He’s still honing his instincts and may not have elite balance or agility, but his rare size and versatility should catch the eyes of pro teams. He has the potential to play as a box defender, patrol as a robber in zone, or maybe even match up against big receivers or tight ends in man coverage.

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Notice any prospects I missed? Feel free to let me know on Twitter @draftexaminer!

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