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2017 NFL Draft Positional Superlatives: Safety

NOV 19 Florida at LSU
Photo by Andy Altenburger/Icon Sportswire

Scouting Notes

2017 NFL Draft Positional Superlatives: Safety

Next up on my positional superlatives series is safeties which features six prospects ranked among my top 50 prospects and 11 with day one or day two grades. This is far and away the best safety class we have seen in quite a while.

For complete analysis on the entire 2017 NFL Draft class, Joe Marino’s 2017 NFL Draft Scouting Portfolio is NOW AVAILABLE. The Portfolio consists of 300 prospect reports and is available with an NDT Scouting Premium Subscription.

Best Prospect:  Jamal Adams, LSU

Adams is everywhere and can do virtually anything you want from a safety. A true field general that plays with a high motor, Adams checks so many boxes. In zone coverage, Adams excels in both deep and short zones where his skills to track the football, cover ground and compete at the catch point are excellent. He has a natural feel and awareness when dropping into coverage and explodes into throwing windows.

Adams also offers the ability to function in man coverage where lines up over receivers and does extremely well to mirror and match while remaining in phase. From a coverage perspective, whether it’s a short zone, deep zone or man, Adams does it all at a high level. Against the run and when tackling,

Adams is a heat-seeking missile that fires downhill into the box or boundary with relentless pursuit. He diagnoses plays rapidly and fast to flow when he commits. The angles he takes to the football are clean and his acceleration skills are special. His mental processing is elite and he backs that up with physicality and aggression.

Best Resume:  Jabrill Peppers, Michigan

My resume grades factor the injury history, off-field concerns and accolades that a player accumulates in their collegiate career and Peppers scored as the best safety. Peppers missed only one game in his career due to injury while remaining clean off the field. His accolades were off-the-charts.

In 2015 Peppers was 1st Team All-Big 10 and the Big 10 Freshman of the Year. In 2016 he was 1st Team All Big-10, Consensus All-American, Big 10 DPOY, Paul Hornung Award, Lott Trophy, Team MVP and a Heisman Trophy Finalist.

Best Size:  Obi Melifonwu, UConn

Melifonwu checks in at 6037, 224 pounds with 32 ½” arms and 9 ⅛” hands.

Best Athlete:  Obi Melifonwu, UConn

My athleticism metric weighs all athletic testing results against positional averages over the last five years and Melifonwu takes the cake.

  • 40-Yard Dash:  4.40
  • 10-Yard Split:  1.51
  • Bench Press:  17
  • Vertical Jump:  44”
  • Broad Jump:  11’9’’
  • 3-Cone:  7.06
  • Short-Shuttle:  4.30

Best Production:  Weston Steelhammer, Air Force  

My production metric factors total games started and consistency in statistical output and Steelhammer scored the highest. Starting in 38 career games, Steelhammer racked up 228 tackles, 5 sacks, 18 interceptions and 31 passes defended.

Best Ball Skills:  Malik Hooker, Ohio State

Hooker has elite ball skills and range. He exceptionally tracks the football, adjust to its trajectory and disrupts with perfect timing. A true ballhawk, Hooker is the guy you want roaming in deep zones and reading the quarterback’s eyes. He is special in this area.

Best Tackler:  Delano Hill, Michigan

Hill is an outstanding tackler that flies in from the third level to makes tackles in the boundary or in the box. He does well to come to balance and square up the ball carrier. He has secure, wrap up technique and rarely misses.

Most Versatile:  Jamal Adams, LSU

Adams can do everything. He functions in zone, man or in the box. His all-around skills allow the scheme all the diversity it wants. There are no limitations to where he could be lined up and perform at a high level.

Top Sleeper:  Xavier Woods, Louisiana Tech

Xavier Woods delivered a highly productive college career and is a true playmaker on the back end. Woods has exceptional ball skills and the ability to track the football and disrupt at the catch point. He gets a quick jump on the football and projects the flight path exceptionally well.

Woods is willing to fly down into the boundary or box and makes tackles against the run and quick game. Woods projects as a starting free safety that can handle deep zones, short zones and some man situations in the slot.

Check out the rest of the positional superlatives series:

Tight Ends


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Joe Marino

Marino began his career as the Assistant Editor for USA Today Digital Properties Draft Sites Network in 2011. A member of the FWAA, Marino writes about the NFL, College Football and NFL Draft for FanRag Sports.

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