Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number means, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 15, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 16-30 with grades only.
*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS
QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW
The Giants employ a very-hybrid scheme, and that isn’t just what goes on at defensive line. The safeties are very interchangeable. Jabrill Peppers made a big impact throughout the year. The 2022 free agent was a much better fit in this scheme than what we saw in 2019. Will he be here long term? That is the question. If he leaves town, it will be a result of the economics not lining up more than his quality of play. Logan Ryan was a late signing last year. He went on to finishing as the leader of the secondary and another player who benefitted greatly from Patrick Graham’s scheme. He has been such a hybrid corner/safety his entire career, but TEN just couldn’t figure out how to use his talent. After watching TEN closely the past 2 years, a place where defensive backs have gone to die lately, that was more of them than him. Ryan was extended and provides a big-time presence in the secondary. Xavier McKinney is the wildcard of the group, as he missed most of his rookie season with an injury but came back for the final 6 games, starting the final 4, and flashed the talent that made him a 2nd rounder. I feel good about him moving forward. Julian Love, a college cornerback, quietly provides really solid depth at multiple spots. He played in all 16 games, started 6, and finished 4th on the team in tackles.
Overall, this is a strong group that has just one player (Peppers) that is not locked up through 2022. The need for new talent here is not a priority, however with the way safeties are used in this scheme, an extra depth piece with a specialty (whether it be coverage or run defense) is possible.
90+ All Pro Projection
85+: Pro Bowl Projection
81-84: 1st rounder – Should be able to play right away
79-80: 2nd rounder – Should be able to rotate right away – Year 2 starter
77-78: 3rd rounder – Should be able to rotate by end of rookie year – Year 2/3 starter
74-76: Early Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup/possible starter
71-73: Mid Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup / gamble starter
68-70: Late Day 3 – Back end of roster / Practice Squad / Development guy
65-67: Preferred UDFA
60-64: Undrafted FA
TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS
1. Trevon Moehrig / TCU / 6’2-202
Summary: Junior entry from Spring Branch, Texas. Two-year starter that earned postseason honors all three seasons. Won the TCU Special Teams Player of the Year as a freshman and 1st Team All Big 12 honors in both 2019 and 2020. Also named 2020 All American and winner of the Jim Thorpe Award. The team captain has evolved into a premiere safety that can do it all from the middle of the field. He is more than rangy enough in deep zone, showing true sideline to sideline range. He is fast enough, but the glaring positive trait comes from his on-field intelligence. He excels at feeling out the whole field when looking downhill. In addition, Moehrig is an elite level tackler when measuring his success rate, power, and technique. He is a year one starter that will do a lot for a defense and special teams unit respectively.
*In a safety class that looks bleak at the top, Moehrig gets the nod for the best safety prospect by a really wide margin. Don’t make the mistake of thinking he got that label by default, as he is a really good player. When I look at a safety, I want instincts, then tackling, then speed, then size. Moehrig is top-shelf in the first two, and good enough in the next two. Like most safeties, how strong his reputation builds along the next few years very much depends on what team brings him in. If BAL gets their hands on him, a good fit, he can be a star.
2. Andre Cisco / Syracuse / 6’0-209
Summary: Junior entry from Valley Stream, New York. Three-year starter that began his career on fire, earning 1st Team All ACC and 3rd Team All American honors. Earned 2nd Team All ACC honors in 2019. Cisco created a playmaker’s reputation with his ACC leading 7 interceptions as a true freshman and responded with another ACC leading 5 as a sophomore. His 2020 campaign lasted just two games, however, as he tore his ACL. Even then, he brought in another interception Week 1 against North Carolina. Cisco is a credible playmaker that can man the centerfielder role. His instincts, anticipation, and speed make him a rangy and dangerous defender. His burst is elite and as long as he can bounce back well from the ACL surgery, he is going to be a really high ceiling prospect that can fill a role that many teams have a hard time locating. His run defense and physical presence won’t make a big difference, but when he makes plays the way he does, that can take a back seat to a point.
*Cisco has the kind of game that is going to make fans love and hate him. He is going to make plays on the ball, but there were flashes on tape, too many, where he went for the home run when the smart decision would have been take the double. If he were a better tackler and wasn’t coming off the ACL, he could have been 1st rounder on my board. Even though he will be on the field for cover purposes, he needs to enhance his tackling and physical nature. You can get away with being poor in that department as a corner, not safety. Really high upside player.
3. Richie Grant / Central Florida / 6’0-200
Summary: Fifth year senior from Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Three-year starter that earned 1st Team All AAC honors all three seasons. A productive player across the board that totaled 259 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 10 interceptions and 19 pass break ups over his career, Grant has exactly what a lot of defensive coaches look for in a safety. He can play multiple spots at a high level, making him that chess piece from the middle that can play the role of Queen, going anywhere he wants whenever he wants. He has excellent quickness and burst and seems to have really taken a step up in understanding route concepts and running schemes. Grant may not be the most powerful enforcer, but he is a good tackler that can be relied upon. This is a do-it-all safety that should be a starter early in his career.
*I know a few guys more important than me that really like Grant. They see him as a true nickel safety, something more and more teams want now. He shined at the Senior Bowl and in a weird year where there was less tape all around, I am curious if his week down there meant more. I see a player that will thrive in a scheme similar to the one NYG employs, one where the safety is half corner/half safety.
4. Jamien Sherwood / Auburn / 6’1-219
Summary: Junior entry from Jensen Beach, Florida. One-year starter that did see rotational playing time his first two seasons. Sherwood is the prototype when looking for pro box-safeties. He has outstanding size and speed, but also has the skill set to fill multiple roles along the second and third level of the defense. Sherwood had to wait his turn to breach the starting lineup, but he made the most of his opportunity in 2020. He was all over the field on a weekly basis, doing most of his damage in the box. He may not play as physical as his size suggests, but he is a reliable run defender that can also make an impact as a pass defender. He is an ideal matchup for athletic tight ends and has the kind of long speed to take a deep half.
*Sherwood is one of “my guys” in this class. He doesn’t have a lot of starting experience partially because he had a couple NFL safeties playing ahead of him prior to 2020. Sherwood is put together different, which can create false hope. But what stuck out to me was his ability to get in and out of traffic, the ability to make himself small when he needed to be, and his closing burst. He may be there day 3 and if NYG wants to start thinking about post-Peppers when it comes to finding a safety that can play specific linebacker roles, here you go.
5. Hamsah Nasirildeen / Florida State / 6’3-213
Summary: Senior entry from Concord, North Carolina. Three-plus year starter that earned 2nd Team All ACC honors in 2019. Played in just the final 2 games 2020 after it took him nearly a year to recover from a serious leg injury suffered during the end 2019 season. Nasirildeen is a really attractive prospect when looking at his tools and watching him fill in a variety of secondary roles. He led the team in tackles in both 2018 and 2019 while also providing a spark 3 forced fumbles and 3 interceptions over that span. He may not be the most sudden or instinctual player in coverage, but he has an athletic base to work with. Nasirildeen has starter potential in time and will be able to contribute in a limited role right away.
*As is the case with countless prospects this year, there are a lot of questions around Nasirildeen. Since the start of 2019, he played in 14 games. While that isn’t a huge deal, Nasirildeen has been on my radar for a few years now and I really wanted to see more out of him on the field. I think he has 1st round tools and upside, but he never quite proved it. Really high upside prospect that has a shot at being there day 3.
6. Caden Sterns / Texas / 6’1-207
Summary: Junior entry from Cibolo, Texas. Three-year starter that won the job right away as a true freshman in 2018, a season where he won Big 12 Freshman of the Year and earned 1st Team All-Conference honors. Brother of former Kansas City Chief Jordan Sterns. Caden’s career began with a bang but injuries limited him in 2019 and he played in just 7 games over the Covid-shortened 2020 season. He is a versatile safety that does his best work as a deep centerfielder. He is a reliable last line of defense because of his ability to pursue the action with efficient angles and quick acceleration. He excels at making plays on the ball, covering receivers in multiple coverages, and being in the right place at the right time. Sterns won’t add much to the physical presence of a defense, but he is willing to throw his hat into oncoming traffic. This is a smart and versatile player that can do a lot for a secondary.
*I watched a lot of Sterns. Someone in the league I speak with has a 2nd round grade on him. I didn’t see it the first time and I still don’t. I only say that because I think he will go higher than where I have him slotted. He has really fluid hips, good closing speed, and receiver caliber ball skills. I get nervous about prospects who’s best tape was from their freshman year, though.
7. Divine Deablo / Virginia Tech / 6’3-226
Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Two-year starter that made the move from wide receiver to safety in 2017. He played just 4 games before getting injured and missing the rest of the year. Again, fought through injuries in 2018 and did not become the full-time starter until 2019. He then responded by leading the team with 84 tackles before his breakout year in 2020, where he earned 1st Team All ACC honors. Deablo shared the ACC lead with 4 interceptions. He is still figuring out the defensive side of the ball, but Deablo looks like a future starter if he can continue his current path. He still has rawness within his skill set, but there is a combination of size, speed, and playmaking skills that can make a versatile impact at the next level.
*Yet another high upside safety that is still early on the progression scale. If he continues to surge up, he is a definite starter. If this is his peak, he is a solid backup and special teams player. Have to love the size and tackling that shows up and does not come at the expense of making plays in coverage. He doesn’t move with enough balance for my liking and there are multiple issues in coverage against receivers that I am nervous about.
8. Jevon Holland / Oregon / 6’1-196
Summary: Junior entry from Pleasanton, California. Two-year starter that opted out of the 2020 season. 2nd Team All-Pac 12 in 2019 after tying for the conference lead in interceptions with four. Holland was part of the Oregon secondary rotation from the beginning of his freshman season. Even though he started just 2 games in 2018, he still played a lot of snaps in multiple roles. He is best suited for a box-safety type role that can shift out to the nickel in some looks. He is slightly undersized for that role, but he plays tough and is a good tackler. Holland is a bit of a gambler in coverage. It obviously worked out well (9 interceptions in 2 years), but it can be exposed and toyed with if he is in deep coverage. He is a chess piece for a secondary that should be used in more man coverage and underneath roaming-type roles. In the right system, he has starter-potential in addition to adding special teams value.
*Not an ideal fit for every scheme, Holland is another one I think may go on day 2 based on what I’ve heard. He is a gambler, a fun player to watch. But I am being stubborn in my thought process when it comes to the guys that completely opted out of 2020. If they didn’t completely, utterly win me over prior to, I am not upgrading them at all. Some don’t agree with that stance, and that is fine.
9. Mark Webb / Georgia / 6’0-210
Summary: Senior entry from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Two-year starter that earned a team award for his versatility in 2019. Webb was in a very talented secondary filled with future NFL players. His role was moved around week to week and even snap to snap in some cases. His size and power presence is a better fit for the safety position but he can, in certain packages, play the nickel. His coverage ability against tight ends and physical nature in the box should carve out a role for him in any defense in addition to providing solid special teams play.
* Summary: Senior entry from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Two-year starter that earned a team award for his versatility in 2019. Webb was in a very talented secondary filled with future NFL players. His role was moved around week to week and even snap to snap in some cases. His size and power presence are a better fit for the safety position, but he can, in certain packages, play the nickel. His coverage ability against tight ends and physical nature in the box should carve out a role for him in any defense in addition to providing solid special teams play.
*The name Logan Ryan came up in my head when watching him in 2020. Not on the same level, but a similar player. One that probably can’t handle life on an island as a corner, but one that can add extra dimensions as a safety. He worked out well at his pro day. Smart kid, hard worker, good enough athlete.
10. Jamar Johnson / Indiana / 6’1-197
Summary: Junior entry from Sarasota, Florida. One-year starter that was in the heavy rotation in addition the season prior. 1st Team All Big 10 in 2020. Johnson was a key playmaker for one of the most surprising teams in the nation. He totaled 9 takeaways over his career, including 4 interceptions (2 against Ohio State) over his final 4 games. The former nickel moved inside to safety and started to really turn the corner over the second half of the shortened season. There are holes in his game when it comes to deep coverage and tackling techniques, but he is a player worth trying to develop. He can be multiple in the secondary, plays with good instincts, and won’t shy from downhill aggression.
*This nickel safety we keep talking about is a role made for Johnson, a former cornerback. Johnson was actually one of the first underclassmen I scouted in January when I started looking at guys I didn’t watch in-season. His flow to the ball stood out to me. He has something natural in him that doesn’t come around often. I have a hard time really liking him though, as he doesn’t do well against vertical routes and he isn’t a good tackler.
11. Paris Ford / Pittsburgh / 6’0-197
Summary: Fourth year junior from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Two-year starter that earned all ACC honors both seasons, including 1st Team in 2019. Ford opted out after the first 7 weeks of the 2020 season, giving him just 20 career starts. The former cornerback is still raw when it comes to certain techniques and nuances, but he has top tier instincts for the position that produced great results in his limited time. He had 6 career interceptions and averaged over 7 tackles per game. Ford is a fun player to watch, as he is an undersized but effective enforcer in the box. He comes downhill like a missile and puts every ounce of himself into a hit. That quickness and speed translate to twitchy and rangy coverage as well. While there are some emotional habits that get him into trouble on the field, this is the kind of defender that will spike the energy upward on a defense right away. He has such a loose, bendy lower half that goes along well with his naturally instinctive play. He is a really high ceiling safety that brings a fair amount of risk as well.
*Full disclosure, I initially gave Ford a 3rd round grade based on tape alone. He was different. I wrote down the name “Ed Reed” when it came to his body, movement, and overall impact. As the scouting process went on though, it was clear I overshot him a tad. He has long speed issues, which showed up in a very ugly way at his pro day. He ran a slow time for defensive ends and tight ends, let alone safety. He also had a horrific overall workout there. I later found out he didn’t want to train for those drills, thus did not hire a coach. That is unheard of. There are a few character issues here. I won’t cross him off though, I like his tape too much. He is worth a day 3 pick.
12. Talanoa Hufanga / USC / 6’1-210
Summary: Junior entry from Corvallis, Oregon. Three-year starter that saved his best for last, earning 1st Team All-Pac 12 honors and won the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year Award as a junior. Also, a 1st Team All American. Hufanga was a dominant force in the shortened 2020 season, averaging over 10 tackles per contest and brought in 4 interceptions in just 6 games. He is a box-safety that has a knack for getting around and to the action nearly every play. He has physical shortcomings when it comes to speed that do get exposed in space, however. He doesn’t have the gear to stay with NFL receivers in coverage and he won’t catch ball carriers from behind. If he can be protected over the top and avoid man coverage against receivers, he will impact the game as a run defender and blitzing safety.
*Hufanga is training with Troy Polamalu leading up to the draft. It is hard not to think about Polamalu while watching Hufanga on tape. Honestly though, it has more to do with body type, uniform, and hair as funny as that may seem. They aren’t in the same stratosphere when it comes to athleticism, which is the main reason Polamalu was what he was. Hufanga doesn’t move with the same twitch, but I do like the hustle and impact he can make against the run and short passing game. Limited player, but can fill a solid role.
13. Richard LeCounte III / Georgia / 5’10-196
Summary: Senior entry from Riceboro, Georgia. Three-year starter that has been one of the most productive defenders on the Bulldogs defense over that span. LeCounte led the team in tackles in 2018, led the team in interceptions in 2019, and led the team in interceptions per game in 2020. His senior year was cut short by a traffic accident that forced him to miss the final 4 games and majority of their bowl game. He is a smart and heady player that comes across bigger than his listed size because of how reliable he is against the run. His tackling is top tier and his ability to make plays on the ball will make him serviceable against the pass. Some teams may look past him because there is a low ceiling that stems from below average tools, but LeCounte is a football player at a position that is so reliant on intelligence and instincts. He checks enough boxes to be considered a solid number three safety and eventual starter.
*I have a tendency to be a sucker for guys that play smart. LeCounte is one of the smartest safeties in the class and that was verified by his coaches. He just doesn’t have the top end speed to always take advantage of it. I still think it can pass as “good enough”. After all, he started 3 years in the SEC and played well.
14. Damar Hamlin / Pittsburgh / 6’1-201
Summary: Fifth year senior from McKees Rock, Pennsylvania. Three-year starter that earned 2nd Team All ACC honors in 2020, Honorable Mention in 2018. Hamlin has led the Panthers in tackles over the three-year period in which he was a starter. After being injured multiple times over his first two seasons, he was a consistent and reliable leader for the entire defensive unit. He was a shot caller from the back end that put others in position while consistently being a right place, right time defender himself. He was productive across the board and showed every down versatility. Hamlin’s deep speed does not leave a lot of margin for error, however. He doesn’t catch up well and lacks the quick burst to turn and run. He has some hit or miss to his game as a run defender as well. He could be an ideal fit for a backup role that sees snaps every week with the upside of developing into a quality starter. High floor, low ceiling type.
*Hamlin is another name that many in the know rave about when it comes to intelligence. He was the shot caller of that defense and it was hard to find tape where he was out of place. He got burned deep so many times when I saw him though. He doesn’t turn well. I think he can be a core special teamer though, one that makes a living based on that alone. Will he make an impact at safety? I don’t see it, but there are worse safeties on pro depth charts right now.
15. Jacoby Stevens / LSU / 6’1-216
Summary: Senior entry from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Three-year starter that was named 2nd Team All SEC in 2019 for the National Champion Tigers. Stevens was a chess piece that was moved all over the scheme pre-snap. He was a shot caller that put his teammates into position as well. This is a versatile and smart player that can get to the right place at the right time and produce. The issue that will put question marks around his name revolves around his top end athletic ability. Stevens was a 5-star recruit and even played some wide receiver early in his career, but he never got to a point where he played fast or explosive in space. He gets toyed with in coverage against NFL caliber speed and quickness. He will need a specific box-safety role that has some similarities to what a linebacker is asked to do. He can be a solid rotational piece that is package-specific.
*I am really curious to see where Stevens goes. Some teams look at him as a linebacker, one that came come on the field in Dime packages and play the role of linebacker-safety hybrid. He still has some to learn about playing defense and that could be part of why he looked too slow at times. When you don’t process information well, it makes you play slower than you are. Stevens has some untapped upside for that reason.
16. Joshuah Bledsoe / Missouri / 5’11-201: 70
17. Ar’Darius Washington / TCU / 5’8-178: 70
18. James Wiggins / Cincinnati / 6’0-205: 70
19. Tyree Gillespie / Missouri / 5’11-207: 70
20. Brady Breeze / Oregon / 6’0-196: 69
21. Tariq Thompson / San Diego State / 6’0-200: 69
22. Jordyn Peters / Auburn / 6’1-195: 68
23. Christian Uphoff / Illinois State / 6’3-213: 68
24. Lamont Wade / Penn State / 5’9-188: 68
25. Shawn Davis / Florida / 5’11-202: 67
26. Darrick Forrest / Cincinnati / 5”11-206: 66
27. Eric Burrell / Wisconsin / 5’11-201: 65
28. Troy Warner / BYU / 6’1-201: 64
29. Ben DeLuca / Charlotte / 6’1-215: 64
30. Dwayne Johnson Jr / San Diego State: 64
Safety is maybe the one spot on this roster where you don’t see a spot for a rookie. They have four guys who can be in the weekly rotation, four guys who can play multiple spots and roles, four guys who are young and healthy. While there will be several other pressing needs and holes to fill, this is a spot that if I see a value day three, I still very much think a pick can be used on one. Do you prefer a box-safety to potentially groom behind Peppers should he not be here in 2021? Do you prefer a nickel-safety who can play some corner similar to what they have in Ryan? Or do you want a true centerfielder, as they are really hard to find and may be worth a “shot in the dark.” There are a lot of good safeties in the league that were found on day 3 and it is largely a result of the scheme and surrounding talent. If NYG sees a value slip into round 5 or later, I am fine with pulling the trigger there. He better be able to fill in on special teams though.