New York Giants 2016 NFL Draft Preview: Safeties
by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56
*These rankings and grades are based somewhat on NYG schemes and perspective.
WHERE THEY STAND
Similar to LB, NYG has really struggled to find the right mix of talent and experience in the middle of their secondary for quite some time now. They’ve made several efforts to piece together their duo via middle of the road free agents and quite a few draft picks. Last year they traded up for Landon Collins and after an up and down rookie year, there are questions about his ability to be the guy that is going to make a real difference. Next to him there is an open competition between Bennett Jackson, Mykelle Thompson, Nat Berhe, and Cooper Taylor. The first three of those names all missed 2015 with injuries and offer minimal experience. Taylor appears to be a special teamer-only. This team needs a cover-first guy in the middle sorely.
TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS
1 – JALEN RAMSEY – 6’1/209 – FLORIDA STATE: 88
Junior entry. Has been a starter in the defensive backfield since the day he arrived at Florida State. Also ran track for the Seminoles, winning the ACC indoor and outdoor Long Jump Championship. Ramsey is as athletically gifted as anyone in this draft class. His experience as a an All American caliber safety and cornerback make him a candidate for being the top overall grade. Ramsey is an ultra aggressive, talented, and smart defender that can do it all. If he can clean up some technique flaws, his future as a shutdown cornerback will arrive very soon. Some teams could however see him as a safety where his versatility can be more widely uses. Either way, he has special written all over him if he can simply mature.
*Ramsey appears destined for the top 5 and most people are thinking he’ll get a shot at CB before S. I don’t look down on that decision at all, as I think he could be a Richard Sherman type if he cleans up technique. But I will say this, Ramsey was much more impressive in 2014 than he was in 2015. He is a missile from the safety spot that can be a terror in the box but also shows range to own a deep half with ease. As a CB, Ramsey has a lot of sloppy mechanics and he is so high-hipped, quicker route runners can give him trouble. That issue doesn’t show up at safety nearly as much. If this kid wants to come in to the league and work, he immediately becomes one of the best safeties in the game.
Upside Pro Comparison: Eric Berry/KC
2 – VONN BELL – 5’11/205 – OHIO STATE: 82
Junior entry. Former top tier high school recruit that took awhile to really earn his playing time for the Buckeyes. Quickly became an All American safety mainly for his knack for the big plays when the biggest games were on the line. Bell can be a major factor in any kind of coverage role. He can move as well as some corners in man coverage but also shows the instincts and reaction ability to play in a deep zone. He is physical enough but lacks impact when moving downhill. He is best suited in space and away from traffic. Bell has the upside of a very good free safety that will, however, always have limits to his run defending impact.
*It took me a little bit of time to come around and put the 1st round grade on Bell. At first glance I wasn’t as impressed. He isn’t big and he didn’t make any plays in my first few games of his. But as the tapes came in I noticed how consistent and reliable this kid is on the back end. He might be the best tackler of the group and NYG has had an issue with that out of their safeties for far too long now. Bell is not a big time difference maker in the box but he shows such good instincts and anticipation that he constantly gets near the action. Bell saves his best for when the team needs it most. He’s shown the knack for making the savvy-big plays. He would be the perfect compliment to Landon Collins. Top 10? No. But round 2 or somehow a late round 1 target? Absolutely.
Upside Pro Comparison: Devin McCourty/NE
3 – SEAN DAVIS – 6’1/201 – MARYLAND: 81
Three year starter that has split time between cornerback and safety. Has consistently been one of the top tacklers on the Terrapins defense all three seasons. Davis excels at taking down ball carriers in space. He ranks among the all time leaders in Maryland history in solo tackles. It’s a trait that is very hard to find in this era of football. Davis may be viewed as a cornerback for some teams because of his ability to easily flip his hips in coverage and stick to a receiver’s back pocket. Davis’ glaring weakness is a lack of top end ball skills. He is often in position to make plays but he didn’t get his hands on a lot of balls in college. His versatility and consistency could land him an important role within an NFL defense very early on.
*Again depending on who you ask and what defensive scheme we are talking about, Davis is equally viewed as a S and CB. I picked S because of his skill set but he played a very good CB in 2014 against NFL-caliber competition. Davis is a competitor. He will come downhill hard and make tough tackles with no hesitation. He has really good ball skills and will be fully capable of running with anyone downfield. I think there are some zone coverage techniques that he needs work on and he could use some extra bulk for his style of play, but he has a really high ceiling. Davis can be a major weapon in the NYG secondary and probably has more CB ability than Ramsey. I really like this kid and his performance at the Senior Bowl was among the best down there. He can shine in the right role.
Upside Pro Comparison: Malcolm Jenkins/PHI
4 – KARL JOSEPH – 5’10/205 – WEST VIRGINIA: 80
Fourth year senior that has been starting since the day he stepped on campus and has been a stand out performer. Tore his ACL in a non-contact practice drill in the beginning of October. At the time Joseph was leading the nation in interceptions with 5 after just 4 games. His ability to impact the running game via physical nature and relentless pursuit can be used as a vital weapon to any defense in the league. If he can learn to temper his aggression enough to not miss tackles in space and be toyed with on double moves, he can be a high impact defensive back. Joseph may miss some time leading up to the 2016 season, but he is expected to be on the field at some point.
*If it weren’t for the injury, Joseph would be ahead of Bell and Davis. So if a team doctor is completely sure he is going to make a full recovery, I have no issues with this kid being on the top 15 of an overall board. Joseph has superstar potential. He excels at playing the roaming playmaker role. Put him 7-8 yards off the ball and tell him to chase, and I bet he turns over 100 tackles with multiple game changing plays year in, year out. Joseph’s knock was he wasn’t very good in coverage prior to 2015. He took it personal, worked his butt off on the practice field and in the film room, and ended up with a nation leading 5 interceptions through 4 games before he tore the ACL. Joseph probably won’t play until midseason and for rookies, that often leads to sitting out the whole year. Risky pick here but this kid has star written all over him.
Upside Pro Comparison: Troy Polamalu/RET
5 – JUSTIN SIMMONS – 6’2/203 – BOSTON COLLEGE: 80[/b[
Fourth year senior and two year starter. Has experience at safety and cornerback. 2nd Team All ACC in 2015 led the Eagles with 5 interceptions while racking up 67 tackles. Versatile skill set that allows him to be an every down force no matter the situation. Explosive from a standstill and will close that ten yard window as dast as anyone. Finishes plays off with force and reliable wrap up tackling. Has cornerback-caliber coverage ability when me mans a receiver up. Shows good instincts and reactions as a zone defender. Will need to add some bulk to his wory frame if he can sustain his style of play in the physical NFL. Needs to simply add more body control to his coverage movement. High upside prospect.
*There isn’t much to dislike here with Simmons. He tackles exceptionally well whether he is the last line of defense in space or on the move laterally. In coverage Simmons reacts well to the ball if he is manning someone up or sitting back in zone. He is still a bit raw when it comes to body control and locating the ball on the move, but I think he earned a 1st round grade here. Simmons is smart and productive across the board and would be an ideal fit net to Collins. He is in the discussion for a 2nd round pick.
Upside Pro Comparison: Will Hill/BAL
[b]6 – TYVIS POWELL – 6’3/211 – OHIO STATE: 77
Fourth year junior entry. Two year starter that works best in the box. The further Powell gets in to deep coverage, the more exposed he can be. His ability to roam the ten yard window within the line if scrimmage can be used effectively, however. He reads the quarterback well and is consistently moving towards the action. His upside is limited but this savvy defender with natural leadership qualities can find his way on to a roster and stick as a backup.
*My initial report on Powell was a very average one. But like Bell, the more tapes that came in the more I saw an NFL-caliber safety that could make a contribution early on. Powell struggles a bit in space and I don’t think he is the guy you want roaming CF next to Collins, but he has a tool set and good reaction skills that make me think he can be a very good contributor. Again,, reliable tackler with constant positive movement towards the action. He has a high ceiling.
Upside Pro Comparison: George Iloka/CIN
7 – DARIAN THOMPSON – 6’2/208 – BOISE STATE: 75
Four year starter. Leaves school as the Mountain West Conference’s all time leader in career interceptions with 19. He is equally comfortable and effective in space and approaching the line of scrimmage. His smooth movement and decisive actions constantly put him where he needed to be against both the run and pass. He lacks a big physical presence and he isn’t a top tier athlete, but he gets the most out of what he does have. There are legit ball skills here. The numbers are supported with his play.
*Thompson is well-liked by a lot of people. I think the draw here is that he can play multiple roles in the secondary on command without hesitation. He doesn’t have a specialty. So for the teams that like to interchange guys up and down will look at Thompson and see that he can do everything at a high level. I question his ability to make the same impact on the NFL as he did the MWC however. I’m hesitant to put a starter label on him unless you know he can bulk a little and hang with pro receivers downfield. At the very least he can be a very good backup.
Upside Pro Comparison: Dwight Lowery/SD
8 – KEANU NEAL – 6’0/211 – FLORIDA: 75
Junior entry and two year starter. Wiry frame capable of the missle role to support the run and easy hip movement in deep coverage. Can wear multiple hats and will always be near the action. Has a nose for the ball. Will show plenty of range to the sidelines whether he is pursuing the run or defending the pass. Needs to work on coverage techniques and mechanics but showed a lot of improvement in 2015 alone. Will give a coach the option where he wants to put him because of his versatility and ability to learn quickly.
*Neal has the upside of almost everyone above him on this list. He really turned it on at times in 2015 and stole the show while I watched Hargreaves tape. He is all over the place every week. You win with guys that are constantly flying around, swarming towards the action. His question is how good he can be in coverage? I would have like to see him move backwards a little better. Still a very solid prospect here.
Upside Pro Comparison: Reshad Jones/MIA
9 – JEREMY CASH – 6’0/212 – DUKE: 75
Fifth year senior that started off at Ohio State. Lasted only a year there and at out 2012 due to the transfer rules. Three year starter for the Blue Devils. ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2015 in a conference loaded with talent. Played a hybrid LB/S role for Duke and may need to do the same in the NFL. Sort of similar to what we see in ARI with Deone Bucanon. He can do everything really well against the run. Makes a ton of tackles. He wasn’t used much in deep coverage and WRs were able to separate from him. Cash needs a specific role in the NFL. If you don’t overload him with coverage responsibilities he can thrive. But put too much on his plate and he is likely going to struggle.
*Cash is a 1st rounder according to some. Personally I don’t see it. He is a lesser version of Landon Collins with not as much upside. He can be a very good fit on a team that wants a hybrid LB/S, but he wouldn’t fit in wit NYG unless they wanted to move him or Collins to full time LB. He can be a stud or dud that is very much dependent on the scheme and role he is put in to.
Upside Pro Comparison: Da’Norris Searcy/TEN
10 – KJ DILLON – 6’0/203 – WEST VIRGINIA: 74
Year and a half starter. Late bloomer type that helped his own stock as much as anyone via 2015 performance. He stood out to me early in the year when scouting Joseph with his versatile skill set that is actually similar to what Joseph brings to the table. Shows easy hips and light feet with good instincts and reaction. Has a physical side to him. Really stepped up after Joseph went down and took on the leadership role in their secondary. He can fill multiple roles back there. We are talking potential starter or package player.
*Dillon was impressive on tape. He looks slight at first but the more you watch, the more you see him fire down from the secondary and fill lanes hard. It’s always a good thing when you have to re-check the jersey number to make sure it’s not Joseph you are watching when he is on the field. He may not be a high ceiling talent but he can play a dependable role in the secondary as a primary backup and package guy.
Upside Pro Comparison: Tashaun Gipson/JAC
11 – JORDAN LUCAS – 6’0/201 – PENN STATE: 73
Fourth year senior. 2015 was cut short due to a shoulder injury that should be fully healed before training camp. Has experience at CB and S. Very productive player that got his hands on a lot of balls. Quick and efficient mover that reacts well to the ball in the air. Can alter his weight when moving hard after the ball with ease. Very smart and instinctive. Lacks the ideal size for the position and won’t make the physical impact in the box that you want out of a safety. Cover 2 defenses can still see him as a corner.
*Lucas doesn’t get a lot of attention. We aren’t talking star here but he is attractive to me as an early day 3 guy because of the position versatility. I view him as a safety that is fully capable of switching to a CB role in certain packages. He will be a a solid special teamer as well.
Upside Pro Comparison: Corey Graham/BUF
12 – DEANDRE HOUSTON-CARSON – 6’1/201 – WILLIAM & MARY: 73
Fourth year senior that started all four years. Was a highly decorated FCS player that ended his career as a Consensus All American and Colonial Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Really versatile guy that loves to chase down the action and will tackle anyone in space. Delivers a violent pop to ball carriers and shows tremendous range to the sidelines. Smooth and easy mover in coverage. Finds a way to make an impact on almost every player. A blue collar hustler that will work his way in to a lineup. Needs to show more production as a pass defender and may have a hard time adjusting to NFL speed.
*Houston-Carson is on a lot of sleeper lists. His lower level of competition will make it a tough transition to the league but his style of play is what a lot of us want to see out of a safety. He can support the run very well but he also shows the movement in coverage. Guys that were close to that level of college football say he is the best safety to come out of there in over a decade. There may be something here with this kid if you can be patient.
Upside Pro Comparison: Kenny Vaccaro/NO
13 – DEON BUSH – 6’0/199 – MIAMI: 73
Fourth year senior that has been making an impact on that defense from the beginning. Named the team’s newcomer of the year in 2012 and hopes were high. He made a lot of highlight reel plays early on but as his career went on, he never quite took the next step. He fought through some nagging injuries throughout his career and had some off field family issues. A lot went against this kid and nobody can deny his upside. He can be a player. He is very inconsistent on tape with poor tackling in the open field and stiff hips in man coverage. He doesn’t have the feel in deep coverage either. He needs a specific role but there is promise.
*Bush is a guy that someone is going to take a chance on. What we saw out of him early in his career and this past season is enough for some to think he is a top 100 guy. He has good triangle numbers, enforces the middle of the field, and shows the off field intangibles you want out of a defensive leader. Bush doesn’t have the ideal ability or skill set that I look for, especially for what NYG needs at the moment, though.
Upside Pro Comparison: Morgan Burnett/GB
14 – MILES KILLEBREW – 6’2/217 – SOUTHERN UTAH: 72
Four year starter. 1st Team All American at the FCS level in 2015. Physical bruiser type that makes his presence known consistently. You hear a different sound when he hits someone on the move. He can really bring it. Explosive from a standstill and will close gaps in pursuit very fast with power. Will make the effort to wrap up and tackle with proper mechanics. Stiff in deep coverage and won’t run with receivers downfield. Shows promise as an underneath cover man though. Will be making a big jump in competition and some teams still see him as a linebacker despite a strong combine.
*Killebrew is a fun defender to watch. He lays the lumber week in and week out and you pretty much know what you are getting there. He will be a fourth linebacker essentially but I am unsure of his ability to cover NFL WRs and TEs. He performed well at the combine but his feet looked heavy at the Senior Bowl. He isn’t as instinctive when defending the pass. Maybe not the fit NYG needs unless they want a backup for Collins.
Upside Pro Comparison: Bernard Pollard/UFA
15 – KAVON FRAZIER – 6’0/217 – CENTRAL MICHIGAN: 72
Fourth year senior and three year starter. 2nd Team All MAC. Freight train type strong safety that defends the run like a linebacker. Some teams may view him as an undersized but speedy WILL prospect. Has good straight line speed and reaction. Explosive downhill guy that will fill lanes and cover tight ends. Has tight hips and unsure feet in coverage. He won’t excel in deep coverage and he probably can’t stick with receivers in space.
*Frazier looks like a special teams stud that could evolve in to a box threat on defense. A guy that you have approaching the line of scrimmage consistently and providing extra support against the run. I wouldn’t feel confident with giving him major responsibilities in coverage though. He lacks the feel and quick hips to change direction and stick to a receiver. There are guys that really like him though. He could sneak in to the top 100 overall.
Upside Pro Comparison: James Ihedigobo/DET
THE REST (16-25)
16 – JAMES BRADBERRY – 6’1/211 – SAMFORD: 70
17 – TEVIN CARTER – 6’1/218 – UTAH: 70
18 – ELIJAH SHUMATE – 6’0/216 – NOTRE DAME: 70
19 – TJ GREEN – 6’2/209 – CLEMSON: 70
20 – DERRICK KINDRED – 5’10/207 – TCU: 68
21 – MICHAEL CAPUTO – 6’1/205 – WISCONSIN: 68
22 – TRAE ELSTON – 5’11/195 – OLE MISS: 67
23 – AJ STAMPS – 5’11/193 – KENTUCKY: 67
24 – JAYRON KEARSE – 6’4/216 – CLEMSON: 65
25 – JORDAN LOMAX – 5’10/202 – IOWA: 65
Similar to linebacker, the safety spot has been a position of constant change. They’ve tried to piece it together cheaply with late draft picks and under the radar free agents. You only have so many picks and so much money to spend though, so your approach at a few positions needs to be that way. This would be a good year to get aggressive at the safety position in the draft. I have 1st round grades on guys that you could likely grab in round 2, possibly round 3. Landon Collins is a solid strong safety but he will be even better if there is a more reliable presence next to him. There isn’t anyone on the roster that will enter my mind when trying to decide if grabbing a safety at any point in the draft is the right move. NYG will have an opportunity day 2 to bring in a kid that can start in year one and considering how easily they get beat in the middle of the field, it may be time.