Draft Grade Index:

90+ All-Pro Projection

85-89: Pro Bowl Projection

81-84: 1st Round – Year 1 starter

77-80: 2nd/3rd Round – Year 1 contributor, year 2-3 starter

74-76: Early Day 3: Core special teamer and rotational player

71-74: Mid Day 3: Core special teamer and backup

68-70: Late Day 3: Developmental and special teamer


1) Cooper DeJean – Iowa – 6’1 / 203

Grade: 85

Junior entry. Two-year starter at cornerback where he earned first team All-Big Ten honors both seasons. Also an All-American return specialist. The star athlete was a state champion long jumper and short distance runner in high school. The elite tester plays with the quiet, smooth confidence and high-IQ that can credibly project him to multiple defensive back spots. The majority of his college career was spent at outside corner, but his best football is in a nickel and/or safety role where he can play downhill. There are multiple losses on tape where the tight, rigid movement in his lower half shows up. Once he gets going, DeJean is more than fast enough. However, tasking him to cover a shifty but also explosive wide receiver in space would not work well. DeJean’s value will come inside and on special teams. He can make a credible case to be the top punt returner in the class and he has three pick sixes to his name. Let him work the middle of the field on defense and he will provide quality run defense when there are extra defensive backs on the field, but also provide excellent coverage without being left alone on an island.

*Most view DeJean as a cornerback. I graded him there and he was significantly lower and I believe part of the increase number he has here stems from the versatility It is simply easier to use his versatility in this role. DeJean is a plus-version of Brian Branch. Similar style and role (Branch was at safety but really he was a nickel) and this is where I think DeJean projects best. He is smart and explosive. Savvy and quick. Physical and coordinated. The Giants will only have a spot for him if they trade out of the top ten but if you’re asking how you find a guy that solves multiple potential issues in this secondary, DeJean is the name that comes to mind. This kid is an absolute stud. And I didn’t even mention the fact he could be a top five returner right away.

2) Javon Bullard – Georgia – 5’10 / 198

Grade: 82

Junior entry. Two-year starter. All-SEC in 2023. Bullard is a chess piece for the secondary that played most of his career at free safety and nickel. His skill set and style of play fits both spots. There are two standout traits in his game. He is incredibly instinctive and intelligent, and he shows tremendous quickness once he makes up his mind. Combining those two together and the way Georgia used him is an accurate glimpse of what to expect at the next level. With NFL defenses spending more time with an extra defensive back on the field than an extra linebacker, Bullard’s fit stands out. He is an elite tackler in space and shows the toughness and assignment-savvy decision maker to factor in traffic. This is an undersized, but physical and aggressive general of the defense that will be ready for a multi-role position right away. If he can hold up and stay on the field, Bullard will be the next impact defender coming from the Georgia program.

*Bullard was the absolute bottom-ranked recruit in the 2021 freshman class. He worked his way up to one of the team leaders and 2022 National Championship Game MVP. Bullard is a fun dude to watch. For teams looking at DeJean as a hybrid safety/nickel type at the next level, Bullard is a really solid consolation prize. He is a yoked up, twitchy defender that is going to be around the ball often. If you’re a guy that values size, however, Bullard’s short wingspan and height is a tough sell. He is going to have a hard time in some specific situations against bigger targets.

3) Tyler Nubin – Minnesota – 6’1 / 205

Grade: 81

Fifth year senior. Three-year starter. All-Big. Ten three straight years, first team in 2023 in addition to second team All-American honors. Nubin is one of the most experienced defensive backs in the class and one that contributed on special teams all five seasons. He led the Gophers on special teams tackles in both 2020 and 2023, a taste of his usage and impact along multiple mediums on a roster. At safety, Nubin improved his tackling year after year. He is both physical and technically sound, smart and aggressive. The ideal combination of traits as the final line of defense will be there for the team that brings him in. While his movement traits are good enough, there are issues with him playing a deep coverage role that needs to reach the sideline against vertical speed. His downhill bias has put him in bad spots and that fluidity to turn and catch up is not there. While some of those issues can be hidden with his excellent and consistent instincts and intelligence, he will not be the guy that can carry a secondary. Instead, he will be the reliable underneath and intermediate defender that can direct traffic and make plays on the ball when the opportunities are there. His 13 career interceptions set a program record and are top five all time in Big Ten history among safeties.

*Nubin is a guy you will like on tape 90% of the time but then you occasionally see something that worries you. He has the look, he has the footwork, and the dude made plays every year. 1 interception in 2020, 3 in 2021, 4 in 2022, 5 in 2023. All these boxes get checked left and right but the athletic profile for a guy that needs to play with a lot of range is questionable. He is a borderline first rounder for me but the elite special teams performance over his career could easily break the tie between him and someone else. High floor, limited ceiling.

4) Cole Bishop – Utah – 6’2 / 206

Grade: 81

Junior entry, three-year starter. Three-time All-Pac 12. Bishop is one of the top tools + production defensive backs in the class. Combining his on-field production over his career with his incredible testing performance verifies the likelihood of him being an impact safety early in his career. Bishop is clean across the board. His intelligence and decision making stand out on tape, as does his range against the deep passing game. He was equally distributed throughout the defense, often lining up as an extra linebacker in short yardage situations but then in split safety looks on sure-passing downs. He truly is an interchangeable weapon for the defense that will give a playcaller several options. While Bishop does not play small, he does lack length and it shows up when he takes on blockers. He has a hard time disengaging and there are some balls he simply cannot get to in coverage. He is not the perfect prospect physically, but there are several ways he can hide his shortcomings. Bishop is a year-one starter with Pro Bowl potential.

*I knew I was going to view Bishop as a starter, but I did not see the first-round grade coming. His testing numbers got him over the hump. He truly is a top two percentile kind of guy when looking at the speed and size. The safety class as a whole surprised me at the top. Bishop was the final one the exceeded expectations. The lack of length can be a problem if he is matched with tight ends and there could be tackle issues, something I loathe in a safety. The good far outweighs the bad here and the weaknesses are more projection based than reality.

5) Dadrion Taylor-Demerson – Texas Tech – 5’10 / 197

Grade: 79

Fifth-year senior, three-year starter. Two-time All-Big 12. Taylor-Demers was an all state running back and state champion track star in high school. A late audible to his college recruitment shifted him to safety prior to starting his career with the Red Raiders. After learning the position and that side of the ball, Taylor-Demers led the team in interceptions each of his final three seasons (he had ten of them from the start of 2021). This is an explosive classic free safety type that plays with tremendous range and forecasting. Considering he is still relatively new to the position, it is safe to assume his angles and instincts will continue to improve. Taylor-Demers has the speed and burst to cover a lot of ground in deep coverage, and he has proven the ability to finish when he gets there. The lack of size could limit him in specific roles of the position, but he plays strong and aggressive. Taylor-Demers will only add physicality to a defensive backfield. This is a complete player with plenty of margin to chew off still and could end as a top-tier safety in the league.

*If I had to choose a certain brand of safety NYG could add to the room after losing Xavier McKinney, it is a guy that can play a deep half or single high with the proven ability to make plays on the ball. As much as I know and believe the offense needs multiple grades, there is still a pull towards building a real defense that gets after the passer and is filled with high-upside guys that make plays. While turnovers are somewhat luck-based, Taylor-Demerson is a guy that has all the boxes checked to be a game-changer. I would like to see him added to the current group.

6) Dominique Hampton – Washington – 6’2 / 213

Grade: 79

Sixth-year senior, two-year starter. All-Pac 12 in 2023. Hampton had a hard time getting on the field for his first three seasons while at cornerback. He moved to safety in 2021, stating and staying on a constant ascent. He has the prototype body and physicality for the position and as he gained confidence and experience, we got a glimpse of him being a well-balanced starting caliber safety. His movement in coverage stands out, as you can see the former corner in him. The question will be whether or not he can turn into a true playmaker. He did not have an interception in 57 of his 59 games and he will turn 24 years old prior to training camp. Despite the age, Hampton is early on the curve at safety and he only got better year after year.

*I liked Hampton the more I watched the Washington defense. He was their “glue guy”. He is an emotional leader that can enhance the personality of a defense, a n enforcer-type. The lack of playmaking ability combined with his age makes him a risk, no question. But I look forward to seeing him in the NFL, he simply looks and plays like a pro.

7) Jaden Hicks – Washington State – 6’2 / 211

Grade: 78

Redshirt sophomore entry. Two-year starter. All-Pac 12 in 2023. Hicks essentially went two straight years without playing football. His senior season of high school was canceled because Covid and then he redshirted in 2021 after playing in just one game. He put himself on the map in 2022 but then took it to another level in 2023. The intrigue here is how early he is on the curve combined with the ideal safety frame. Hicks plays heavy when it comes to hitting ball carriers but plays light when it comes to pursuit speed. He is all over the field and does damage when he gets there. The inexperience shows up in several ways, however. Hicks is often found out of position and gets fooled by misdirection weekly. He is a guesser. When he is right, he knows how to finish and make plays. When he is wrong, the opposition is getting an explosive play or worse. Hicks has a ton of hit or miss to his game but if he learns to be more disciplined and can be kept out of significant coverage roles, he will be an physical energy stick for a defense that can make big plays.

*I am a bit lower on Hicks than most. Most believe he will be a top 45 pick and NYG will likely have him on their radar in the second round. Hicks is a highlight player. What I mean is you can spend 10 minutes on his best tape and you will easily fall in love with what he can be. He truly is a fun player to watch. My fear with his tape stems from poor angles, obvious guessing, and a lack of adjustment-based quickness. His style is for an in-the-box weapon, and I love the size. Just not sure I see a guy a true difference maker.

8) Calen Bullock – USC – 6’2 / 188

Grade: 77

Junior entry. Three-year starter. Two-time All-Pac 12, first team in 2023. Bullock began his career as a starting safety, nickel, and cornerback. He settled into safety in year two, but there is a chance he could project to any of those spots listed above at the next level. Bullock has standout speed and length with an easy, fluid-moving lower body. He is tremendously light on his feet and plays with a low center of gravity considering his high-hipped body type. Bullock can attack the ball like a receiver, and it led to nine interceptions in three years. The fluidity he shows will create potential ballhawk roles for him but there needs to be an improvement in his recognition time. Bullock is often late and seems to use a lot of guess work in his game. Add in the fact he is a liability against the run and his body type does not fit in with some schemes at safety, we could see a move to outside corner early in his career. No matter we he ends up, Bullock’s future will be tied to how often he can create the big plays because without them, he is a backup at best.

*Grading a safety at 188 pounds is almost a non-starter for me. But even with increased positional value, his grade at corner would have been lower. Bullock was 160 pounds as a freshman and has the body type that will struggle to put more mass on. He is paper thin, and he plays like it too The positive is how well he can move his hips in coverage and he has proven across multiple years to be a playmaker in deep coverage. I do want that trait on this NYG defense. The plays in between are where I get concerned. Properly slotted, this looks like a nice addition. There is real versatile usage potential here.

9) Malik Mustapha – Wake Forest – 5’10 / 209

Grade: 76

Two-year starter. Began his career at Richmond prior to transferring to Wake Forest in 2021. Mustapha is a yoked-up aggressor that can help change the personality of a defense. His quick trigger and zero-hesitation hitting style will give him the enforcer label when he is on the field. The initial look at him will cause some negativity around his lack of radius. He is short and he lacks arm length. There are certain roles you need to be kept away from but as an extra box-defender and special teamer, Mustapha can be a real difference maker. His trigger and violence complement each other well. His tackle spray chart is all over the field and that stems from his knack for finding routes to the ball carrier with proper angles and closing speed. Mustapha is an ideal third or fourth safety that is run defense biased but can make some things happen in pursuit against offenses predicated on yards after catch. Do not expect a lot of ball production (just six career pass break ups) but do expect quality plays that stem from a physical, try-hard style.

*A young Gibril Wilson is what comes to mind when watching his tape. Just a kid that flies all over the field and lays the hammer when he reaches the target. Mustapha is a big-time hitter and a guy that can be the spirit of your defense. Not that I care about who a prospect is as a high school recruit, but he was a 0-star kid that almost went to Army. He is small and he lacks the top end gear in deep coverage. But he molded himself into a specific kind of player that, at the very least, will be a top tier special teamer and nickel run defender.

10) Kamren Kinchens – Miami – 5’11 / 202

Grade: 76

Junior entry. Three-year starter that was wanted by everybody out of high school. The three-time state champ earned first team All-ACC honors in both 2023 and 2022 and was an All-American in 2022. Kinchens is a ring-leader type that brings toughness, playmaking ability, and intangibles to the table that every team wants on the back end. He brought in 11 interceptions over the past two years and was penalized just twice over his entire career. Kinchens’ game is overly reliant on his instincts and decision making. When it works, he looks like the next big thing at safety. When it doesn’t, he looks like a significant liability as a last line of defense. Kinchens may not have the speed to consistently play the role of security blanket, but he has proven he can make plays that impact games in a big way. If he can learn to add more discipline to his game and understand where his speed shortcomings are, he is a high-quality starter and weapon. If he does not improve in those key areas, he will be a major source of frustration. Truly a home-run or strikeout type prospect.

*I had a first-round outlook on Kinchens heading into the season. The big plays combined with plus-leadership and on-field IQ traits were a nice starting point. I downgraded him twice during the season, however. He had multiple games where the lack of top speed hurt the defense and he appears to go for the knockout blow without proper decision making (the end of the Georgia Tech game being the example). The final downgrade came after the athletic testing. After all that, still like a guy like this in my defensive backfield but you will be vulnerable with his restrictions at the final line of defense.

11) Kitan Oladapo – Oregon State – 6’2 / 216

Grade: 75

Sixth year senior. Three-year starter. All-Pac 12 in 2023, 2022, and 2021. Oladapo. Is the prototype strong safety when looking at both his measurables and play style. He is able to fit as an extra linebacker-type to support the run defense but can also make plays on the ball in coverage. He was productive in both areas for multiple years. Projecting him to the next level will be tricky, however. Oladapo has some clunky movement when he is in space against receivers. The tightness in his hips and ankles can be exposed at the next level if he is left with too much real estate to cover. He best projects to a third or fourth safety that can come on the field to help with run defense in sub packages. If he can develop better anticipation, Oladapo can see the field more, possibly even as a starter. The ball skills and tackling success are already there. He will also factor on special teams.

*Classic box safety that will make a difference against the run, but buyer beware if he has serious coverage responsibilities. I think he plays a bit slower than what the forty suggests because of the tight hips and ankles. He has some margin to work with because of the height and length. He’s also a clean player. Just one penalty over his final 17 games and the coaches at the Senior Bowl spoke highly of how much he picked up in a short amount of time.

12) Tykee Smith – Georgia – 5’10 / 202

Grade: 74

Fifth-year senior. Three-year starter. Spent two seasons at West Virginia where he earned All-Big 12 honors in 2019 and 2022 in addition to finishing as an All-American in 2020. He left for Georgia in 2021 where he earned All-SEC honors in 2023. Smith’s initial season with the Bulldogs was marred by two separate injuries, one of which was a torn ACL. Once he got on to the field and in the defensive back rotation, his ability stood out on one of the nation’s top defenses. Smith is a versatile, physical defensive back that played multiple positions over his career. He is a Brian Branch-type nickel that plays with heavy, violent contact. He can play through blockers and finish when he gets hands on. Smith is an excellent straight-line athlete but he lacks discipline in coverage. He shows choppy, unsure footwork and there is a sense of tightness in his hips that locks him up against quality route runners. He will add personality and physicality to a defense right away but his lack of fluidity in coverage will cause issues if he is matched up in space against pro receivers.

*”Heavy contact” is something I look for and value more than most. Smith stands out in that area. I have multiple notes of him obliterating blockers and ball carriers and they’re not all plays where he has a huge runway to the target. He is simply a densely built ball of power that will make a defense more physical. I actually see some Dane Belton in him. He doesn’t look the best in coverage, but he did take a big step forward in 2023. He may go a lot higher than this. I know the top defensive back scout I work with likes him a lot.

13) Josh Proctor – Ohio State – 6’1 / 199

Grade: 70

Sixth-year senior. Three-year starter. All-Big Ten in 2020. Proctor had a very back and forth career. He was the backup to eventual NFL safety Jordan Fuller for two seasons prior to breaking out during the covid-year, 2020. He suffered a significant broken leg injury early in 2021. Fast forward to 2022 and he missed a few games with a concussion and lost his starting to job toward the back half of the year. Proctor was torn between returning to school, transferring, or declaring for the 2023 Draft. He ultimately decided to stay, won back his starting job, and led Ohio State safeties in snaps. Proctor has the baseline tools across the board to at least factor as a backup at the next level. He tackles well, he shows good instincts, and he is battle-tested. Proctor won’t get fooled easily but he may not have enough speed to factor in deep coverage. His plus-length can factor against tight ends, however, thus he can be a solid sub-package defender if he can remain healthy. His age and lack of ball production will be a turn off to some.

*Proctor has the NFL game, mind, and body. The question will be the athleticism. He did test out just fine and I think the combination of his 2020 tape + 2023 tape is enough to warrant this dude can play. The ceiling isn’t there to project anything than a number four safety. I do not see a nickel type, but he could be a nice asset to have against athletic tight ends.

14) Beau Brade – Maryland – 6’0 / 203

Grade: 70

Two-year starter. Brade led the Terrapins in tackles both seasons as a starter. He is a downhill force that can do a lot of damage as a run defender in nickel/dime packages where a linebacker or two needs to come off the field. He lined up all over the defense and was disruptive no matter where he was. The baseline tools are average across the board and there are questions about both his speed and range in coverage. He plays smart, but the tightness in addition to lack of top end speed would make him a gamble to rely on in deep coverage. Brade will be an excellent special teamer and solid role player defensively but lacks the upside to project as a starter or every down contributor unless he is protected from specific duties in coverage against receivers.

*Brade is the kind of young player that gets on the field because of injuries and then starts leading the team in tackles every week. The public thinks he is a star but really, he is just an undersized linebacker that is one-dimensional and goes unblocked on running plays. I like this kid near the box, but I struggled to find the value in him against the pass. Special teams value will be his calling card.

15) Ryan Watts – Texas – 6’3 / 208

Grade: 70

Two-year starter. All-Big 12 in 2022. Spent two seasons at Ohio State prior to transferring to Texas in 2022. Watts primarily played cornerback in college but he will be better suited for safety at the next level. He struggles to maintain balance and control in his backpedal and he is a liability against short to intermediate routes. Watts is an excellent tackler that plays a physical brand. His speed and burst can create the idea of him being a weapon in deep coverage as well. The athletic testing and size will create a high-ceiling outlook but the likely position change along with inconsistent coverage habits will put the project-label on him.

*Watts is the kind of mid to late day three pick you simply hope figures it out in the new NFL environment. He truly tested out in the elite category and there is enough quality tape on him to give some fuel to the hope. Some teams could still view him as a corner by the way. I just believe he will end up at safety.

16 – 23:

16) Sione Vaki – Utah – 5’11 / 213: 69

17) Jaylin Simpson – Auburn – 6’0 / 179: 69

18) Tyler Owens – Texas Tech – 6’2 / 216: 69

19) Kenny Logan Jr. – Kansas – 5’11 / 209: 69

20) Akeem Dent – Florida State – 6’0 / 203: 69

21) Daijahn Anthony – Mississippi – 6’0 / 194: 68

22) Evan Williams – Oregon – 5’11 / 206: 68

23) Nicario Harper – Illinois – 5’11 / 203: 68


The loss of Xavier McKinney may have been the biggest personnel loss of the season (sorry Saquon fans). Part of what I mean by that is the difficulty in replacing his ability. With that said, I would not have matched what Green Bay paid him, thus we enter the draft with a need at the position, but I would not label it a big one. The signing of Jalen Mills and hopeful emergence of Gervarrius Owens and/or Dane Belton could allow them to avoid the position altogether. Jason Pinnock is cemented in his own spot and appears to be a part of the solution to this defensive puzzle that is still missing a few pieces. So, the question comes down to whether or not they go after one of the top guys if they fall into round two.

We keep circling back to this discussion. “If player A is available at #47, take him.” The problem is, that can be said at CB, DT, OL, WR/QB (based on what they do at #6. This is why I feel a strong pull away from staying at #6. Joe Schoen said it himself in his press conference. NYG is “not a player or two away.” That is more of a big picture perspective, but I want to relate it to this safety group. I did not anticipate this many 80+ grades when I initially thought about this safety group. I can see the fit for a lot of those guys in the top seven for this team on day two (DeJean won’t be an option). We know they are robbing Peter to pay Paul if they go safety, however. While drafting for need specifically is not ideal, it is a part of the equation and safety simply is not a need compared to these other spots. I won’t knock the result because this team simply needs better players across the board, but I can’t see the scenario where one of those guys will be the best match of value and need when they are on the clock day two. See ya next year, safety.

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