FS/SS Evals: Dynamic Safeties

2019 Dynamic Safeties of Interest

The guys below are the best of this year’s crop and almost all will be able to contribute in Year 1, if not start. They bring those multiple skill sets that we want in every one of our Possession Players. Deep into Round 4 and possibly Round 5 there are starter quality players. This year’s group features some guys with excellent ball skills and college production numbers are very impressive. As I talked about in our CB and SS/FS Summaries, our division requires us to be ready to cover some truly high level WR’s and TE’s. The Ravens and Steelers in particular value receiving positions very highly and will restock quickly after losing major Free Agents. Don’t blink, because the Steelers will likely spend two high draft picks on the position. There are no free passes in our division!

The guys on this list are a mix of (mostly) Free Safety and (some) Strong Safety primary role players, but several are very skilled in both roles. Playing up on the line with physicality and explosion against the run and getting it done in Man coverage against the Slot. Zone, deep Cover shells? Yep, they can do almost anything. Some very impressive kids that we absolutely need on our team. We need several of these guys in my opinion…

One thing to note is that many of the guys on this page are ascending rapidly in terms of likely Draft slot. The more the public and the talking heads watch film on them the higher they climb on Mock drafts. Taylor Rapp is a great example of a kid who looked like a 4th Round pick on my original Top 200 list a few months ago, now he might go at the bottom of the 1st Round. The real scouts knew this all along…the rest of us are just catching up!

I have no doubt that Steve Wilkes and Dorsey have laid out the prototype for what Wilkes wants so it’s going to be an interesting draft for this position. I am very concerned about our secondary the same way I worry about our lack of talent and depth at LB. Our secondary starters are decent, but depth is atrocious. Must upgrade significantly…

GOOD: By all accounts Adderly possesses every characteristic you want in a high level starting Safety. Dynamic in his ability to play Free, Box or Slot Safety roles at a high level. Has elite speed, explosion and closing skills. Ball skills are off the chart. Has great size but hits even bigger, laying incredible shots on opposing players. Excellent form tackler. His anticipation and football intelligence is astonishingly good.

BAD: You can nitpick and say his level of competition was low at Delaware. You could wish he was a little taller as he’s just 6’0″. But that would be silly.

BOTTOM LINE: Adderly is an instant starter on any team. Doesn’t matter what scheme they run, he can play it. What role? He can play it. You must get this kid on the field and let him be free to make plays. He can always use more NFL quality strength and great coaching will always improve a player who’s interested in learning. But Adderly delivers a ready-to-go package, no waiting. He is 1st Round talent, but may not go until the top of the 2nd due to all of the Defensive lineman and EDGE players in this draft that will dominate the 1st Round. Probably also depends on how many QBs go early.

Stats Courtesy of Hero Sports

GOOD: Gardner-Johnson brings another chance for teams to select a very high quality athlete and multiple role-player. He brings smooth, explosive movement skills that allow him to mirror and cover Slot receivers and Tight Ends. Very powerful run defender, brings the boom up at the LOS with great closing skills. Also has shown skills and range as a single high Free safety. Seems to have good make-up speed.

BAD: Ball skills need work. Seems to be a step late or slightly out of position many times to make a play on the ball. His footwork is sloppy and does not do him any favors in terms of positioning himself for success. He also shows signs of poor anticipation depending on the situation. Bites hard on misdirection plays. Sometimes guesses wrong in terms of where the play is going or where the mesh point will be to make a play.

BOTTOM LINE: Gardner-Johnson is going to be a very good NFL player, there is no doubt. It seems there is a question about what role is going to unlock his highest potential though. It might end up being as more of a Strong safety, spending his time up on the LOS and in the Slot to allow him to make the big plays he is known for in the box. He can blitz, which is a strength and also allows him to play man in shallow zone and provides opportunities to get INT’s.

He has some work to do in order to clean up his anticipation and not fall for trickery, which he will see a lot of at the next level. Offenses are not going to make it easy for him to clearly see what is going on. Must clean up his footwork and body positioning in order to fully unlock his ball skills.

His production is good, not great and seems to reflect some of his issues. His TFL’s grew each year as he did better work down in the box. He was able to pull down several INT’s each year as well. Passes Defensed is the telling stat to me, as it indicates he wasn’t putting himself in position often enough to knock down balls. Absolutely will get drafted in Round 2 and his value is just fine there.

Stats Courtesy of Sports-Reference

GOOD: Incredible speed and burst to run and close on the ball. Can cover an amazing amount of ground in a flash. Smooth, agile and explosive movement skills. At his best in Slot coverage, as he excels in reading the play and getting to the ball fast. Makes a ton of plays in this area thanks to his athleticism. Lays huge hits in the run game and was starting to figure out how to get into the backfield during his senior season. Has excellent range to play 2 high Safety as well.

BAD: Definitely undersized, which will require proper scheming at the next level to keep him off of bad match ups. Has good leaping ability but lack of length can cause him problems in defending passes by working through the receiver’s arms.

BOTTOM LINE: Despite lack of length, Savage plays much bigger than he is. He has an aggressiveness and desire to win match ups that you can never teach. Will probably do his best work as a hybrid in Zone and Slot coverage with plus ability to play the run and blitz. Ability to play 2 high is just another benefit to having this kid on your team. Exciting athleticism, needs to be put in position to make plays at every chance.

Production at Maryland was good, not great. My take is that he was bounced around so often that he never settled into one role where he was able to drive obvious production. He was good to very good at each role. But play-makers find a way to make plays no matter where they line up, so it’s something to consider. Definitely will be drafted in Round 2 where is value is good.

Stats Courtesy of Sports-Reference

GOOD: Thornhill was a pure ball-hawk in college. He punched above his weight with impressive totals in tackles, TFL’s, INT’s and passes defensed. Long, lean converted Cornerback who thrives as a high Safety. Has excellent range and elite processing & anticipation skills. Knows where to be and gets there to make the play. Avoids having to fight for the ball by getting to the ball first. High value dynamic role player who can play CB for you and cover Slot and TE opponents with ease. Four down player.

BAD: A bit slight for his size and weight, but doesn’t lack strength. Probably his biggest question mark is long speed to cover. Ran a solid 4.42 at the Combine so that answers the issue a bit. Lacks the kind of physicality you might prefer, as he is more of a finesse player.

BOTTOM LINE: Thornhill is going to be a Pro Bowl player in the right situation. His elite ball skills coupled with elite instincts and anticipation will lead to excellent production at the next level right from the start. He will need to add weight and strength and maybe he can find a bit more inner brutality to improve his physical approach. Tackling is solid but could bring more power.

Just look at his production and you know you’ve got something special on your hands. Draft him and plug him in. Let him roam and make plays. Definitely will be drafted in the 2nd Round. Slight chance he’d go in the first but if he makes to the top of the 3rd you need to spend whatever capital necessary and move up for him. Fat chance though!

Stats Courtesy of Sports-Reference

GOOD: High level athlete with excellent change of direction skills. Smooth hips, high quality turn and run ability. Is there to steal the ball as a high and low defender. Technician when it comes to tackling. Instincts are well beyond excellent and this is what will allow him to succeed at the next level as it results in good production and ball skills that deliver turnovers. He excels at deep cover roles where he has route recognition and natural instincts that will allow him to jump into a starting role where he should made splash plays in college.

BAD: His athletic skills will only get him so far. And same for his instincts. He does not possess the speed or the physical size that you’d like for his role at the next level and often will concede the reception to make the tackle. This won’t fly at the next level, he needs to want the ball. He lacks the range you should get from a high level deep Safety and lacks the size you like for a LOS banger. His speed might be a serious problem in the NFL and will require him to be specifically schemed to avoid issues with match ups.

BOTTOM LINE: Rapp looks on paper like a guy you should want really badly. He begs you to draft him. However, you need to clearly understand where you intend to play him because does lack some important things that might be key to your scheme. Speed can be a problem. But he also has an elite football IQ and his character is outstanding, so that might be enough.

Production in college was good not great, especially in terms of Passes Defensed, which I expected to see great things but didn’t. Bit of an enigma. Likely to go 2nd Round, chance he might get pulled into the late 1st. No chance he’s there in the 3rd, but hopefully it’s a team with a specific plan…

Stats Courtesy of Sports-Reference

GOOD: Kind of a twitched up properly sized athlete who is pretty multiple with his skill sets. He has some serious range with a smooth pedal and fluid change of direction. Really nice ball skills and knows how to position his body to make plays. A real technician when it comes to ball skills and limited production supports his pro-ready skills. Good play speed and offers real versatility between deep and big nickel.

BAD: Is completely lacking physical play style. Very much a finesse player who seems allergic to tackling at times. Does not bring strength or power into his tackles. Has some serious character issues that need to be investigated. Missed an entire year due to violating team rules, but came back the next year as if nothing happened and became a team leader.

BOTTOM LINE: Worthington is dripping with potential and disaster, like everyone’s first wife. He has so much natural ability that it’s easy to overlook his potential to impact the game. He is 100% a splash play guy if all the stars align, but that’s not going to happen every week just because, so he needs to make it happen because he wants it to. His desire to be great is key to his NFL success. What caused him to be suspended for a year was not revealed, so teams have been asking many questions I am sure. What is not in doubt is his ability to impact games with ball skills. Speed will hold him back but not by much. All of this results in him being a likely 5th Round pick, when his talent suggests he is a 3rd Round value. Starting in the 5th he is 100% worth the risk and time to develop.

Stats Courtesy of Sports-Reference