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2018 NFL Draft S Rankings

By Jim Johnson
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Ranking the draftable safety prospects from the 2018 class, out of Southern Pigskin's coverage area.

These intial rankings are comprised of what right now are the draftable/PFA worthy prospects from our coverage area here at Southern Pigskin -- the ACC, SEC, Sun Belt, and SoCon.

These pre-combine rankings include a basic rundown of strengths and weaknesses, however, after the combine, they will be updated with round projections, player comparisons, and a more in-depth summation of my personal opinion on each respective player.

Starting with the quarterbacks, they will be released one day at a time until all of the position groups are up. After that, they will be easily found in a comprehensive database from a homepage that includes a first round mock draft.

QB | RB | WR | TE | OT | IOL (OG/C) | EDGE (DE/3-4 OLB) | DL | LB | CB | S


1. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama: 6’1, 202

Strengths: A special athlete, as versatile as they come. Rangy enough to be left alone in single high, even as he continues to grow into the position. Upper echelon ball skills with the added bonus of being a weapon with it in his hands. Plenty of experience as a slot corner at Alabama, can step right in and defend tight ends or receivers from the inside better than most true corner prospects. Plus in run support and has even shown prowess as a pure pass rusher.

Weaknesses: Played all over the field for Alabama but never had the chance to fully develop as either a corner or safety -- still gaining awareness.

2. Derwin James, Florida State: 6’3, 215

Strengths: Exceeds every physical attribute one could ask for. Super versatile. Big and athletic enough to cover tight ends from the slot. Elite ball skills. High end run stopping safety coming up near the line of scrimmage, where he has added value as a pure pass rush option. Sure tackler. A natural at the position with great overall feel and instincts. Almost always in the right place and usually making the play.

Weaknesses: Has the tools but zone coverage skills need work, not reliable as single high safety.

3. Ronnie Harrison, Alabama: 6’3, 214

Strengths: An absolute physical specimen -- ideal size-speed combo. Experienced high safety with good feel for zone, closes well. Good ball skills. Physical, effective run stopper. Very reliable tackler with a penchant for laying down big hits. Has pass rush ability. Good general feel for the position, does his job and does it well.

Weaknesses: Not really an option to cover receivers from the slot, despite physical tools.

4. Jessie Bates, Wake Forest: 6’2, 195

Strengths: Good overall athleticism. Excellent deep safety instincts and ability. Versatility as a slot corner with the speed, change of direction, and man cover skills to stay with even the better slot receivers. Upper echelon ball skills and is always a threat to take it back the other way. Improved as a run defender from 2016 to 2017. Very reliable tackler in 2016 before some regression last year. Versatile.

Weaknesses: Can be overly aggressive -- will jump at play fakes, bite on double moves, and over pursue ball carriers (the root cause of the missed tackles last year). Thin frame and lack of ideal play strength.

5. Armani Watts, Texas A&M: 5’11, 205

Strengths: Great all around athleticism, fluid in his movements. Rangy with good overall coverage ability. Comfortable as a high safety and an adequate slot defender with room to grow. Above average ball skills. Very good, if occasionally inconsistent, in run support. Very instinctual.

Weaknesses: Not as long as one would like. Bad tackler.

6. Terrell Edmunds, Virginia Tech: 6’2, 220

Strengths: Big, explosive, physically imposing. A converted cornerback with the cover skills to prove it. Size and athleticism to defend tight ends from the slot. Good ball skills. Above average run stopper. Plays with a developed understanding of his role within the confines of the defense and handles his responsibilities.

Weaknesses: Not as comfortable in deep safety role as he is in man, closer to the line of scrimmage. Displayed marked improvement as a tackler in 2017, but the rest of his career  in that respect is hard to ignore.

7. Jeremy Reaves, South Alabama: 5’11, 205

Strengths: Possesses great ball skills and playmaker traits. Attacks the line of scrimmage, high level run stopper. Great open field tackler. Excellent feel, instincts for the position. Always in the right place at the right time.

Weaknesses: Lacks ideal long speed for the NFL. Not rangy enough to be left alone as deep safety.

8. Jordan Whitehead, Pittsburgh: 5’11, 195

Strengths: Good top end speed for the position. Serviceable as a deep safety with adequate feel and positioning. Really good as a slot corner in 2016 although he did get beat for a couple scores last season. Sufficient tackler.

Weaknesses: Ball skills are a concern. Not much help against the run. Acceleration and lateral agility questions. Still developing feel as high safety.

9. Quin Blanding, Virginia: 6’2, 215

Strengths: Great size and build for the position. Reliable deep safety, good feel and doesn’t beat himself, although range is a concern. Does a great job finding the ball carrier and making the play against the run. Superb tackler. High football IQ.

Weaknesses: Not particularly athletic. Won’t be able to man cover NFL pass catchers. Lack of range could overshadow his high safety technique.

10. Kris Weatherspoon, Troy: 6’2, 190

Strengths: Extremely versatile. Experienced and capable slot corner with plus man cover skills. Good ball skills. Excellent feel as a run defender that makes a lot of plays at and around the line of scrimmage.

Weaknesses: Overly aggressive, will get beat deep on play fakes. Poor open field tackler.

11. Tray Matthews, Auburn: 6’1, 205

Strengths: Nice size with a well put together frame and underrated initial burst. Prototypical ru stopping box safety last year after underachieving in 2016 -- was one of the nation’s best in 2017. Reliable tackler that packs a punch.

Weaknesses: Overall athleticism is subpar. Can be a liability in coverage, not an option in single high.

12. Tracy Walker, Louisiana: 6’2, 200

Strengths: Great length and top end speed. Sufficient range as deep safety. Excels in coverage form the slot. Soft hands attached to those long arms. Looks for contact and is quick to inflict a big hit.

Weaknesses: Physically capable, but needs to improve his awareness and route balance in single high. Average at best against the run and as an open field tackler.

13. Johnathan Abram, Mississippi State: 6’0, 210

Strengths: Versatile. Good size for the position. Adequate cover skills from the slot. Plus run support. Big hitter.

Weaknesses: Better near the line of scrimmage, not an option in single high. No interceptions last year. Too many missed tackles.

15. Trey Marshall, Florida State: 6’0, 217

Strengths: Great size and athleticism -- prototypical length, speed. Potential-over-production candidate. Can be an asset against the run. Reliable, big hitting tackler.

Weaknesses: Severely lacking ball skills. Subpar coverage ability. Instincts are lacking.

16. Dominick Sanders, Georgia: 6’0, 193

Strengths: Great instincts, technique as deep safety. Plus ball skills. Was much improved as a tackler in 2017. Good overall feel for the position.

Weaknesses: Questions about top end speed. Not a factor against the run.

17. Van Smith, Clemson: 5’11, 185

Strengths: Good general athleticism, range as deep safety. Plus instincts and overall feel for the position.

Weaknesses: Undersized. Has tools but not much of a sample size covering from the slot. Won’t be much help against the run and missed tackles have been a problem.

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP