2017 NFL draft rankings: Safeties
Defining a player as a safety these days—even when adding the “free” or “strong” designation—rarely tells the whole story. Safeties obviously have to be able to cover ground deep against the pass, but more than ever they also have to be forceful against the run and be able to handle any offensive position in coverage. This position will have a significant impact on the draft’s first round.
|1||Jamal Adams||LSU||6' 1", 213 lbs.|
|2||Malik Hooker||Ohio State||6' 2", 205 lbs.|
|3||Jabrill Peppers||Michigan||6' 1", 205 lbs.|
|4||Budda Baker||Washington||5' 10", 192 lbs.|
|5||Obi Melifonwu||UConn||6' 4", 224 lbs.|
|6||Marcus Williams||Utah||6' 1", 202 lbs.|
|7||Eddie Jackson||Alabama||6' 3", 201 lbs.|
|8||Justin Evans||Texas A&M||5' 11 1/2", 199 lbs.|
|9||Marcus Maye||Florida||6' 0", 212 lbs.|
|10||John Johnson||Boston College||6' 0", 208 lbs.|
This safety class could turn out to be special. Adams is enough of a presence that he could singlehandedly shift a defense’s personality. Barring an unexpected development in the next couple months, it would be shocking to see him slide out of the top 10.
Hooker could join him up in those heights, too, provided a front office can see the full picture. He’s a gem as a ballhawking safety now, but will need time and experience before he also can be considered a strong run defender. Baker’s size may push him into a similar role: free safety first, and anything in the box is a bonus.
As for Peppers, the challenge will be in figuring out how best to use him. The answer very well could include time spent on offense, and it definitely should include a spot on the return teams. More production—or more time spent at safety—while at Michigan would have helped his evaluation. But try to focus on what he did, and what he allowed his teammates to do by playing linebacker, rather than nitpick the negatives.
Oh, and did people forget about Jackson? He broke his leg midway through Alabama’s season, but a healthy Jackson has the skill and instincts to make things happen.