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Top 10 safety prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft (with pro comparisons)

Who should the Eagles draft?

NCAA Football: UL Monroe at Florida State Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Safety is a sneaky need for the Eagles this offseason. While Malcolm Jenkins is an outstanding player whose versatility was key for the defensive success the Eagles had this season; the team could stand to upgrade the other safety spot and depth at the position. Rodney McLeod has been average during his two years at Philadelphia and the team uses three safety sets enough where adding another quality player to the group couldn’t hurt. Safety has some strength in this class and if the Eagles decided to prioritize the position this year; they could get a quality player early in the draft. Here are the ten best safeties in a deep class.

10. Tarvarius Moore, Southern Miss

Tarvarius Moore has been a late riser during the draft process. The senior prospect opened eyes at his pro day after running 4.32 in the 40, a 6.89 3-Cone, 39.5 inches in the vertical and a crazy 11’2” broad jump. The six foot, 199 pound safety has speed to match up in man coverage and plays with physicality to play the run. He is a bit light for a safety and teams no doubt will be intrigued by a potential conversion to cornerback. However, he had an impressive two years starting at Southern Miss and if he can add some weight; he could be a really solid NFL player.

Key Stat: 10 pass breakups was fourth among draft eligible safeties this season (Pro Football Focus)

NFL Comparison: Michael Griffin, former Tennessee Titan

9. Jordan Whitehead, Pitt

Jordan Whitehead surprised a lot of people when he decided to leave for the NFL early. The junior prospect started his career at Pitt with a lot of fanfare; garnering Freshman All American honors. However, his career took a turn when the rest of his time at Pitt was marred by inconsistency, injuries and team suspensions. Whitehead is very undersized for a safety at 5’10” and 198 pounds, but he plays a lot bigger. He is a physical, aggressive player who is also a tremendous athlete. So much so that Pitt used him on offense more often than most two way players. Whitehead is raw in coverage and relied on his physical abilities rather than technical. There will be a lot of homework that teams will need to do, but Whitehead’s upside could payoff with the right team.

Key Stat: Had 110 Tackles and 7 TFLs in his one full season starting.

NFL Comparison: Calvin Pryor, former New York Jet

8. Marcus Allen, Penn State

Marcus Allen has been one of the most constant players in the country since starting at Penn State. Allen looks more like a linebacker at 6’2”, 215 pounds and the way he comes downhill to tackle looks nothing like a defensive back either. Allen is a noted leader at Penn State and garnered a ton of respect from his coaches and teammates on and off the field. Allen’s limitations come as an athlete where he’s a bit stiff in the hips and struggles deeper in coverage. However, he is a smart player who brings a lot of physicality to the field. He will thrive as a strong safety or big nickel player in the NFL.

Key Stat: 17 Career TFLs

NFL Comparison: Bernard Pollard, former Kansas City Chief

7. Kyzir White, West Virginia

One of my favorites in the class, Kyzir White is an absolute badass at the safety position. White’s role at West Virginia was almost a linebacker and at nearly 6’2” and 218 pounds, he has the build of a modern linebacker as well. He is a highly aware player who does a good job in underneath coverage and his physicality functions as a dissuasion to wide receivers to go over the middle with any kind of confidence. He is definitely limited to a strong safety role and it would not surprise me if NFL teams were interested in him moving to linebacker.

Key Stat: 7.5 TFLs in 2017

NFL Comparison: Cato June, former Indianapolis Colts

6. Armani Watts, Texas A&M

Besides having one of the cooler names in the NFL draft, Armani Watts is also one heck of a player. Watts was playing in the shadow of Justin Evans last year but had an outstanding season this year as the Aggie’s best defender. Watts has had a tumultuous draft process due to poor testing, but he is the type of player where the film tells the story you want to see. A four year starter, Watts is incredibly experienced (45 Starts) and well studied as a football player. He is small, but tenacious and flies all over the field. Watts is a willing run defender, but is best suited further from the line of scrimmage due to his lack of bulk (5’10”, 202). Watts could fall due to testing and size, but it wouldn’t surprise if he outplayed his draft position.

Key Stats: Incredibly productive 2017 with 10 TFLs, 4 INTs and 3 FFs

NFL Comparison: Rodney McLeod, Philadelphia Eagles

5. Ronnie Harrison, Alabama

It’s hard to get noticed on a defense that is constantly star-studded and Ronnie Harrison has flown under the radar for a good bit of his career. Playing next to Minkah Fitzpatrick will do that. However, Ronnie Harrison is a hell of a player on his own. He is incredibly well built at 6’2” and 207, with incredibly long arms and he is a solid athlete to boot. He is incredibly physical and plays with a nonstop motor. His aggression is a double edged sword that can sometimes get him into trouble, but the payoff can often be huge. Harrison can play both safety spots but could be better suited playing closer to the line of scrimmage.

Key Stat: Didn’t allow a single TD in coverage (CFB Film Room)

NFL Comparison: Marcus Maye, New York Jets

4. Justin Reid, Stanford

Brother of Eric Reid and the son of track athletes; Justin Reid has the bloodlines NFL teams love to fawn over. Unsurprisingly his genes show up in his athletic profile as the six foot, 207 pound safety ran a 4.4 40 yard dash at the NFL combine to go along with a 10’8” broad jump 6.65 second 3-cone drill. Reid is no doubt a great athlete, but he is also a cerebral football player. He does a great job recognizing plays and closing on the ball quickly. He is physical and aggressive, almost to a fault sometimes, and does a good job covering all over the field. He can get too high in his backpedal sometimes and waste movement when changing direction. His athleticism is very evident and the highs in his game are outstanding. If he can clean up his technical issues, he could very quickly become a star.

Key Stat: 5 Interceptions in 2017

NFL Comparison: Reggie Nelson, Oakland Raiders

3. Jessie Bates, Wake Forest

A guy I am admittedly a bit higher on; Jessie Bates has incredible potential at the safety position. Bates entered the draft as a redshirt sophomore after a productive two year stretch at Wake Forrest. The 6’1”, 200 pound safety is a very good athlete and plays like his hair is on fire. He is a bit light, bringing concern to how he throws his body around as a tackler, but the major concerns end there. Bates has limited experience and has lapses where he overruns a play; but he is mostly incredibly impressive and very versatile. If he can shed some injury concerns and become more consistent; a team likely will get a steal with him on the second day of the draft.

Key Stat: 9.5 TFLs, 6 Picks and 2 FFs in less than two years worth of starting.

NFL Comparison: Tre Boston, former San Diego Charger

2. Derwin James, Florida State

The top two safeties in the class are a bit of a coin flip; but there is no denying the talent of either. In Derwin James’ case; the redshirt sophomore returned from a knee injury this year to turn in a productive season for the Noles despite a down year for the team. James is a bonafide freak athlete who was deployed in a variety of ways; deep safety, strong safety, linebacker, slot defender and blitzer and produced in every role. His instincts are a bit raw still, but he plays the game with a certain level of violence that is unlike any other defensive back in the class. He can absolutely wreck a passing game all by himself. Even with a bit of development, James will be a instant impact player in the NFL.

Key Stat: Only allowed 4 completions into coverage this season (CFB Film Room)

NFL Comparison: Adrian Wilson, former Arizona Cardinal

1. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama

My choice for top safety in this class is the steady Minkah Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick has been balling on the Alabama defense for a few years and Nick Saban, a man of few words usually, has been effusive in his praise for Fitzpatrick as a player, person and leader. Fitzpatrick lines up mostly in the slot, but he can cover deep down the field as well. He is incredibly intelligent, one of the smartest defenders to come into the draft in recent memory, and he has ball skills to be a playmaker. Factor in his physicality and willingness to play the run and you have a complete defender who can lead a defense from day one.

Key Stat: Targeted 76 times in the last two years and only allowed two touchdowns while picking off seven passes. (CFB Film Room)

NFL Comparison: Malcolm Jenkins, Philadelphia Eagles

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