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Ranking 7 safety options for the Eagles in the 2023 NFL Draft

Alabama v LSU Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Full disclaimer: as some of you may know, I am from England, so I do not watch any college football during the season and I go into this process with absolutely no preconceptions about who I’m about to watch. I watch at least three games of each player I rank, but I cannot share any film with you here because sharing college All22 online is dangerous and I do not want to be blocked!

These rankings are based on how I think these prospects would fit the Eagles’ scheme or who I want the most based on who the Eagles already have at a certain position. This is very important, so please keep this in mind! Therefore, sometimes I may have one player above another, even if I think the other player is a better overall prospect. If a player isn’t on this list, I haven’t watched them yet! I have also put them into tiers because sometimes there isn’t a lot of difference between prospects, and I find the tiers useful to separate players.


Tier 1

1. Brian Branch, Alabama

Branch is one of those players who looks like he could start and be good at pretty much any position on defense. He’s just a good football player. He might not be the biggest, fastest, or strongest, but he plays with great instincts, quick feet, and is reliable in coverage and against the run. He reminds me of Jimmie Ward who was one of my favorite players when he came out.

Eagles Thoughts: Branch is one of my favorite players in this draft but he won’t go that early due to positional value and a lack of great athleticism. 10 is too early, but he would be a target of mine around the end of round 1. He’d be able to help the Eagles out in the future, but also provide reps this year and help the team early on.

Tier 2

2. Quan Martin, Illinois

Quan Martin has a really strong profile. He’s played for 5 years and played at every position in the secondary. He is an explosive athlete who tested very well and is strong coming downhill or playing in the slot. His instincts in coverage are not fantastic, and he may never be brilliant when the ball is in the air, but he looks like he can play a lot of different roles in the secondary.

Eagles Thoughts: I think the Eagles should have interest in Martin in the 2nd round, he has a good profile and will able to play important snaps immediately in his rookie year. I like him as a player and his athletic profile is intriguing.

3. Sydney Brown, Illinois

Sydney Brown has an interesting profile. He looks like he lives in the gym and is jacked. He tested extremely well at the combine, has a lot of experience, and is physical and instinctive in coverage, with INTs last year. He looks like a box defender who can also cover smaller TEs or certain WRs. But, he is small for a box defender (despite being jacked), and doesn’t really have good enough movement skills to cover good receivers in the slot. He also really needs to improve his tackling technique.

Eagles Thoughts: I like watching Sydney Brown play, and he looks explosive on film with really good burst. I do have some concerns about the size and versatility, but I think he has the potential upside of a starter. At worst, you are getting a good backup who can contribute a lot on special teams. I would look his way around the end of round 2/start of day 3.

Tier 3

4. Jordan Battle, Alabama

Battle doesn’t jump off the screen when you watch Alabama, but he has the making of a fine starting safety who will be very reliable. He’s an average movement, and his lack of quickness and range limits his upside. But he’s a 4-year starter, team captain, who has the size and versatility to cover TEs and come down in run support.

Eagles Thoughts: I imagine a lot of teams will have Battle and Antonio Johnson ranked closely, but I think I just prefer Battle (although I could flip a coin). It’s just personal preference, but Battle feels like he has a higher floor due to playing for 4 years at Alabama and I would like the Eagles to add someone in the secondary who can contribute right away. I think both players fit the Tremaine Edmunds role in the defense. Also... who doesn’t want a guy called Battle on their team?

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Alabama v Kansas State Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

5. Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M

Johnson is a bigger safety that you want closer to the line of scrimmage. He is a good run defender and bursts towards the ball carrier with a good tackling range. He can cover bigger WRs and TEs in coverage too, but he is a little awkward in his movement and transition and doesn’t have a lot of experience as the deep safety. He has a real issue with ball production, only totaling 1 INT and 1 breakup in his career.

Eagles Thoughts: Johnson reminds me of Tremaine Edmunds, which you can look at 2 ways. 1) They don’t need him because they already have Edmunds. 2) They like a defensive back to have that type of profile under Desai, and they may want to add another one to backup him up this year and start next year. If the answer is 2, I would consider Johnson around the start of the 3rd round.

6. Ji’Ayar Brown, Penn State

Ji’Ayar Brown is a tone-setter for a defense. He flies around and hits, hard. He does everything aggressively, which is good and bad. The 10 INTs in 2 years and the big hits he lays highlight the good. But he is also overaggressive in coverage, has too many missed tackles despite the big hits, can be moved by a QB’s eyes, and bites on play-fakes and misdirections. He feels a little bit of a boom-bust player.

Eagles Thoughts: I had an interest in Brown at the backend of day 2, but the combine performance was really worrying. He didn’t run or jump well, at all. I would consider him at the backend of round 3 as at the very least he provides backup reps and will fly around on special teams. He has a fantastic mentality and you will love some of what he does on tape, but he needs to be a lot more consistent and not as frantic.

7. JL Skinner, Boise State

I’m not really sure what I see JL Skinner as. I think his best role may be as a sort of ‘TE eraser’ who can use his rare length and wingspan to match up against bigger slot receivers and tight ends. He uses his size well and has good ball production too. There is absolutely a role for that in all defenses, but he needs to gain some weight/muscle and improve his play in the box too. He needs to be kept around the box and has to do a better job taking on blocks in run defense. The lack of athletic testing due to a torn pec is unfortunate, but also makes him more risky because there is no testing on him at all.

Eagles Thoughts: I don’t really feel comfortable projecting JL Skinner, especially without the athletic testing. The ball production and length make me intrigued, I just wish we had testing data. I’d feel more comfortable looking his way at the start of day 3.

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