Here is an in-depth look at five free safeties the New York Giants could look at in the earlier to middle rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft.
As the NFL Draft nears, New York Giants fans have their eyes on a few positions. Most people seek a pass-rusher and the successor to quarterback Eli Manning in the first round. Then in the second round, the desire could be for an offensive lineman, possibly a right tackle to replace Chad Wheeler.
But one spot that could be getting overlooked for Big Blue is the free safety position. The Giants haven’t had a reliable free safety the past few seasons. They employed Darian Thompson in 2017, who finished with only one interception and six passes broken up before being cut prior to the 2018 season.
Then this past year, defensive coordinator James Bettcher deployed Curtis Riley. Riley did have four picks and five passes broken up, but only amassed an average Pro Football Focus grade of 58.1. Riley also infamously whiffed on a tackle in a Week 17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. The play is believed to be one of the main reasons why he won’t be returning to the Giants.
But for next season, the Giants now have Antoine Bethea, who they signed mid-March. It’s not a horrible signing at all. Bethea has a good amount of experience and has succeeded in this league, having been named to three Pro Bowls.
However, Bethea will be 35-years-old at the start of the regular season. The deal the Giants gave him is also only for two years. It’s safe to say that Bethea is just a placeholder at the safety position right now and in no way is the Giants’ long-term plan for that position.
The Giants may not even keep him for both years. If he doesn’t perform well this year, they could possibly part ways with him entering the 2020 season.
Because of this, the Giants could and should absolutely look for a safety in rounds 2-5. If they do end up taking one, that specific player could be developed over time and eventually become Bethea’s successor when his time in New York is done. A young, dominant free safety lining up with Jabrill Peppers could be very effective in the future.
Big Blue conveniently has a good amount of picks in rounds 2-5. In the second round, they’ll choose No. 37 overall, No. 95 overall in the third round, No. 108, 123 and 132 overall in the fourth, and No. 142, 143 and 171 overall in the fifth.
That being said, here’s an in-depth analysis on five collegiate free safeties the New York Giants could look towards drafting later this month.
1. Nasir Adderley, University of Delaware
Nasir Adderley is coming out of the University of Delaware as one of the top safeties in this year’s draft class. And for numerous reasons too.
The Blue Hen star stands at a good size of 6-foot, 206 pounds. He managed to rack up 11 career interceptions in three seasons at Delaware as well as 863 return yards on 35-career kickoff returns. Adderley also racked up 87 total tackles from the FS position this past season.
The senior is projected to be selected in either the second or third round of the NFL Draft, and holds a 5.82 prospect grade per NFL.com, which according to them means that he has a “chance to become an NFL starter.”
Looking at Adderley’s highlight reel, there’s a few things that jump out to you right off the bat. For one, he’s physical and there’s no question about it. He’s a great cover guy, but when it comes to needing someone to come up and stop the ball-carrier, Adderley is phenomenal in those regards.
In coverage, Adderley shines there too. He has great speed and athleticism to get to where the ball is and snatch it at it’s highest point. For any of his interceptions, it seems the man simply doesn’t wait for the ball to come to him. He’s usually going up and getting it; it’s that simple.
This, in turn, lines up great with his speed and vision. Adderley knows his positioning well when it comes to covering the pass, and shows talent when it comes to getting his hand there and breaking passes up.
If the Giants are to take Adderley, it would most likely have to be with that No. 37 overall pick in the second round. The next pick they have after that is at No. 95, which seems too big of a gap. If they wait until the third round, Adderley may no longer be available.
2. Jaquan Johnson, Miami
Jaquan Johnson was the essentially the forefront of Miami’s “Turnover Chain” 2017 season. The man seemed to be the most dynamic player on that defense, and it’s why he’s going to be such a good pick for any NFL team in need of a safety.
Johnson is projected to be selected in the fifth round of the NFL Draft, and has a prospect grade of 5.61, per NFL.com. Like Adderley, this grade puts him in the “chance to become an NFL starter” category.
The senior defensive back had 92 total tackles, two interceptions, one pass broken up and two forced fumbles this past season. Johnson racked up 252 total tackles, eight picks, seven passes defended and six forced fumbles in four years at Miami.
Standing at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, Johnson is a tad bit smaller than other prospects at this position. However, that doesn’t take away from his athleticism. Johnson ran a 4.69 forty-yard dash, had a 33.0-inch vertical jump along with a 121.0-inch broad jump at the NFL Scouting Combine.
From his highlight reel, you can tell his specialty right away is his physicality. Big hit after great tackle after aggressive pursuit, this kid is scary when he has a good angle on the ball-carrier.
He’s also a very athletic talent when chasing down the ball-carrier. Johnson shows great speed and vision to the point where he looks like he has the qualities of a linebacker. All-in-all, he’s more of a physical aspect in the defensive backfield than he is a ball-hawk.
That being said, I can see Johnson becoming a versatile talent in the NFL and possibly playing the strong safety position too. He showcases strong safety glimpses such as Landon Collins, whose physicality has been nearly unmatched since he came into the league.
3. Marvell Tell III, Southern California
Projected to be drafted in the fourth or fifth round later this month, Marvell Tell III from USC is the tallest of the prospects on this list. Standing at 6-foot-2, 198 pounds, Tell shows fantastic athleticism as well. He achieved a 42-inch vertical jump and 136-inch broad jump at the NFL Scouting Combine this offseason.
Like Adderley and Johnson, Tell has a prospect grade in which he has the talent to be an NFL starter (5.56 to be exact, per NFL.com).
In his four years as a USC Trojan, Tell racked up 220 total tackles, five interceptions, and 13 passes defended. He had 56 total tackles, one pick and five passes defended through ten games this past year. Tell can play in coverage but can also come up and defend the run.
Tell proves to be a very balanced player in the secondary. And in the NFL, that will be anything but a bad thing.
He shows great positioning in coverage but also can pursue the ball extremely well. Tell gets physical and aggressive when playing the ball, which is the quality that all free safeties need to possess if they want to succeed in the pros.
One thing I would say that Tell needs to work on is going up and snatching the ball at it’s highest point. It seems on a few of his interceptions he waited on the ball to come to him. However, that can be fixed in the NFL very quickly.
If he gets the right coaching, Tell can excel in the pros for whoever drafts him. If the Giants draft him he can possibly work in the deep part of the defensive backfield and leave Peppers to play more towards the line of scrimmage.
4. Taylor Rapp, Washington
At 6-foot, 208 pounds, Taylor Rapp is another free safety that is extremely balanced with what he can bring to the table. In three years at the University of Washington, Rapp has racked up 168 total tackles, seven interceptions, six passes defended and two forced fumbles. He most definitely can defend the pass but also is a physical player all around the field.
Rapp is simply a ball-hawk too. The young safety had two picks this past year along with three fumble recoveries.
The Washington standout is projected to be drafted in the second round later this month and holds a prospect grade of 5.87 per NFL.com.
This is the first safety on this list that I truly believe is great when it comes to rushing the quarterback. Rapp is fantastic at it. Just looking at his highlights, you can tell he has shades of a great pass-rushing linebacker. And for what it’s worth, he doesn’t even play the more physical safety position.
Rapp also excels at coming up and stopping the run. If the Giants were to eventually draft him, it would probably have to be at that No. 37 pick (like with Adderley).
Rapp could very well be Collins 2.0.
He simply has a an extremely versatile talent. He has a wide range of things he can bring to an NFL roster just by looking at these highlights. Along with being a physical and aggressive talent, he can defend the pass and has a good knack for finding the football.
I really have nothing to complain about with Rapp. When it comes down to it, he could become the most dynamic safety in this entire NFL Draft class.
5. Khari Willis, Michigan State
One of the shorter but heavier of this list of prospects, Khari Willis from Michigan State stands at 5-foot-11, 213 pounds. His weight doesn’t take away from his athleticism however. Willis ran a 4.52 forty-yard dash and achieved a 34.5-inch vertical jump and 118-inch broad jump at the combine. He’s projected to be drafted in the fifth round and holds a prospect grade of 5.3, per NFL.com.
Willis in his four years as a Michigan State Spartan racked up 189 total tackles, three picks, 13 passes broken up and two forced fumbles. This past year was definitely his best statistical season, as he totaled 77 tackles, one interception, seven passes broken up and one forced fumble.
Right away, it seems Willis is more of a run-stopper than a coverage guy. So free safety may not end up being his position when it comes to the pros.
What we are sure of with these highlights however is that he’s an athletic safety who’s aggressive enough to play more towards the line of scrimmage. He can get to the quarterback kind of like Rapp but definitely not as dominant in those regards.
However, Willis shows great speed when coming up to the line of scrimmage to stop the ball-carrier in his tracks. With that, he seems more like a strong safety-type when it comes to the NFL. Maybe that won’t work with Peppers if the Giants were to select him.
But then again, with the right coaching, who knows what Willis will be able to do when he gets to the pros.