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NY Post
New York Post
22 Apr 2023


NextImg:Ranking the top 10 safeties in 2023 NFL Draft

The Post’s Ryan Dunleavy gives his top 10 safeties in this year’s NFL draft, based on evaluations and conversations with people around the league:

Hybrid slot cornerback and physical safety, a la Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Should be in a scheme that capitalizes on blitz ability and puts him in the swarm of bodies.

Sure tackler.

Could be a high-volume snaps player with special-teams coverage ability.

Reliable tackler willing to charge up to line of scrimmage.

Can handle most tight ends or big receivers, but needs to leave big cushions to overcome deficiency in speed matchups.

Brings a well-timed boom to force drops.

Brian Branch runs the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine on March 3.
AP

Six of 10 career interceptions came last season.

Sets an intense tone with his downhill, physical style.

Seeking hard hits sometimes leads to bounce-off missed tackles.

Plays at top speed by trusting instincts. Good situational awareness.

“Quan” is a sub-package weapon who could play high safety, slot or outside corner on a disguised look.

His 44-inch vertical leap is one of top 10 all-time at NFL Combine.

Smart quarterbacks exploit his aggressiveness. Potential steal.

Versatile playmaker lined up in the box, deep middle and slot.

Ten interceptions in two seasons as a starter, taking away tight ends.

Quick to the ball against the run, but sometimes overpursues and is susceptible to cutbacks.

Finalist for Nagurski Award as nation’s top defender.

Could slip through cracks due to scouts who are too committed to size.

Receivers feel it when he lowers his shoulder. Breaks on the ball. Played his best in biggest games.

Christopher Smith II speaks to the media at the NFL Combine on March 2.

Christopher Smith speaks to the media at the NFL Combine on March 2.
AP

Built physically and brings aggressive mindset to play strong safety in the box, and returned three of six career interceptions for touchdowns.

Keeps the ball in front of him.

Underrated three-year starter on star-studded defense.

A 54-game starter, including 12 at safety last season and 42 at cornerback from 2018-21.

Still plays with corner’s fluidity and range in space.

Learning to understand angles from back end. Could be penalized for being handsy.

As much of an enforcer (and trash-talker) as he is a ball hawk (20 passes defended, seven interceptions in 44 career games).

Can sub in at free or strong safety and be core special-teamer. Torn pectoral muscle limited workouts.

Played a lot of single-high center field during six-year career.

Good ball skills, but can get lured out of position by a quarterback’s eyes.

Four-phase specials teams could elevate him.

Second-fastest 40-yard dash (4.45 seconds) among safeties at the Combine.

Daniel Scott speaks to the media at the NFL Combine on March 3.

Daniel Scott speaks to the media at the NFL Combine on March 3.
Getty Images

Marte Mapu, Sacramento State: Can be defensive counter to hybrid offensive weapons by lining up in different spots and threatening to blitz.

Couldn’t answer questions about his speed because torn pectoral muscle kept him from workouts.

Unranked recruit who earned his way.

Jammie Robinson, Florida State: Slipped after testing and measurables (5-10, 191, shortest wingspan among safeties) at NFL Combine suggested he isn’t fast enough to be undersized.

Closes off running lanes with a nose for the ball. Is he versatile — or lacking a true position?

Ty Okada, Montana State: NFL Combine snub whose testing results from Pro Day would’ve made him a top-three safety in most categories.

Former walk-on quarterback played corner, nickel and safety. Still sees the field like a quarterback.