NFL Draft 400: Ranking the Top Free Safeties for 2016

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterApril 22, 2016

NFL Draft 400: Ranking the Top Free Safeties for 2016

0 of 16

    Ray Thompson/Associated Press

    The 2016 NFL draft class doesn't feature two Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks at the top like last season's did with Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be excited about this year's class. With this draft set to be dominated by defensive linemen and small-school studs, not many people know as many names as they did last offseason. 

    The goal of the NFL Draft 400 series is to change that.

    The top 400 players were tracked, scouted, graded and ranked by me and my scouting assistants, Marshal Miller and Dan Bazal, along with intern Cole Thompson. Together, we viewed tape of a minimum of three games per player (the same standard NFL teams use). Often, we saw every play by a prospect over the last two years. That led to the free safety grades, rankings and scouting reports you see here.

    Players were graded on positives and negatives, with a pro-player comparison added to match the player's style or fit in the NFL. The top 400 players will be broken down position by position for easy viewing before the release of a top-400 big board prior to the draft.

    In the case of a tie, players were ranked based on their overall grade in our top 400.

Matt Miller NFL Draft Grading Scale

1 of 16

    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    At the end of each scouting report, you'll see a final grade that falls somewhere between 4.00 and 9.00. This scale comes from the teaching I received from Charley Casserly, Michael Lombardi and other former and current front-office personnel in the NFL. I tweaked it this year to be more transparent. As a result, each player received a number grade as well as a ranking.

    This applies to all positions across the board.

    Matt Miller's 2016 Draft Grading Scale
    9.00Elite—No. 1 pick
    8.00-8.99All-Pro—Rare Talent
    7.50-7.99Round 1—Pro Bowl Potential
    7.00-7.49Round 1—Top-15-Player Potential
    6.50-6.99Round 2—Rookie Impact/Future Starter
    6.00-6.49Round 3—Rookie Impact/Future Starter
    5.80-5.99Round 3-4—Future Starter
    5.70-5.79Round 4—Backup Caliber
    5.60-5.69Round 5—Backup Caliber
    5.50-5.59Round 6—Backup Caliber
    5.40-5.49Round 7—Backup Caliber
    5.00-5.39Priority Free Agent
    4.50-4.99Camp Player

15. Trevon Stewart, Houston

2 of 16

    Timothy D. Easley/Associated Press
    Combine/Pro Day Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    5'8 ¼"190 lbs4.73s7.22s4.24s 


    Trevon Stewart is the Mighty Mouse of the 2016 draft class. Measured at just 5’8 ¼”, he posted 367 tackles in his four seasons at Houston. During that time he added seven sacks, 12 interceptions, 17.5 tackles for loss, 12 passes defensed and 10 fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles. That’s one heck of a resume.

    A stud at locating the ball and getting in place to make a play on it, Stewart was the Bob Sanders of the AAC over the last four seasons. He’s a fiery, aggressive player at all levels of the field and doesn’t play like he’s 5’8”. Stewart flashes the awareness, instincts and timing of a ball hawk. He’s one of the better read-and-react safeties in the class.

    Stewart slips blocks on his way to the ball and should be lined up on special teams (kickoffs and punts) from his first day in camp. If coaches love watching him play as much as we did, he’ll stick on a roster.


    Short and slow, Stewart needs every tackle on that stat sheet to convince teams he can hang against NFL competition. He fails the NFL’s standards for height, speed and length.

    With poor long speed and short-area quickness to get to the sideline, Stewart would be miscast in a single-high safety set. He’s at his best when he can tread water, read the play and go get the ball. Of course, that will be harder to do given his physical limitations when also being asked to shed blockers in the run game or match up with 6’4” receivers and tight ends.

    Stewart isn’t a sure thing to be drafted—NFL teams tend to value height and speed players late on Day 3—but he has the tools to get a call as an undrafted free agent.

    PRO COMPARISON: Steven Terrell, Seattle Seahawks

    FINAL GRADE: 5.00/9.00 (Priority Free Agent)

14. Jordan Lomax, Iowa

3 of 16

    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press
    Combine/Pro Day Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    5'10"202 lbs4.66s6.76s4.15s 


    A productive two-year starter with back-to-back 90-tackle seasons, Jordan Lomax is a stocky, instinctive free safety prospect.

    A leader in the locker room and on the field, Lomax can handle the role of shot-caller in the secondary. He’s a hard-charging, aggressive player who’s a throwback to when the Big Ten was dominated by the run game. Lomax has value in the box and when cleaning up alleys as a run defender, and will be seen as an immediate contributor on special teams.

    Lomax has moved all over the field at Iowa, showing the versatility to line up as a slot cornerback—where he has potential as a blitzer—to single-high safety. Being able to line up all over the field and help on fourth downs will be key for Lomax as a potential late-rounder.


    Short with small hands (8 ¾”), Lomax doesn’t fit the height or speed standards for safeties. He’s a low-cut player with choppy strides and poor long speed when attacking the ball. Lomax is a card-carrying hitter, but also missed 25 tackles in the last two seasons.

    Poor hip flexibility when forced to break down and attack the ball has Lomax all over the place when initiating a tackle. He’s not balanced or controlled, and he needs to be sprinting on an angle tackle to bring the kind of power he’s known for.

    In coverage Lomax can body up tight ends, but he is a mismatch against slot receivers. He’s limited to a zone role and may see his biggest impact in the NFL on special teams.

    PRO COMPARISON: Nate Ebner, New England Patriots

    FINAL GRADE: 5.00/9.00 (Priority Free Agent)

13. Derrick Kindred, TCU

4 of 16

    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
    Combine/Pro Day Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    5'10"207 lbs4.50s7.05s4.29s 


    An impressive player—physically and in conversations—Derrick Kindred started 30 games over four years at TCU before heading to the NFL. He’s a hitter with ball skills and a rare toughness that scouts and coaches will love.

    A lot of players talk about being tough, but few would be willing to play through a broken collarbone.

    That’s what Kindred did in his senior season, though, and went on to post two interceptions, 3.5 tackles for loss and 87 tackles. Kindred has the frame and strength to hit the ball-carrier and make an impact, but he matches that well with ball skills (eight career interceptions) to be used as a two-high free safety.

    A valuable asset as a special teams player and a versatile nickel or dime safety, Kindred’s tackling skills and closing speed will entice teams. With Kindred’s ability to match up in the run or pass game, he’s the type of safety you don’t have to remove from the field to match the personnel you see across from you.


    Kindred swings for the fences when he’s coming down to take on runners. That leads to the highlight hits, but it also caused 15 missed tackles in 2015 and 11 more in 2014. That’s an issue when tackling is your calling card.

    Kindred might not have the height or length to ever be a factor on jump balls, and when asked to play deep halves or thirds, he can be late to react to the pass. Kindred gets tunnel vision on the run and will get caught peeking into the backfield instead of pedaling to get deep in his zone.

    A limited player when asked to change direction on the fly, Kindred will need to work on agility and hip flexibility to improve his overall fluidity before he’s ready to take on NFL ball-carriers and receivers. He has value on special teams and in sub-packages immediately and could develop into a starter.

    PRO COMPARISON: Dion Bailey, New York Jets

    FINAL GRADE: 5.50/9.00 (Round 6—Backup Caliber)

12. Deon Bush, Miami (Fla.)

5 of 16

    Don Juan Moore/Getty Images
    Combine/Pro Day Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'0 ⅜"199 lbs4.55s6.91sN/A 


    A thumper coming downhill, Deon Bush is a throwback to the physical, swagger-filled days of Miami football. Teammates at Miami raved about Bush’s practice habits and character when asked about his abilities. If NFL scouts find the same thing, they’ll be calling Bush’s name on Day 3 of the draft.

    A physical player with above-the-line athletic ability, Bush looks the part. He’s a vertical player with the agility to contest 50-50 balls and the downhill speed to attack outside runs and screen packages.

    When Bush gets a read on the ball in front of him, he has impressive closing speed and arrives at the ball with power. Bush can intimidate ball-carriers and brings more pop than expected from a 200-pound frame thanks to explosive legs.

    A natural in a two-high safety set, Bush has the size and versatile skill set to be considered as a free or strong safety in the pros. A strong safety alignment would be natural for him given his striking ability, but his range and football IQ may be more valued at free safety.


    Limited ball skills and awareness in coverage keep Bush from realizing his potential. He had just four interceptions in four seasons at Miami and until 2015 had just seven passes defensed (finished with 13 for his career).

    Bush lacks the long speed to track the ball down the sideline and will get burnt on deep routes when he takes a false step toward the line of scrimmage. Overall, his coverage instincts are not those of a typical senior defensive back. Because he lacks recovery speed, Bush is a liability in man coverage. His ability to make plays in zone can be limited by heavy movements when asked to cut and run downhill.

    Bush is a big hitter, but he also missed 10 tackles in 2015. That overaggressive style leads to missed opportunities and too many highlight-reel attempts from Bush instead of just breaking down and putting pads on the ball-carrier.

    PRO COMPARISON: Duke Williams, Buffalo Bills

    FINAL GRADE: 5.60/9.00 (Round 5—Backup Caliber)

11. Kavon Frazier, Central Michigan

6 of 16

    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
    Combine/Pro Day Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    5'11 ⅞"217 lbs4.58s6.88s4.40s 


    A four-year standout at Central Michigan, Kavon Frazier has been flying under the radar in the media, but NFL teams know all about this versatile, attacking safety.

    With 108 tackles in 2015, Frazier was a one-man wrecking crew for the Chippewas. He added 4.5 tackles for loss and was all over the field chasing the ball. Frazier is an impressive athlete on the hoof and has the mass you want for an in-the-box safety. He closes on the ball with speed and the power behind his pads to put down big backs.

    Given his size, Frazier impresses with his burst and hip snap when he’s asked to plant and drive on the ball. In coverage he’s able to play as a single-high deep safety or come down and match up with tight ends on the ball. Frazier has been asked to play versatile roles at Central Michigan, and they have prepared him well for duty in the NFL.


    Frazier’s instincts in coverage were hard to get a read on. He’s aggressive when he locates the ball, but he can be slow to read and react on underneath routes. He got stuck in the mud too often waiting for the play to develop in front of him.

    Double moves and misdirection from the offense got the best of Frazier when he was asked to read the field. He’s at his best with a clear assignment where he can flow to his area of the field or to the ball on plays like outside runs or quick slants. On run-pass option plays, Frazier was often indecisive and slow.

    An overaggressive player at times, Frazier will need to learn poise and patience in coverage to stay on the field in the NFL. He has value as a box safety with enough versatility to play over the top in zone coverage, but his ability to react and counter NFL speed will ultimately dictate his future.

    PRO COMPARISON: Robert Blanton, Buffalo Bills

    FINAL GRADE: 5.60/9.00 (Round 5—Backup Caliber)

10. Justin Simmons, Boston College

7 of 16

    G Fiume/Getty Images
    Combine/Pro Day Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'2 ⅜"202 lbs4.53s6.58s3.85s 


    A three-year starter at Boston College, Justin Simmons has bounced between free safety and cornerback but has the size and ball skills to make a long, lasting impression on the NFL from the middle of the field.

    An active tackler when coming down into the box or chasing receivers to the edge of the field, Simmons uses his height and length to create a big tackle radius. He’s an aggressive player in pursuit and has a great motor. He’s smart and aware on the field, and teams will value his existing football IQ as well as his aptitude to transition quickly into a scheme.

    Simmons has the athletic ability to match up in man coverage from the slot against receivers or tight ends. That skill set led to five interceptions in 2015, showing his ability to track and attack the ball. He uses his hands well at the line and will roll back players when he gets his hands on them in a jam situation. His quickness in his feet is impressive, and he’s a much better short-area mover than expected for his long frame.


    A tight mover through transitions and in space, Simmons’ switch to safety was the best thing for his NFL draft stock. That’s where he’ll have to play in the NFL, and until he can beef up a lanky frame, it’s likely he’ll be used as a third safety in nickel and dime packages.

    Simmons’ lack of quick feet in coverage get him in trouble on double moves. He can overcommit to the first break in a route and will get flying downhill without the agility or flexibility to recover. With questionable long speed, Simmons can be erased once he makes a false step.

    You’d like to see more activity across the board from Simmons, as he too often lets the play unfold in front of him. Linebacker Steven Daniels cleaned up many plays before Simmons got into the frame. With a lean build and average burst to close on the ball, he’s not an intense locator, which could be a concern.

    PRO COMPARISON: Tony Lippett, Miami Dolphins

    FINAL GRADE: 5.70/9.00 (Round 4—Backup Caliber)

9. Tyvis Powell, Ohio State

8 of 16

    Joe Robbins/Getty Images
    Combine/Pro Day Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'3"211 lbs4.46s7.03s4.25s 


    A junior entry into the 2016 draft class, Tyvis Powell made many memorable plays at Ohio State, but it’s his consistent ability as a middle-field defender that will excite NFL teams.

    Tall with good length and overall athletic ability, Powell was a two-year starter at safety but contributed in all three seasons. His ability to flip the field as a ball hawk stands out, as he had eight interceptions and nine passes defensed in his career. He also showcased a productive tackling ability, going over 70 tackles in his sophomore and junior seasons.

    Powell has the chase speed to go get the ball and enough twitch in his hips to turn and run to the corners of the field. He’s agile and athletic enough to go up and challenge 50-50 balls and has the size-and-speed mix to match up well against tight ends off the line.


    Powell came out a year early according to scouts we’ve talked to, with one stating he should have returned to Ohio State and “been the man” in the secondary with Eli Apple and Vonn Bell gone to the NFL.

    A big player who has average play power, Powell does not separate receivers from the ball. He’s a high-cut player with inconsistent pad height—allowing his shoulders to get square and his chest over his feet in his backpedal. When Powell starts standing up in his pedal, he loses his agility and quickness and hinders his explosive qualities.

    For all his production as a tackler, missed tackles were an issue for Powell. College Football Focus charted 10 misses in 2015 and an staggering 18 in 2014.

    PRO COMPARISON: Josh Evans, Jacksonville Jaguars

    FINAL GRADE: 5.99/9.00 (Round 3-4—Future Starter)

8. Deiondre' Hall, Northern Iowa

9 of 16

    Michael Conroy/Associated Press
    Combine/Pro Day Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'1 ⅝"199 lbs4.54s7.07s4.06s 


    A versatile defender with skills and experience at both cornerback and safety, Deiondre’ Hall has pro size, length (34 ⅜” arms) and the ball skills to be a playmaker in the NFL.

    A ball hawk with 13 career interceptions, Hall can close on the ball and seal the deal when he gets there. He’s physical at the point of attack and can make plays in the run game by breaking off stalk blocks or by coming down and getting into the backfield to spill outside runs. Instinctive and aware, Hall can play in a single-high or two-high safety set thanks to his complete skill set.

    Hall had some legendary matchups with Braxton Miller at the Senior Bowl—some he lost and some he won by showing a fiery, physical style. He didn’t back down from the most electric player in Senior Bowl practices, and that helps ease concerns about his smaller-school level of competition.


    Hall is long but lacks the quick hips and burst to make plays when asked to cut and run against speedy wide receivers. That will fuel the belief that he’s best suited to play free safety in the NFL.

    During his Senior Bowl practices, Hall was oftentimes beaten hard on an inside plant and struggled to counter speed with speed. Playing off the line of scrimmage will allow him a better cushion and will keep him out of positions where he must chase receivers in man coverage. The lack of twitch in Hall’s game will be a limitation that gets mentioned again and again in draft rooms.

    He is a long strider with a high-cut frame, and he may be asked to add strength and size to play safety in the pros.

    PRO COMPARISON: Micah Hyde, Green Bay Packers

    FINAL GRADE: 5.99/9.00 (Round 3-4—Future Starter)

7. Sean Davis, Maryland

10 of 16

    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press
    Combine/Pro Day Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'1"201 lbs4.46s6.64s3.97s 


    A versatile defensive back with experience at cornerback and safety, Sean Davis is one of the most athletic players in the class and is among the best tackling defensive backs in the group.

    Davis wowed with his explosive performances in agility drills at the combine. His 21 bench-press reps (225 lbs), 6.64-second three-cone and 3.97-second 20-yard shuttle times were in the elite group for defensive backs. At his height and with a 37 ½” vertical jump, Davis is a blue-chip athlete. Teams that put a premium on athleticism will fall in love with him.

    An aggressive cover man, Davis flashes ball skills (three interceptions in 2015) and timing when attacking the ball. In his career he had 14 passes defensed and five picks, which are solid numbers for a three-year starter bouncing between corner and safety. He has the size to press receivers at the line and the range to attack downhill or in deep coverage, making Davis one of the more dynamic defensive backs available.


    Maryland asked Davis to play cornerback in 2015, and he struggled mightily. According to College Football Focus, Davis allowed seven touchdowns and let opposing quarterbacks complete 62.2 percent of passes thrown his way. He is a question mark in coverage.

    With 10 misses on the year, Davis’ attacking style coming downhill hurt his ability as a reliable tackler. That’s five fewer than he missed in 2014 (15), giving Davis 25 missed tackles in two seasons.

    A tall frame causes him to get high in his backpedal and slow in his hips when turning to transition from pedal to sprint. He has closing speed and more than enough agility to make plays in space, but that gets limited when he’s playing tall and with his chest way over his toes.

    PRO COMPARISON: Antonio Allen, Houston Texans

    FINAL GRADE: 6.00/9.00 (Round 3—Future Starter)

6. DeAndre Houston-Carson, William & Mary

11 of 16

    L.G. Patterson/Associated Press
    Combine/Pro Day Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'1"201 lbs4.54s7.15s4.28s 


    A three-year starter at cornerback, DeAndre Houston-Carson made the move to free safety in 2015 and earned All-American honors. With a standout week at the Senior Bowl, the small-school prospect started building buzz toward a Day 2 grade.

    A team captain in 2015, Houston-Carson is a jacked-up tackler. He’s fiery when coming downhill and will lay out to jar the ball-carrier. Houston-Carson is a top-level competitor and didn’t play like a William & Mary product when working against bigger boys at the Senior Bowl.

    After three years at cornerback, Houston-Carson combines coverage knowledge with his tough, attacking style. When matched up against players in man coverage, he has the size and speed to run in-phase. He’s twitchy enough to line up in the slot and mirror smaller, quicker receivers.

    A three-phase player, Houston-Carson can help in the run game, in pass coverage and on special teams—where he had four blocked punts in 2014 and nine total blocked kicks in his career.


    Houston-Carson has average play speed and burst to attack the ball, and given his performance against a low level of competition in the Colonial Athletic Association, there will be questions about his overall talent.

    Short arms (30 ⅛”) are an issue when Houston-Carson is asked to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage. The move to safety helped protect his lack of top-end speed and poor balance in his backpedal. He’s aggressive at the snap but can be too aggressive when he’s asked to play in man coverage.

    With the build of a cornerback and the speed of a safety, Houston-Carson may be a man without a position. He needs more time to learn the nuances of the safety spot, but the potential is there for him to be a starter.

    PRO COMPARISON: Rashad Johnson, Tennessee Titans

    FINAL GRADE: 6.00/9.00 (Round 3—Future Starter)

5. Vonn Bell, Ohio State

12 of 16

    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press
    Combine/Pro Day Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    5'11"199 lbs4.51sN/AN/A 


    A junior entry into the 2016 NFL draft, Vonn Bell has played nickel safety, strong safety and free safety in his career at Ohio State.

    An ideal safety in two-high sets, Bell has the traits to be a playmaker in Cover 2 schemes or when locked up in man coverage against tight ends. He is a heady player with the awareness and instincts to match up on various routes and offensive designs. He’s been well-coached at Ohio State and won’t get caught peeking into the backfield or taking false steps.

    Bell has flashed ball skills (nine interceptions, 15 pass breakups) and has the hands to secure interceptions on routine and ridiculous catches alike. With his football IQ and leadership abilities in the secondary, Bell will be an asset early on in his pro career. He should work into nickel packages during his rookie season and become a full-time starter by his second year.


    “A small player who plays small.” That’s what one NFL scout told us about Bell when talking about Ohio State prospects. Bell was a productive tackler but brought little fire to his attempts. He doesn’t have much pop in his pads and can be run through against bigger backs.

    That lack of strength shows up in his game when he’s facing bigger receivers or tight ends. Bell gets boxed out at the pass and isn’t a threat on jump balls when he has to put a body on his man. Bell’s play speed can be inconsistent, and when watching him against elite talent, you don’t see the long speed to track the ball down the field. He doesn’t flash the range to be a center fielder.

    Was Bell the product of a great defense, or is he ready to stand on his own? That’s something NFL scouts will be discussing at length when his name comes up on the board.

    PRO COMPARISON: Morgan Burnett, Green Bay Packers

    FINAL GRADE: 6.40/9.00 (Round 3—Future Starter)

4. Jalen Mills, LSU

13 of 16

    Michael Conroy/Associated Press
    Combine/Pro Day Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'0"191 lbs4.48s6.86s4.00s 


    A senior who started all four years at LSU, Jalen Mills has played cornerback and safety for the Tigers and has an NFL-ready body and resume.

    Mills attacked the field from numerous roles. That allowed him to notch six interceptions, four sacks, eight tackles for loss and 11 passes defensed in a loaded secondary during his career. Mills best projects as a free safety in the NFL, but teams may see him as a Damarious Randall type who can also play cornerback.

    Mills can make plays at the line of scrimmage and has the arms to jam and the strength to redirect receivers off the ball. He’s smart in press coverage and doesn’t get caught leaning in his stance or giving up inside/outside leverage.

    The man who replaced Tyrann Mathieu at LSU, Mills has some traits in common with the Honey Badger. He can blitz from the slot, play near the line or walk off the ball and play as a safety in man or zone coverage.


    An arrest in June 2014 on second-degree battery charges will be a huge question mark for teams. The charge was dropped when Mills completed a diversion program.

    Mills started the year on the sideline with a broken left fibula and torn ankle ligaments. The injury suffered in August could have shut him down for the season, but he fought back and played the second half of the campaign.

    An average frame—Mills has 31 ⅛” arms and 9 ⅛” hands—will evoke questions from scouts. Mills may be looked at as a third safety or third cornerback but never as a front-line starter without the desired size and production as a tackler. Being a jack-of-all-trades instead of a master of one could kick him down boards.

    PRO COMPARISON: Terrence Brooks, Baltimore Ravens

    FINAL GRADE: 6.50/9.00 (Round 2-3—Future Starter)

3. Darian Thompson, Boise State

14 of 16

    Gregory Payan/Associated Press
    Combine/Pro Day Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'2"208 lbs4.58s7.26s4.33s 


    A three-down playmaker for Boise State, Darian Thompson made his presence felt all over the field. Thompson posted five interceptions in 2015—running his career total to 19—and had 8.5 tackles for loss. A true dual-threat, Thompson notched 15 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles in his career.

    He is a playmaker, but he’s also solid in coverage and when blanketing tight ends or wide receivers from center field. He’s instinctive and rangy, and he has the closing speed to run alleys to make an impact with the ball before or after the catch.

    In the run game, Thompson is a dependable tackler with a great ability to locate the ball. He moves downhill with authority and hits the ball with power behind his pads. Boise State was able to move Thompson around and use him as a matchup player thanks to his versatile skill set, and NFL teams should be able to do the same.


    Short-armed (30 ⅜”) on a tall frame, Thompson doesn’t wow you with testing numbers. He’s an average athlete with limited hip pop when turning to run deep and would be best in a two-deep safety set where he’s not asked to cover the entire field.

    Undisciplined plays on Thompson’s watch will be discussed when scouts gather to view the film. His deep coverage—especially over the top—was susceptible to double moves. Thompson bites hard on play action and will jump at the first break in the route. That style allowed him to grab those 19 interceptions in college, but you worry if he has the recovery speed to be a gambler in the NFL. His college tape didn’t show it.

    When you look at Thompson’s flaws, you see some freelancing and tight hips that hold him back when he’s breaking out of his pedal. Those issues can be limiting and may be enough to drive one of the most productive safeties in the draft down the board behind less-established athletes.

    PRO COMPARISON: Aaron Williams, Buffalo Bills

    FINAL GRADE: 6.75/9.00 (Round 2—Future Starter)

2. T.J. Green, Clemson

15 of 16

    Christian Petersen/Getty Images
    Combine/Pro Day Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'2"209 lbs4.34s7.1s4.41s 


    A former wide receiver who moved to safety before the 2014 season, T.J. Green has the size and speed to have teams thinking he could line up from day one at free safety or cornerback.

    Green has athletic, quick hips and pops off the tape with his change-of-direction skills. A natural athlete, he can run with wideouts but has the size to bang in the middle of the field against tight ends.

    With his straight-line quickness, length and height, Green may end up at cornerback for some teams. In a scheme similar to what the Arizona Cardinals run, he would be an excellent option on the outside.

    The Clemson defense asked Green to play a ton of deep coverage, and he responded with excellent range and matchup skills. He also has experience on special teams as a returner and gunner and brings the kind of four-down athleticism that’s rarely found outside the first round.


    The national championship game highlighted an issue that shows up every week for Green—he’s a bad tackler. With 13 missed tackles in 2015, Green ranks as one of the worst tackling safeties in the country. And it’s not a physical issue, but a want-to issue.

    Teams question Green’s ability to flip the field and create turnovers after he grabbed just one interception in two seasons. He also had zero passes defensed during that time. Green is also just a one-year starter and played on a loaded defense that hid mistakes in the ACC schedule. When facing elite talent against Alabama, he was exposed.

    An upside prospect, Green will tempt NFL teams with his athleticism and size, but will the one season of tape and poor performance in the title game matter more than his numbers?

    PRO COMPARISON: Mike Mitchell, Pittsburgh Steelers

    FINAL GRADE: 6.80/9.00 (Round 2—Future Starter)

1. Karl Joseph, West Virginia

16 of 16

    Stacy Revere/Getty Images
    Combine/Pro Day Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    5'10"205 lbsINJINJINJ


    Karl Joseph introduced himself to draft fans with a three-interception performance in Week 1 against Georgia Southern. But an ACL injury suffered in early October ended Joseph’s season and limited his ability to work out before the draft.

    A ball hawk on the field, Joseph had five interceptions in four games before the injury and was showing the open-field tackling ability of a top-20 pick. A smart player with excellent leadership skills, Joseph can cover slot receivers in man coverage and has the range to excel over the top in single-high looks. He reads and reacts with excellent timing and beats receivers to the ball with great angles.

    Joseph is capable of locking up in man-to-man and has zone range, but he’s also productive at jumping down into the box and playing against the run. A true three-down threat, he has the skills to impact the defense at each level of the field.

    A tough, physical player in everything he does, Joseph has silky-smooth cover skills but also brings the wood as a hitter.


    The late ACL injury has kept Joseph from working out for teams, and his ability to play in 2016 will be a matter of opinion among NFL doctors, but everything we’ve heard points to his being ready for Week 1.

    Joseph doesn’t have a great frame in terms of height and length, and his reckless style of play may concern teams when it comes to his durability. He was a projected 4.6-speed guy before injury, and teams question his ability to track the ball deep against NFL speed.

    A gambler in space, Joseph can be undisciplined at playing the man and instead goes for the ball. He didn’t do this as often before 2014, though, which could be a product of a role change.

    PRO COMPARISON: Bob Sanders, retired

    FINAL GRADE: 6.95/9.00 (Round 2—Future Starter)


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.