Throughout the last two months, I’ve taken a much closer look at some of the 2020 NFL draft’s top prospects by creating a series called “Building the Prototype.” Breaking down each position into the primary traits I specifically look for, I have matched 2020 prospects to those traits. Thus, I have essentially built the perfect draft prospect at each position in this upcoming class. In the final installment of this series, I took a look at the evolving safety position and some of its best draft-eligible prospects. I have links to the other position groups of this series at the bottom of the page.
Zone Coverage/Instincts - Grant Delpit, LSU
It is unheard of to think a safety might be at the top of most draft boards next April, but LSU's Grant Delpit is that special. What makes him so good is his instinctual feel for the game. His quick mental trigger, combined with his top-flight athleticism, allows him to make plays on the ball faster than any prospect I've scouted in some time. He has the man coverage chops of a cornerback and the run support reliability of a sub-package linebacker. But in zone coverage, he really shines above the rest. His ability to be a step ahead, read and react, and break on the ball with a combination of range and instincts is his bread and butter. I'm pretty sure I could just call it good by putting Grant Delpit's name next to each of the traits I look for in a safety prospect, but if I can only pick one, it's his instinctual feel that really sets him apart.
Man Coverage - Xavier McKinney, Alabama
Remember Minkah Fitzpatrick? Yes? Then get familiar with Xavier McKinney because he will offer teams at the next level the same sort of skill set. McKinney is well-versed in man coverage and shows a natural feel in one on one situations. He is also an excellent blitzer and run support player from the box. Heck, he even plays some linebacker in sub-packages. This is the kind of versatility NFL teams are looking for in today's safety. McKinney has shown the ability to do it all, and I believe he is an instant three-down player at the next level because of his nickel value in man coverage.
Range/Ball Skills - Richie Grant, UCF
UCF's Richie Grant is a former wide receiver who came into the 2018 season still adjusting to the free safety position, but it didn't take long for him to get comfortable. He finished the year with six interceptions, and I believe there is still plenty of room to grow. His wide receiver background clearly flashes at the catch point, but it's his range from the deep middle that catches my eye on tape. For someone who is brand new to the position, it is so intriguing to see him pick up the game so quickly as a centerfielder. Once he makes his read, he explodes over the top with efficient angles and long speed. If Grant can prove to be more reliable in run support, I think he has a legitimate shot as an early-round selection.
Downhill Explosion - Reggie Floyd, Virginia Tech
Reggie Floyd is one of "my guys" heading into the 2019 college football season, mostly because of how physically gifted he is at the safety position. At 6'0, 222 pounds, Floyd has a unique blend of speed and power that makes him a force coming downhill. He is at his best when in, what I like to call, "seek and destroy" mode. His explosiveness is Keanu Neal-like in that he sets the tone each time he pops pads. Floyd also has this kind of explosive athleticism over the top as a rangy deep safety. So if he can clean up some mental errors in 2019, I think his profile as a multi-faceted safety prospect will be hard to rival, behind Grant Delpit.
Open-Field Tackling - Brandon Jones, Texas
While not a fluid or playmaking defender in coverage, Texas safety Brandon Jones is as reliable as they come in run support. He has a good blend of physicality and control as an open-field tackler. He knows when to explode through ball carriers, but also when to break down and make a fundamental wrap-up. Jones has experience helping in run support from the deep-middle safety, down in the box, the nickel, and as a sub-package linebacker, as he shows a great understanding of range and pursuit angles. Two traits that immediately translate to the next level are mental processing and run support reliability. Brandon Jones has both, and while I think his upside is capped because of coverage limitations, his production as a run defender will earn him a long career in the NFL.
2020 Prototype Series: