The Cleveland Browns had a really promising 2018 NFL season. This offseason will be an important moment for the future of the franchise. The Browns will use the 2019 NFL Draft to continue the development of the team and hopefully catapult the franchise to the next level.
Here at WFNY, we will be getting you ready for the upcoming draft. In particular, Joe Gilbert and John Colosimo will examine each of the positions in the draft, giving their top five prospects in each position group, while also giving their thoughts on the overall class at each position.
Joe Gilbert and John Colosimo will begin this prospect rankings series by starting on the defensive side of the ball, beginning with the safety class. So with that, let’s take a look at the 2019 NFL Draft safety class.
|Joe Gilbert’s Top 5 Safeties||John Colosimo’s Top 5 Safeties|
|1. Johnathan Abram, Mississippi State||1. Nasir Adderley, Delaware|
|2. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Florida||2. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Florida|
|3. Juan Thornhill, Virginia||3. Johnathan Abram, Mississippi State|
|4. Nasir Adderley, Delaware||4. Amani Hooker, Iowa|
|5. Deionte Thompson, Alabama||5. Deionte Thompson, Alabama|
Best of the rest: Darnell Savage (Maryland), Taylor Rapp (Washington), Mike Edwards (Kentucky)
Which safety do you feel stronger about than most people?
Joe: I feel very strong about Juan Thornhill of Virginia. He is a player who just seems like he is always around the ball. The Virginia safety has shown the ability to play as a deep safety, cover in man coverage and come up and be a strong run defender. He is a super productive safety, who has the talent to convert that production to the NFL.
John: Amani Hooker, Iowa. He is a very productive player, who, while unlikely to blow anyone away at the upcoming combine, in the right system can be an impact SS with plus coverage skills for what is generally expected from a box safety. Many projections have him as a day 3 prospect, and that would be tremendous value in my eyes.
Who is your No. 1 safety in the class and why do you believe he is the best safety?
Joe: Johnathan Abram of Mississippi State is my No. 1 safety in the draft. Abram plays with so much physicality, setting the tone for the rest of the defense. He flies around the field with an aggressive play style. But, he is not a one trick guy. Abram has shown the ability to play in the box as a run defender, rush the passer as a blitzer, play in man coverage and cover underneath in zone. He should be a real asset in the NFL as he performs multiple roles for a defense, similar to Jabrill Peppers style of play.
John: I have Nasir Adderley of Delaware as my #1 Safety in this class. Coming from the FCS he had to take advantage of the Senior Bowl week to show he belonged with players from larger schools, and he did just that. He is tremendously versatile as he has been asked to do a number of things at the college level, and I expect him to test very well as an athlete at the combine. Can play up high, in the box, and in the slot. Excellent tackler and motor to go with his plus coverage skills. If I needed a safety out of the 2019 class, this would be my guy.
What are your thoughts on the overall safety class? How would you rate the class?
Joe: I think the overall safety class is solid, but it lacks true playmakers or elite talent. I think it will produce quite a few starters in the NFL, but I do not see any All-Pros in the class. The class also has a nice blend of talents and skill sets. It is definitely a level or two below last year’s class. Last year’s duo of Minkah Fitzpatrick and Derwin James are better than any safety in this year’s class.
John: I agree with you Joe, this is a solid class but it lacks the truly elite talent we’ve seen in recent drafts. Looking at 2017 and 2018, there are at least 4 safeties that would be selected higher than anyone in this class.
Who has the best single skill set and what is that skill set?
Joe: I think Johnathan Abram’s aggressive physical play is the best skill set in the safety class. This ability sets a tone for the rest of the defense. Abram is a safety who is always flying around the field to attack the ball and when he gets to the ball, he levels a strong physicality on the ball carrier. His physicality allows him to succeed in the front seven as a run defender, giving the defense another player to help stop the run.
John: Nasir is my pick here. He has no real weakness in his skill set, coverage, route recognition, tackling, ball skills, he does everything well. The only things stopping him from being that top 10-15 player is his small school status and lack of ELITE size/athleticism vs good size and great athleticism.
Who is a sleeper safety who you are keeping an eye on?
Joe: I think people are sleeping on Juan Thornhill. He should be considered with the top safeties in the league based on his production and tape. He is always around the ball and has the instincts and IQ you want in a safety.
John: I need to see the combine and pro day results to set my sleepers in a class but for now its a high production guy like McKinley Whitfield out of Tulsa that has my attention as a potential sleeper, for the Browns in particular. He’s a converted LBer with great size (6′ 3″ 216lbs) and has been incredibly productive since the switch. Excellent ST player, someone I’d like to see the Browns add late in the draft if he tests well.
What is the impact of this safety class to the Browns?
Joe: This safety class will have little to no impact on the Browns because the Browns are pretty set at safety. Damarious Randall and Jabrill Peppers formed one of the more promising safety duos last season. The only chance the Browns look at safety is if they would want to add some young depth to the position with a late-round pick.
John: It would be shocking to see the Browns select a safety before Day 3 of this years draft, and that safety wouldn’t be likely to see snaps in 2019 outside of injury or special teams.