The 2018 NFL Draft has been in the books for almost a month now which means it is about that time to look forward to 2019. I know there is still a lot of moving pieces and unnamed starters as we are starting up spring practices, but there are a handful of players who stood out for their respective teams in 2018. Here is my list of 2019 Draft eligible Safeties to watch in this upcoming season:
The Top 5:
Jaquan Johnson, Miami
The early favorite for 2019 SAF1 has to be Miami safety Jaquan Johnson. He’s a tad on the smaller side at 5’11”, 190 pounds but he plays much bigger than the size would indicate. Johnson offers an impressive blend of aggressiveness, ball skills, short area quickness, and tackling ability. He is rarely a liability and was the leader this past season for Miami’s turnover chain defense. Long speed is a bit of a concern and he does need to get better in man coverage, but Johnson offers a lot of high level traits that translate well to the NFL.
Another Safety I’m a huge fan is Joquan Johnson from Miami. Rangy centerfielder. Fluid mover who is very aggressive in the run game. Look at him fly up in the play here pic.twitter.com/nVerFMRDgz
— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) May 8, 2018
Chauncey Gardner, Florida
Perhaps the most polarizing safety prospect in this early 2019 class, Gardner brings a rare blend of: size, speed, and physicality that the NFL and many evaluators (like myself) value very highly. The main issue lying in his game is that he just needs to tighten up the shot group as a whole. He missed a lot of tackles last season, mainly due to going for the kill shot more often than not. Once he becomes more disciplined, his game will improve drastically. Another thing of note is that he is making the move to nickel corner this season so it will be interesting to see him more around the line of scrimmage and in more man coverage situations.
My early candidate for SAF1 is Chauncey Gardner. Versatile, athletic, straight killer. Freaking love this kid as a prospect pic.twitter.com/AXjMDxpvI4
— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) May 8, 2018
Taylor Rapp, Washington
Rapp has been a notable standout on a Washington team loaded with NFL talent the last two seasons. The 6’0”, 202 pound safety offers a lot of versatility, much like another former Washington safety Budda Baker, playing a lot of free safety and nickel corner the last two seasons. Rapp rarely misses a tackle and showed a very natural feel for the nickel corner position. I’m not sure he’s a good enough athlete to be a free safety at the next level, but as a nickel corner that can defend the run and lock up tight ends, Taylor Rapp is the best in the class.
If you guys liked Minkah Fitzpatrick and Budda Baker, you’ll love Taylor Rapp. Big athletic safety/ nickel corner for the Huskies. Super impressed by this guy. pic.twitter.com/441DCvAuUK
— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) May 11, 2018
Lukas Denis, Boston College
It seems like in recent years Boston College just keeps churning out NFL ready defensive backs. The main reason for that is they teach their defensive backs to be very disciplined in all aspects of their position. Lukas Denis is no different. The 5’11”, 185 pound safety needs to add more to his frame but he’s a true center fielder type with insane ball skills. Along with that, he offers more athleticism and range than other safeties that have come out of Boston College in recent years. With a little more coaching and adding to his frame this year, Denis could be a first round pick come next April.
More safety talk: Lukas Denis is pretty good. Really good athlete who is always around the ball. True rangy centerfielder. Needs to add some weight but he’s good pic.twitter.com/CEoXEw6SSh
— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) May 14, 2018
D’Cota Dixon, Wisconsin
One of the most energetic and aggressive players that I’ve watched for this safety group is D’Cota Dixon. Dixon stands at 5’10”, 201 pounds but his impact is felt all over the field. He’s not the greatest athlete but he makes plays in the backfield as well as 30 yards down the field in deep coverage. He possesses a solid build and brings a physicality that offensive players are always aware of. He may not have the highest upside but I see a D.J. Swearinger type role player when I watch D’Cota Dixon.
Other Notable Safeties:
Steven Montac, South Carolina
Montac is my kind of guy at safety. He flies all around the field and is always looking to lay the wood. Also a turnover machine, forcing four turnovers in only two starts last season. The former JUCO corner and South Carolina walk on is an underrated name that everyone should be watching going into this next season.
Gotta love plays like this. Walk on JUCO Safety/ Corner Steven Montac killing an Arkansas receiver here. Keep an eye on this guy, turnover machine. pic.twitter.com/T7mO2QFzFi
— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) May 10, 2018
Andrew Wingard, Wyoming
A pure box safety, Andrew Wingard is one of the best in the nation when it comes to filling run lanes and shedding blockers. I question where he may play in the NFL due to his lack of athleticism, but he is a solid football player who can at least make a mark on special teams.
Khaleke Hudson, Michigan
Khaleke Hudson played the Jabrill Peppers role for Michigan last season and excelled in it. One of the best blitzers in the country along with good size and athleticism to lock up tight ends in coverage.
JoJo McIntosh, Washington
A player I’ve been watching for years now, JoJo McIntosh is that old school physical safety who looks for the kill shot on every snap. He also brings a nice mix of athleticism which teams should value very highly. Keep an eye on McIntosh this season.
Jalen Young, Florida Atlantic
Another under the radar player, Jalen Young accumulated 7 interceptions last season for Florida Atlantic. He may not be the fastest or biggest player on this list but he displays some very nice instincts in deep coverage and is always around the ball.