There was some really good safety talent at the top end of this class. Some of that talent, unfortunately, landed in tough situations without clear paths to starting snaps. Here I cover who has the clearest path to fantasy relevance.
My top 5 rookie safeties pre-draft and post-draft are quite different. Some guys I had towards the top of the list seemed to have landed in tricky situations. There are some guys who I view as top-level safety talent that landed in a spot where they do not have a clear path to playing time. One of my favorite safeties in this draft, Taylor Rapp, landed in such a situation with the Rams having two good veterans in front of him. Let’s see who landed in good fantasy situations.
1) Darnell Savage Jr.- Green Bay Packers
College Stats: 40 Games, 182 tackles (139 solo), nine tackles for a loss, one sack, 13 passes defended, eight interceptions, one fumble recovery and two touchdowns.
The Green Bay Packers traded up in the first round to select Darnell Savage Jr. #21 overall. This shows that he is somebody that the team really liked. The Packers are also quite thin at the safety position. Savage is a do it all defensive back as he can cover well, hits hard, and is very athletic. He can read plays very well and has incredibly quick feet to get to his spots. Watch here as he reads the option to perfection and gets to the running back quickly:
Darnell Savage Jr. – Maryland FS #4. Shades of Earl.
Explosive, twitched-up DB at 5'11, 200 with lightning-quick feet in any direction. Heat-seeking missile w/ quick trigger – might be a sub-4.40 guy. Heavy hitter who fires to the ball like he’s shot out of a cannon. pic.twitter.com/0Njnbpn4E0
— James Thomas (@JamesThomasHT) November 5, 2018
The Packers currently have Adrian Amos at free safety and Josh Jones at strong safety. With the state of the Packers linebacker position, Jones could possibly move up to more of a linebacker role due to his solid play in the box. That would lead to starter snaps for Savage. Savage could also outright beat Jones for the starting spot. Another scenario is that Savage comes in and starts as the team’s slot corner. Any one of these scenarios is a possibility, and the most likely outcome is all three scenarios being used throughout the season. Either way Savage should see plenty of playing time.
2) Johnathan Abram- Oakland Raiders
College Stats: 33 Games, 195 tackles (107 solo), 15.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks, 10 passes defended, two interceptions, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Abram lands in a solid spot, despite the fact that the Raiders already have a safety with the same type of skill set. Abram is a hard-hitting enforcer in the backfield. This was showcased during his Senior season where he totaled 99 tackles, nine for a loss and three sacks. Abram is a downhill, ball-seeking safety that will make you think twice about running his direction. Watch these clips as you see how well he plays in run defense and hitting in the middle of the field:
Raiders new S Johnathan Abram pic.twitter.com/rQ5mL4Xf4U
— Chris Reed (@ChrisReed_NFL) April 26, 2019
The Raiders already employ a similar safety in Karl Joseph. He is also a hard-hitting box safety but he was benched last season only to make his way back into the starting lineup later in the season. With Gruden and Mayock starting their first season together they want to create their own team. I have a feeling that Joseph will eventually ride the pine or be a top candidate for trade this season.
3) Juan Thornhill- Kansas City Chiefs
College Stats: 38 Games, 208 tackles (141 solo), 12 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, 26 passes defended, 13 interceptions, and one forced fumble.
Juan Thornhill is a terrific all-around talent and lands in a situation where he should garner some solid playing time. Thornhill is fantastic in coverage as a deep safety as you can see by his 13 career interceptions and 26 career passes defended. He is great at reading routes and plays the quarterbacks eyes very well. Thornhill is making a good impression with the team already after coming away with an interception in his first practice:
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) May 4, 2019
The Chiefs addressed their safety problem in free agency by signing Tyrann Mathieu. Mathieu is not your typical safety, as he lines up all over the defensive backfield and should be labeled more as a defensive back rather than true safety. The Chiefs also drafted Armani Watts in the 2018 draft as a strong safety. The way I see this defensive backfield play out is Mathieu playing all over with Watts and Thornhill playing more of a left safety and right safety. This will be the best way for the Chiefs to keep their best talent on the field as the linebacker corps is underwhelming.
4) Marquise Blair- Seattle Seahawks
College Stats: 22 Games, 106 tackles (79 solo), five tackles for a loss, four passes defended, two interceptions, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and a touchdown.
The way Marquise Blair plays reminds you a lot of some previous legion of boom players. He has Earl Thomas size with Kam Chancellor playing style. Watch here as Blair just sits down a 300+ pound lineman in route to the football:
Marquise Blair is BACK.
— Utah Football (@Utah_Football) June 23, 2018
Blair has legitimate potential to be a star. He diagnoses plays well, hits hard in the box, and reads routes like a ten-year veteran. Watch here where he lines up as a single high safety only to read run and make the play:
Utah S #13 Marquise Blair lines up at single-high, patiently diagnoses the play, and screams downhill to record the TFL pic.twitter.com/MmWatIvQle
— Fed Scivittaro (@MeshPointScout) October 13, 2018
Blair is one of my favorite safeties in this class and has a clear path for playing time. Tedric Thompson is the only person in Blair’s way and the only reason he gets the first crack is that he filled in for Earl Thomas last season. Blair is more talented than Thompson and was drafted in the second round for a reason. Blair may not start the season in the starting lineup but should be by the end of the season and it will probably be sooner than later.
5) Will Harris- Detroit Lions
College Stats: 47 Games, 225 tackles (139 solo), 7.5 tackles for a loss, one sack, seven passes defended, five interceptions, one forced fumble, six fumble recoveries and a touchdown.
Will Harris is another do it all type of safety with the ability to make plays on the ball and hit with good ferocity. Harris showed good ball skills in college coming up with five interceptions but was asked more or less to be a strong safety due to the fact he played alongside Lukas Denis. Still, five interceptions for a strong safety is pretty good. Harris has a great nose for the football and came up with six fumble recoveries in his career. Watch here, where you see the ball, you see Will Harris:
Draft Prospect Video: Another DB 49ers have shown interest in is Boston College SS Will Harris. The big draw for 2018 was FS Lukas Denis but Harris caught attention of scouts. Stats: 225 Combined Tackles, 7.5 TFL, 1 Sack, 5 INT, 7 PD, 6 FR, 1 TD & 1 FF. #49ersDP2019 #WillHarris pic.twitter.com/zlrjvBwtwS
— 49er_Edits (@49er_edits) April 1, 2019
Will Harris will be competing with last year’s third round selection Tracy Walker and incumbent Quandre Diggs foir snaps, but the Detroit Lions figure to use a lot of three safety sets, and Will Harris should see time in those situations immediately.
These may not be the most talented group of safeties that were drafted. I had Taylor Rapp, Nassir Adderley, and Amani Hooker all rated higher pre-draft. These guys, unfortunately, landed in spots where fantasy production will be much harder to come across. The top 5 here all should have direct opportunity to produce and some you may be able to get in some of the later rounds of rookie drafts.
Check out IDPGuys.org for a full list of my top IDP rookies this season. Tune into the @IDPGuys and @F3Pod podcasts for all the dynasty fantasy football info you can handle. Follow me on Twitter @JoeyTheToothIDP. Remember…the Tooth has the taste for IDP.