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2016 S Rankings

April 10, 2016

  1. Jalen Ramsey Florida State 6’1 ¼ 209 Jr. The only question with Ramsey is if he’s a cornerback or a safety as at some position he appears destined to be a Pro Bowler. The guy that he reminds me of the most is Patrick Peterson as their Combine was pretty similar. Ramsey 6’1 ¼ 209 vs. Peterson’s 6’0 ¼ 219. Ramsey’s 4.41 40, ‘41 ½ vertical, 4.18 shuttle and 6.94 3 cone vs. Peterson’s 4.38 40, ‘38 vertical, 4.07 shuttle and 6.58 3 cone. Ramsey is a little taller and more explosive while Peterson is a little thicker, faster and quicker. Considering I had Peterson as a FS not a CB coming out in 2011 it’s no surprise that I’m leaning toward Ramsey as a safety. The reason is his stiffness in his hips and his mediocre quickness. Both will be liabilities for him on the next level at CB while he could effortlessly become a perennial Pro Bowler if put at S as his speed, length and elite tackling skills would all translate better at that spot. His 181 tackles the past three seasons is unheard of as a CB but it’s because FSU played him all over the field, often times at the rover “Star” position ala FS. Ramsey is unquestionably a future Pro Bowler at FS and on par with the great safety prospects I’ve graded like Eric Berry and Sean Taylor. It isn’t worth experimenting with him at CB when he’s such a sure thing at FS. As such I’m leaving him at safety despite the possibility that he could develop into a top level cornerback. As a safety his length, speed, tackling ability and instincts will make him the complete package. If put in the right system he’s my pick for defensive rookie of the year. Top 5 as my #1 safety and as one of the better safeties I’ve ever graded (best since Eric Berry in 2010) 4/6/16.
  2. Jalen Mills LSU 6’0 191 Sr. He had a mediocre 40 (4.61) but a very good vertical (‘37) and a great shuttle (4.00) and 3 cone (6.86). The shuttle and 3 cone are vastly underrated as they measure quickness and I consider quickness one of the most important attributes for DBs to have. I love safeties that have cornerback experience and Mills fits that profile as he was a CB his first two seasons before switching over to safety his last two. He had an injury plagued season in 2015 with only 7 games played (fractured fibula and damaged two ligaments in his ankle during preseason camp, will have a steel plate in his left leg the rest of his life) and didn’t have an INT his last season but I’m not terribly worried as he had 6 INTs his previous 3 seasons. He clearly played hurt last year, doctors said he likely would miss his entire senior year, so it’s better to go off his earlier tape. Yet not only does a scout have to wade through his injury issues from 2015 but he was arrested for allegedly punching a woman. The charges were dismissed but in this post-Ray Rice incident era we live in, it could easily send his draft stock plummeting. One positive note about his character though is coaches from High School to College rave about his work ethic and that can be seen just this year when he came back much quicker than expected from a very serious injury. He had a good Senior Bowl week lining up at CB the entire time and showing off his elite quickness. I like him more as a FS than a CB though as he has short arms (‘31 ⅛) and poor long speed. As a FS he really excites me with his good tackling ability, great work ethic, elite quickness and good ball skills. He plays the ball in the air extremely well, a skill I highly value in DBs. He has solid hands but drops the occasional easy INT so they aren’t as consistent as you would want. He can play back or run up and cover the slot, a luxury every defensive coordinator wishes they had. Due to his injury plagued season and arrest he could go anywhere but I really like the kid’s tape and think he’ll be a very good starter from Day 1. Late 1st round as my #2 S 4/10/16.
  3. Karl Joseph West Virginia 5’10 205 Sr. Joseph has been on my radar since his 102 tackle season as a true freshman in 2012. That year he was the lone bright spot on a horrific defense and I took note of how fast and physical this kid was. Unfortunately Joseph had his senior season cut short by injury (4 games) due to a knee injury during practice. It’s even more disappointed as he was having his best season with 5 INTs in only 4 games despite only having 4 INTs in his previous 37 games. He doesn’t have great range, likely would have run a 4.6 40, and is at his best closer to the line of scrimmage but he has good instincts, is an elite tackler, both in terms of big hits and consistency at getting the ball carrier to the ground, and is a leader. His knee injury devastated his team as he was the leader of that defense arguably since his freshman year. Also, while he lacks great speed, he is very quick and agile which makes up for his mediocre long speed (think Kenny Vacarro). Joseph is similar to Kendall Fuller in that their 2015 injury marred season almost needs to be thrown out as I had a good understanding of them as prospects before the season and their injuries don’t appear to be relevant going forward. As such I’m keeping a late 1st round grade on Joseph as he’s everything you want in a safety prospect minus elite speed. Late 1st as my #3 S 4/10/16.
  4. Vonn Bell Ohio State 5’10 ¾ 199 Jr. He played sparingly in 2013 though he did have 1 INT. He had a 92 tackle season in 2014 to go along with 6 INT to make his Soph season his most productive one. With 9 INTs in 3 seasons (8 INT the past two) he’s a nice combination of ballhawk and solid tackler. He is built and moves like a CB. That’s a huge asset in the passing game but in the running game it’s a disadvantage as he was easily blocked by WRs and TEs on too many plays. It isn’t hard to argue that he’s the worst tackling safety that will be drafted on the first two days of the draft (1-3 round). Bell has elite hands, his one handed INT vs. Clemson as a true freshman was amazing, yet doesn’t have great instincts and many of his INTs were just taking advantage of poorly thrown balls. Again he made the most of the situation but he isn’t a forcer of the situation which is what a true ballhawk does. I like Bell but am a little confused why he’s so highly rated. He’s a terrible tackler, is undersized, has mediocre instincts and in a lot of ways is just an average CB playing S. I think he’ll be a starter and with his elite hands he’ll get his fair share of INTs but he probably will struggle a lot early in his career with consistently getting ball carriers to the ground and I see some bust potential in him. Late 2nd round as my #4 S who I feel is a bit overrated 4/10/16.
  5. TJ Green Clemson 6’2 ½ 209 Jr. He ran a 4.34 40 which is amazing in and of itself but at 209 lbs it is one of the best size/speed ratios I’ve ever graded at the safety spot. Eric Berry is my benchmark and he ran a 4.47 at 211 lbs. He’s a bit too tall for my liking as he’s stiff and lacks short area quickness. Most see him as a FS, especially with his elite speed, but I might consider bulking him up to the 220 range where he’d lose only a little speed but not be as adversely affected by his tightness and lack of short area quickness and ball skills. He is so raw as I see no recognition skills from him and he regularly is caught flat footed. I don’t know what to do with this kid. He barely played in 2013 or 2014 and he only has 1 career INT and 3 career PBUs which makes me think he’s an undraftable kid. Yet he put up one of the better Combine performances I’ve ever seen by a safety and in 2015 he had 95 tackles, 2 FF and a sack so his production was very good and his measurables were Top 10 talent level. I think scouts will fall into two camps with him: he’s either a one year wonder, workout warrior or he’s just coming into his own and has star potential. I fall more into the former camp as the tape shows a raw, inexperienced player that will struggle early in his career. That being said the kid has a very high ceiling, especially if a team gets creative and bulks him up so he can move to SS. If left at FS I suspect he becomes a bust, if moved to SS he could possibly become a Pro Bowl talent. Either way he’s a roll of the dice type with a high ceiling combined with a high potential to be a bust. Late 3rd round as my #5 S 4/10/16.
  6. Miles Killibrew Southern Utah 6’1 ⅞ 219 Sr. He’s a big, in the box safety with below average speed (4.65 40) but elite strength (22 reps), very good explosiveness (‘38 vertical, 10’7 broad) and solid quickness, especially for his size. Killibrew is a small school kid that is just a big ball of muscle. For that build though he has surprisingly good hips, quickness, hands and agility. He is clearly a SS that can’t cover guys with too much speed but he’s got more versatility than you would expect. That’s all gravy though to his main course which is his big hitting ability. Mayock said at the Senior Bowl, “I’ve never seen a safety hit more guys that went backwards in my life.” When you scout small school kids you want them to jump off the film at you and he does as he just destroyed people at Southern Utah. He likely will struggle early on due to the increase in talent but I think he can make it. His size and strength are great but he’s a legit NFL athlete that is more versatile than he gets credit for due to being white and from a small school. Late 3rd round as my #6 S 4/10/16.
  7. Maurice Canady Virginia 6’1 193 Sr. For 6’1 it’s surprising his arms are only 31 ⅝ long which definitely negates some of his biggest strength. He’s been around forever as he’s been a starter for 4 years. Some have him as a CB but watching his film he is a safety all day as he has poor hips, isn’t quick and lacks a great burst but is a solid player that makes plays in his area. In the right scheme he makes sense as a FS but even with a 4.49 40 I question if he has the range to be a true centerfielder. He looks like more of a halves type FS. Early 4th round as my #7 S 4/6/16.
  8. Keanu Neal Florida 6’0 ½ 211 Jr. He has huge hands (10 ⅝), great explosiveness (‘38 vertical, ‘11 broad) and is a big time tackler (95 tackles in 2015) and hitter. He barely played in 2013 and really came on as a junior so he is a bit of a one year wonder. With a 4.62 40 (below average) and a 4.38 shuttle (terrible, 3rd worst among DBs) his speed and quickness are question marks. This issue isn’t just measurable as on film he’s slow and stiff and doesn’t look like a true impact player. I like him as an in the box safety but don’t even love him in that role and think he is vastly overrated. He moves more like a safety than Jeremy Cash does but they essentially are the same player, with one (Neal) getting far more draft buzz than the other. Early 4th round as my #8 S who I think is very overrated 4/10/16.
  9. Darian Thompson Boise State 6’1 ⅞ 208 Sr. He redshirted one season. He had a poor Combine with a 4.69 40, fourth worst time of all the DBs, to go with a poor vertical, shuttle and 3 cone. While his athleticism is questionable his productivity is not as he had 19 career INTs which is the most of any prospect I can ever remember grading. Combine that with solid tackle totals and 3 FF and you have a guy that was around the action a lot. He has good instincts, is long and lean and has great hands (WR like). Unfortunately he is a little top heavy, is stiff, isn’t terribly physical in the run game and lacks a great burst to the ball. Some of his INTs though are pretty impressive as again he has great hands and instincts so I could see him being productive ala Reggie Nelson if put in the correct scheme. He reminds me of Phillip Thomas out of Fresno State a few years ago as a guy with elite production but terrible athleticism. Thomas by the way has been a bust with only 8 career games in 3 seasons. At some point you need to take a flier on a kid like this due to his elite production but he must be a good fit schematically as he can’t play centerfield and needs to be in a system where he is given a small amount of room to cover. 4th round as my #9 S 4/10/16.
  10. Jeremy Cash Duke 6’0 ⅜ 212 Sr. He redshirted in 2012 and barely played in 2011. He is a down hill, in the box safety with limited range but if your scheme can accept those limitations than Cash is your guy as had 3 seasons with +100 tackles (elite) and 9 career FF (elite). He also has 6 career INTs but those numbers are illusory as he is not a ball hawk. Watch any Duke game and he was crowding up near the LOS, to the point where he might make some sense as a 4-3 WLB or nickel LB like Arizona uses Deone Bucanon. In run support the ACC DPOY in 2015 is elite as he has a thicker lower body than most DBs and can actually stand up at the point of attack. He didn’t work out at the Combine due to a December wrist injury. I question whether that was the full reason though as his film shows a slow twitch athlete that looks, plays and moves like a LB so he probably was going to run a 4.7 type 40 which would have hurt his stock. Overall Cash is an easy grade as he will be removed from some teams’ boards due to his poor athleticism and considered at LB for other teams. Some teams though still use a SS like a 4th linebacker and in that scheme he could flourish. I love productivity but can’t say I love Cash too much. Early 5th round as my #10 S 4/10/16.
  11. Jayron Kearse Clemson 6’4 216 Jr. With 164 tackles and 7 INTs in 3 seasons with a legit 6’4 frame he’s the classic too tall, extremely productive in college safety. Unfortunately those types rarely translate well to the NFL as previous iterations (Taylor Mays, George Iloka, Robert Sands) rarely became more than mediocre or time share starters. The Robert Sands comparison is most apt from a size/speed ratio as Kearse is 6’4 216, ran a 4.62 40 and a 7.06 3 cone while Sands in 2011 was 6’4 ⅜ 217, ran 4.61 40 and a 7.03 3 cone. Eerie right? Well Robert Sands has exactly 0 career tackles and has been out of the NFL for 2 years now despite being a 5th rounder. Also all three guys I’ve listed were drafted or traded to the Cincinnati Bengals so it seems like the rest of the NFL is hesistant about these guys but the Bengals still are interested. On film Kearse is very top heavy with long legs that are partially negated by quick feet. I don’t like his instincts, hips or change of direction at all which makes me think he’ll be another bust. It will be interesting to see where he goes in the draft as I’ve basically written off safeties of this height until one actually proves me wrong, still waiting half a decade later. Kearse could be the one to do it but I doubt it and until then I’ll give these type of prospects far worse grades than any other pundit out there. Late 5th round as my #11 S 4/10/16.
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