Rob Rank’s Top 5 Safeties
Boasting arguably the NFL’s elite safety tandem in the recently re-signed Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams, Seattle is unlikely to spend an early pick at this position, which is unfortunate in its own way, as there are really good players with some Seahawk-y traits. Given his massive frame and knack for creating big plays, Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton could have some Seahawks fans reliving Kam Chancellor’s glory days and Michigan’s Daxton Hill is so fluid in coverage, some believe he projects best as a cover corner at the next level. Similar debates were held years ago about Earl Thomas at the University of Texas prior to his emerging as another key component of the Legion of Boom as Seattle’s free safety. The Seahawks have plenty of young talent at the position already in Ryan Neal, Ugo Amadi and, of course, the tantalizing Marquise Blair, but the depth of this year’s safety class is good enough that the club may add to the group via the draft.
1. Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame, 6-4, 229, 4.59, First Round
Projected as a potential top five pick for much of the pre-draft process, Hamilton’s stock took a bit of a hit at the Combine with his clocking just under 4.6, a time outside of the threshold some clubs have for safety. Hamilton plays significantly faster than his timed speed suggests, however, due to his instincts and massive frame and he’s both an intimidating hitter and a legitimate ballhawk.
2. Daxton Hill, Michigan, 6-0, 191, 4.38, First Round
Clubs foolhardy enough to drop the aforementioned Hamilton due to a disappointing 40-yard dash may also struggle with Hill, who at just 191 pounds is considerably lighter than most teams prefer at safety and may be viewed as a cornerback by some clubs. Hill has the coverage skills to handle this move, if necessary, dropping down to play slot receivers often for the Wolverines. Free safeties with true range have never been more important than in today’s pass-happy NFL, however.
3. Jaquan Brisker, Penn State, 6-1, 199, 4.49, First/Second Round
Perhaps the closest thing to a “traditional” safety in this class, Brisker combines the physicality of a linebacker with the speed and shiftiness of a cornerback, offering the best of both worlds from a defensive coordinator’s perspective. Given how often he delivered bone-crunching hits for Penn State, it is pretty remarkable that Brisker did not force any fumbles in his three seasons of action for Penn State, though he did intercept five passes.
4. Lewis Cine, Georgia, 6-2, 199, 4.37, Second Round
Bigger, faster and an even more explosive hitter than Brisker, Cine checks in fourth on this list because he isn’t quite as fluid in changing direction, perhaps limiting Cine (pronounced “seen”) to zone-heavy alignments. Pound for pound, Cine is arguably the heaviest hitter in this year’s draft class, serving as the perfect hammer at the tail end of Georgia’s unbelievably gifted defense.
5. Jalen Pitre, Baylor, 5-11, 198, 4.50 (est.), Second Round
A catalyst for Baylor’s turnaround from a 2-7 campaign in 2020 to 12-2 and Sugar Bowl champions, Pitre was recognized as the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a Jim Thorpe Award finalist after a remarkable 2021 season in which he filled the stat sheet with 75 tackles, including 18.5 for loss and three sacks, as well as three forced fumbles, three recovered fumbles and two interceptions. Offering similar awareness and closing speed near the line of scrimmage as the Seahawks’ Jamal Adams, Pitre (pronounced pee-tree) is a moveable chess piece who can wreak havoc on opponents.
One of the most recognized names in the industry, Rob Rang has been covering the NFL Draft for more than 20 years, with work at FOX, Sports Illustrated, CBSSports.com, USA Today, Yahoo, NFL.com and NFLDraftScout.com, among others. Rang’s opinions and evaluations are his own and do not reflect those of the Seahawks.