2023 Senior Bowl Scouting Preview: The Safeties (SAF)

 

Leading up to Senior Bowl week, I do 15-30 minutes of scouting preview work on each prospect set to attend -- watching a couple game tapes and looking over some performance data, etc., and then I give each prospect a pre-event scouting grade for the NFL based on that brief look.

After we scout their performance at the Senior Bowl week of practices, drills, etc., we update the grades and comments and re-rank. We continue to go through the same process for the NFL Combine, as we build a study for 2023 draft prospects until we ultimately choose to do an even deeper study of certain prospects and publish a full scouting report and run our computer scouting models for numerical grades on over 600+ prospects for the NFL Draft.

This is a very brief look for me, as a scout, to start to build my data and scouting notes for the weeks and months ahead, and to be ready to focus in on certain prospects in Mobile that are jumping at me from the early preview. It's a first, sometimes second look (for me) at a prospect and their tape, actions, info and my impressions/grading can and will change as we go through the year long process.

After a January quick study, here are my impressions, grades, and ranking of each position (except O-Line, we'll look at OLs after the Combine).

 

The Safeties…

 

 

SAF Daniel Scott, Cal (Pre-SB Grade: A)

2022: 57 solo, 28 asst tackles, 2.5 TFLs, 3 INTs, 4 PDs, 2 FF

6'2”/205

Projected 40-time: 4.4+

Projected 3-Cone: 6.7+

Consensus mainstream NFL Draft ranking overall: top 175

Wow. The best movement skills I've seen in a while from a SAF prospect. Great footspeed…excellent acceleration/closing speed with fantastic agility/ability to change direction to hunt down tacklers and cover in the passing game. I am looking forward to studying this guy deeper because my intro/preview was a 'wow'…and we're lucky if there are 1-2-3 'wow' prospects I see ahead of the Senior Bowl. Last year, Marcus Jones was an early 'wow' (for me) from the Senior Bowl, as one that comes to mind.

NFL Comp? = A bigger, better Jalen Pitre?

Video Highlights: https://youtu.be/gwIw0sXtzBk

 

SAF J.L. Skinner, Boise State (Pre-SB Grade: B+)

2022: 36 solo, 29 asst tackles, 0.5 TFLs, 4 INTs, 5 PDs (12 games)

6'3”/218

Projected 40-time: 4.45+

Projected 3-Cone: 6.95 +/-

Consensus mainstream NFL Draft ranking overall: top 75

Skinner has a chance to be an 'A' grade safety prospect. Great muscular, sturdy build…like a sleek linebacker but moves like a safety, and hits like a linebacker. Could lay claim to the label of 'hardest hitting safety in the draft'.

Worked on improving cover skills in 2022 after being a menace as a run stopper/tackler in 2021 (92 tackles, 7.0 TFLs, 2 FF). Really liked what I saw here. The NFL Combine will determine if he's a possible 1st-round/2nd-round prospect.

NFL Comp? = Kyle DuggerKen Hamlin.

Video Highlights: https://youtu.be/tKxvq_tgzq8

 

SAF Sydney Brown, Illinois (Pre-SB Grade: B-/C+)

2022: 41 solo, 19 asst tackles, 3.5 TFLs, 1.0 sacks, 6 INTs, 1 INT ret. TD, 1 Fumb. ret. TD

6'0”/200

Projected 40-time: 4.45+

Projected 3-Cone: 7.0+

Consensus mainstream NFL Draft ranking overall: top 100

A very talented athlete as a SAF, sometimes linebacker. Has amazing hands…almost a WR playing safety but built like a muscular satellite RB. He's aggressive, a good tackler, and decent in coverage. He may not be a star in the NFL, but he'll be useful on defense and special teams.

NFL Comp? = Has a little Antoine Winfield in him, possibly…a taller version, but maybe not as fast.

 

 

SAF Jay Ward, LSU (Pre-SB Grade: C+)

2022: 43 solo, 17 asst tackles, 2.5 TFLs, 1 INT, 4 PDs

6'1”/180

Projected 40-time: 4.45

Projected 3-Cone: 7.0 +/-

Consensus mainstream NFL Draft ranking overall: top 150

A really solid 'football player', emphasis on football player. The guy has a nose for getting to ball carriers and making tackles, picking his way past traffic/blockers and making clean/quality tackles. He has played both corner and safety at LSU. Feels like a safety from the tape but is a little thinner then you'd typically like at NFL safety. He could easily be 'B' grade talent with more study and if his play shines at the Senior Bowl.

NFL Comp? = Julian Blackmon

 

 

SAF Jordan Battle, Alabama (Pre-SB Grade: C+)

2022: 34 solo, 37 asst tackles, 0.5 TFL, 1 INT, 2 PD (13 games)

6'1”/210

Projected 40-time: 4.5+

Projected 3-Cone: 7.0 +/-

Consensus mainstream NFL Draft ranking overall: top 60

Battle is a solid NFL prospect safety. The 'Alabama' label gets him to a top 100 ranking. Had he gone to Missouri he'd be a day three safety, potentially. He's fine but is generically a good safety, nothing worth over-drafting.

It looks like Battle took a year off in 2022 (just drifted around deep at safety not really standing out on the field)…like, he knew he had a nice 2021 season and got respect/draft buzz and then mailed it in 2022 season to protect his draft stock. Is he the 2021 playmaker or the 2022 snooze?

He was a B- for me in our 2022 summer Devy series.

NFL Comp? = Terrell Edmonds…maybe could be a Marcus Maye instead.

 

 

SAF Christopher Smith, Georgia (Pre-SB Grade: C+)

2022: 45 solo, 16 asst tackles, 5.0 TFLs, 3 INTs, 5 PD, 1 FF

5'11”/190

Projected 40-time: 4.45+

Projected 3-Cone: 7.0+

Consensus mainstream NFL Draft ranking overall: top 75

A good-looking safety prospect from the Georgia factory. A 'plus' athlete and a decent tackler with good closing speed but a little smaller than you'd like from an NFL Draft prospect at safety. His size is not a draft-killing thing, just…it's 'not optimal'. Could easily be a 'B' range prospect after the Combine and when we run all the data.

NFL Comp? = Jalen Thompson

 

 

SAF Chamarri Conner, Va Tech (Pre-SB Grade: C)

2022: 38 solo, 29 asst tackles, 2.0 TFLs, 2 PDs (11 games)

6'0”/205

Projected 40-time: 4.45+

Projected 3-Cone: 7.0 +/-

Consensus mainstream NFL Draft ranking overall: top 300

Some places list him as a CB prospect, but he looks to me like a clear SAF prospect. I watched him playing half SAF/half LB in the tape I had. In 2019, he registered 10.0 TFLs and 5.5 sacks as a more linebacker-ish type DB.

Really good instincts. Quick to the ball/ballcarriers and a very good tackler. I think he'll be a 'riser' after the Senior Bowl week. He can also cover WRs well working as a strict DB. Very useful prospect here.

NFL Comp? = Has some Talanoa Hufanga in him, potentially.

 

 

SAF DeMarcco Hellams, Alabama (Pre-SB Grade: C)

2022: 67 solo (led SEC), 41 asst tackles, 3.0 TFLs, 1 INT, 1 PD, 1 FF (13 games)

6'1”/208

Projected 40-time: 4.5+

Projected 3-Cone: 7.0 +/-

Consensus mainstream NFL Draft ranking overall: top 250

Hellams looked a whole lot better than teammate (SAF) Jordan Battle did in 2022 season. Hellams looked like he was playing for a future, while Battle played like he was trying to protect his future. It's so hard to tell on these Alabama safeties because they play on all-star team that allows them to do things they won't be able to in the NFL.

Hellams 2022 looks a lot like Battle 2021, for Alabama. Both are legit NFL prospects but they're not off the charts…but they'll be over-drafted because of the 'Alabama' label. They both look good-not-great to me at first glance. The NFL Combine data will help to separate them.

NFL Comp? = Marcus Maye

 

 

SAF Jammie Robinson, Florida State (Pre-SB Grade: C)

2022: 46 solo, 53 asst tackles, 5.0 TFLs, 1 INT, 5 PDs

5'11”/199

Projected 40-time: 4.45+

Projected 3-Cone: 6.9+

Consensus mainstream NFL Draft ranking overall: top 150

Nice movement skills, but not as purposed/controlled as some of the top safety prospects…which makes him a so-so tackler because he can overrun things, and he tries to grab jerseys and arm tackle a little too much. There is raw clay/a good athlete base to work with here. He looks like he's better as a cover safety or possible move to slot corner if he could handle it.

NFL Comp? = Vonn Bell with some Budda Baker-like movement ability, but not the refined skill.

 

 

SAF Ji'Ayir Brown, Penn State (Pre-SB Grade: D+)

2022: 56 solo, 18 asst tackles, 7.0 TFLs, 4.5 sacks, 4 INTs, 3 PDs, 2 FF (13 games)

5'11”/208

Projected 40-time: 4.5+

Projected 3-Cone: 7.0+

Consensus mainstream NFL Draft ranking overall: top 150

Was not grabbed by anything I saw here. He looked OK. Floated around the field a lot with no impact/plays made (on the tape I watched) and is a so-so tackler, maybe too so-so and it gets him undrafted. NFL body, decent movement skills, no real great football prowess revealed.

NFL Comp? = Jeremy Reaves

 

 

SAF Kaevon Merriweather, Iowa (Pre-SB Grade: D)

2022: 35 solo, 12 asst tackles, 2.0 TFLs, 3 INTs, 3 PD, 1 FF (12 games)

6'0”/211

Projected 40-time: 4.5+

Projected 3-Cone: 7.0+

Consensus mainstream NFL Draft ranking overall: top 250

Didn't show me anything exciting on tape. Solid movement skills. Easily gets lost, blocked, or is out of the play in some way shape or form in the games I watched. He has an NFL body, but I didn't see the skills yet for the next level. We may see them in Mobile.

NFL Comp? = Essang Bassey

 

 

SAF Jartavius Martin, Illinois (Pre-SB Grade: D)

2022: 51 solo, 13 asst tackles, 3.0 TFLs, 3 INTs, 11 PD, 2 FF

6'0”/195

Projected 40-time: 4.6+

Projected 3-Cone: 7.0+

Consensus mainstream NFL Draft ranking overall: top 150

Unimpressed with this preview. Played more of a slot CB/SAF hybrid role and didn't standout…got lost in coverage a few times, missed some tackles with poor sense/technique. We'll see if he is better in Mobile.

NFL Comp? = Isaiah Dunn