Patriots

/ by Darren Hartwell
Presented By DraftKings
Patriots

Good luck putting this year's safety prospects in a box — unless they're coming up in the box to provide run support.

College and NFL teams have emphasized defensive versatility in recent years, and the result has a been a wave of "hybrid" safeties who are athletic enough to defend the pass yet strong enough to serve as de facto outside linebackers and pass rushers.

The safety class entering the 2020 NFL Draft continues that trend. The consensus top two safeties — Alabama's Xavier McKinney and LSU's Grant Delpit — combined for 13 sacks in their college careers to go along with 13 combined interceptions.

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Secondary was the New England Patriots' strong suit in 2019, and the team recently signed veteran Adrian Phillips to complement safeties Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and Terrence Brooks.

Bill Belichick prizes versatility, though, and after trading Duron Harmon to the Detroit Lions, it's possible he scoops up a Swiss Army Knife safety in 2020.

2020 Draft Rankings: QB | WR | RB | TE | OTG/C | DT | EDGECB | K

Here are the top 10 safeties on our 2020 draft board.

1. Xavier McKinney

College: Alabama
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 95 tackles, three interceptions, five passes defensed

At 6-foot, 201 pounds, McKinney is the definition of a do-it-all defensive back, lining up at free safety, slot cornerback and an in-the-box strong safety/linebacker for a talented Crimson Tide defense. He should go late in the first round, and if you're thinking Patriots head coach Bill Belichick could have interest at No. 23 overall, you're onto something.

 

Projected Round: First 

2. Grant Delpit

College: LSU
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 65 tackles, two interceptions, seven passes defensed

While some NFL scouts have questioned Delpit's tackling ability, he's a three-year SEC starter who can line up at multiple positions and is physical enough to thrive at the NFL level. Just ask his LSU safety predecessors, which include former Tigers stars Tyrann Mathieu, Jamal Adams and Eric Reid.

Projected Round: First or Early Second

3. Antoine Winfield Jr.

College: Minnesota
Class: Sophomore
2019 stats: 83 tackles, seven interceptions, one pass defensed

What Winfield lacks in size (5-foot-9), he makes up for in athleticsm and explosiveness (4.45-second 40-yard dash and a 36-inch vertical). The son of former Pro Bowl cornerback Antoine Winfield, he has the tools to be a solid NFL starter.

Projected Round: Second

4. Kyle Dugger

College: Lenoir–Rhyne University
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 31 tackles, two interceptions, six passes defensed

How could the product of a tiny Division II school (student population: 2,700) be the fourth safety taken in the 2020 NFL Draft? Dominating the NFL Combine helps (4.49-second 40-yard dash, 42-inch vertical, 134-inch broad jump), as does Dugger's impressive tape that had NFL.com's Lance Zeirlein comparing him to eight-year pro Gerald Sensabaugh.

Projected Round: Second or Third

5. Ashtyn Davis

College: California
Class: Senior
2019 stats: 55 tackles, two interceptions, four passes defensed

A track star who actually walked onto Cal's football team, Davis is a raw talent who has plenty of upside if he can improve his fundamentals. For what it's worth, Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy called Davis the most talented safety prospect in the draft.

Projected Round: Third or Fourth

6. Jeremy Chinn

College: Southern Illinois
Class: Senior
2019 stats: 71 tackles, four interceptions, three passes defensed

There are plenty of parallels to Dugger in Chinn, a physical specimen at 6-foot-3, 221 pounds who tore up the Division I FCS level for the Salukis. Chinn's game needs a little polish, but he has an NFL-ready frame and could entice some teams in the middle rounds or earlier.

Projected Round: Third or Fourth

7. Terrell Burgess

College: Utah
Class: Senior
2019 stats: 81 tackles, one interception, five passes defensed

Burgess didn't start until his senior year but quickly put his name on the map by showcasing a well-rounded game (he played nickel cornerback in addition to safety) and strong instincts. He's a solid mid-round option.

Projected Round: Fourth

8. Brandon Jones

College: Texas
Class: Senior
2019 stats: 86 tackles, two interceptions, four passes defensed

 

Jones is a bit undersized for an NFL safety (5-foot-11, 198 pounds) but has enough athleticism and tenacity to at least be a special teams contributor or rotational safety in the league.

Projected Round: Fourth

9. Geno Stone

College: Iowa
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 70 tackles, one interception, four passes defensed

Stone isn't the most athletic safety on the board (4.62-second 40-yard dash) but had a strong junior season for the Hawkeyes and plays with an intelligence that should lead an NFL club to snag him in the middle or late rounds.

Projected Round: Fourth or Fifth

10. Kenny Robinson Jr.

College: West Virginia/St. Louis BattleHawks (XFL)
Class: Sophomore
2020 XFL stats: 21 tackles, two interceptions, two passes defensed (five games played)

Perhaps the biggest wild card on this list, Robinson joined the XFL's BattleHawks this winter after being expelled from West Virginia for violating a student conduct code. Robinson held his own in the fledgling league against many former NFL players, and Pro Football Focus recently labeled the 21-year-old one of the top playmakers in the 2020 draft class.

Projected Round: Fifth

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