CollegeFootballNews.com Preview 2017: Top 20 Safeties
Who are the best safeties coming into the college football season? Here are the projected 20 top guys
Preview 2017: Top 20 Safeties
Who are the best safeties coming into the 2017 college football season? This is a projection of the top COLLEGE players, and not necessarily the best pro prospects – although it happens to work out that way up top. Talent, of course, matters, but this is about looking ahead at who will be the top 20 this year.
20. Parker Baldwin, Jr. San Diego State
One of the key parts of a great Mountain West champion, the 6-2, 215-pounder brings a good pop, making 60 tackles last season with nine broken up passes and two picks.
19. Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, Jr. Arizona
Yes, there were a few Arizona Wildcats who weren’t knocked out with a devastating injury. The 6-3, 199-pound solid all-around athlete started every game making 78 stops with two picks.
18. Jeremy Reaves, Sr. South Alabama
One of the rising stars in the Group of Five world, the 5-11, 190-pound versatile defensive back has seen time at corner but is better at safety. Fast with great athleticism, he’s always around the ball making 96 tackles with two interceptions.
17. Jordan Whitehead, Jr. Pitt
The Panther secondary might have been miserable, but Whitehead tried to do his part, earning all-star honors despite missing a chunk of the late part of the season hurt. A fantastic hitter, he followed up a 109-tackle first year with 65 stops and a pick.
16. Delvon Randall, Jr. Temple
The Owls might lose a slew of key players and their head coach, but the 5-11, 208-pound Randall is a very smart, very tough leader who should keep the defense strong after making 65 tackles with four interceptions.
15. Steven Parker, Sr. Oklahoma
An all-star in another good OU secondary, the 6-1, 203-pounder came up with 123 tackles over the last two seasons, picking off his first two picks of his career last season. While he’s just okay when the ball is in the air, he’s terrific in run support.
14. Damon Webb, Sr. Ohio State
Everyone left for the NFL but Webb, and now he has to make the secondary his. The 5-11, 195-pound veteran has been around long enough to handle the leadership role without a problem, starting in every game last season with 57 tackles and an interception.
13. Tre Flowers, Sr. Oklahoma State
The All-Big 12 star on the field and in the classroom, he’s got the right 6-3, 200-pound size to go along with the range to always be around the ball. He finished with 61 tackles last season with 17 career broken up passes.
12. Joshua Kalu, Sr. Nebraska
One of the few shining stars on a Husker team that needs all-star playmakers, he earned All-Big Ten honors on the academic side as well as in the defensive backfield. At 6-1 and 195 pounds he’s got decent enough size and can hit with 168 career tackles with 21 broken up passes and five interceptions.
11. Garrett Davis, Jr. Houston
A decent special teamer as a freshman, Davis got his shot at a starting job last year and blew up, making 65 tackles with five broken up passes and three sacks. At 6-1 and 200 pounds he’s got decent size and an hit, being used as a dangerous pass rusher when the Cougars bring the house.
10. Andrew Wingard, Jr. Wyoming
It’s not all Josh Smith for the Cowboys. The big-hitting 6-0, 207-pound Wingard is one of the nation’s best all-around free safeties, leading UW in tackles in each of the last two seasons with 253 stops. He can get behind the line, too, with two sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss last year.
9. Godwin Igwebuike, Sr. Northwestern
The 6-0, 205-pounder could’ve turned pro early and been a mid-round drat pick. Now he’ll be one of the Big Ten’s best defensive backs again after three fantastic all-star years. Outstanding from the start, he has 239 tackles over his three seasons with 11 tackles for loss and four interceptions. He’s a killer in the open field.
8. Armani Watts, Sr. Texas A&M
The Aggies caught a massive break when Watts chose to come back for his final year when he would’ve been a sure-thing top 50 pick had he left. He’s a compact 5-11, 205-pounder who followed up a 126-tackle season with 56 stops – with 241 career tackles – with six picks and 20 broken up passes in three years.
7. Todd Kelly, Sr. Tennessee
Is his ankle okay? He was banged up a wee bit last year and this offseason, but when he’s right, he’s among the nation’s best-hitting defensive backs. A tough 5-11, 208-pounder, he came up with a career-high 71 tackles with two of his career eight interceptions.
6. Ronnie Harrison, Jr. Alabama
The NFL Combine is going to love the 6-3, 216-pound Tallahassee native who got away from Florida State. He went from being a nice part of the rotation in his first season to a force as a starter, coming up with 86 tackles with two interceptions. He’s got the size, and he’s got the ball skills with 17 broken up passes in his two years.
5. Marcus Allen, Sr. Penn State
The NFL was right there, but Allen chose to come back for another season after a great first three seasons. The 6-2, 202-pounder has the right size and more than enough experience to be among the nation’s top-tackling defensive backs again, making 249 career stops. Now he has to pick off a pass or three.
4. Nate Andrews, Sr. Florida State
Never healthy, he only played in a few games last season after struggling through injuries in 2015. The 6-0, 214-pounder can play anywhere in the secondary, making 93 tackles with three interceptions in 2014, and now he appears to be ready to rock again.
3. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Jr. Alabama
A special talent with top 15 draft pick upside and 6-1, 203-pound size, he was great right away with 45 tackles with two picks as a freshman before dominating last year with 66 stops and six picks as an All-American. Deadly with the ball in his hands, he took four of his interceptions for scores in his first two years.
2. Quin Blanding, Sr. Virginia
One of the best defensive players in college football from the moment he got to Charlottesville, the 6-2, 215-pound future NFL starter is the prototypical next-level free safety with special hitting ability. After coming up with 120 stops, he has three straight 100-tackle seasons with 358 career tackles with six picks.
1. Derwin James, Soph. Florida State
It’s going to be tough. The bad NFL teams at the top of next year’s draft will want Sam Darnold, or one of the other top quarterback prospects, but James might just be the best player – if he chooses to come out.
At 6-3 and 211 pounds with special talent, he missed most of last year with a knee injury after making 91 tackles with 4.5 sacks and four broken passes in his first season. Now that he’s healthy and ready to roll, he’ll combine with Nate Andrews to give FSU the nation’s best safety tandem.
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