Who are the best safeties coming into the 2018 college football season? Here are the projected 30 top players.
Preview 2018: Top 30 Safeties
Based on projections for this college season – and not necessarily based on pro talent and potential – here are the 30 best safeties coming into the season.
30. Jeremiah Dinson, Jr. Auburn
Back from a knee injury that cost him all of the 2016 season, the former cornerback turned into a terrific safety, using his speed and range to come up with plenty of big plays. He came up with 47 tackles with a sack and four broken up passes, and now he’ll be in for a bigger statistical season being used as a nickel defender as well as a free safety.
29. LaDarius Wiley, Sr. Vanderbilt
The team’s leading tackler last season, the 6-1, 210-pounder came up with 88 tackles with a pick. He’s good when the ball is in the air, but he does the most damage stopping the run, with four games with 11 more stops, including a run of 36 tackles in three games.
28. Mike Bell, Jr. Fresno State
One of the Mountain West’s top young defensive stars, he finished third on the team with 77 tackles with an interception despite missing two games. At 6-3 and 205 pounds, he’s a big playmaker who’s great at coming up with stops in the open field.
27. Nigel Lawrence, Sr. South Alabama
Star defensive back Jeremy Reaves is gone, but Lawrence is back after finishing second on the team with 83 tackles with three broken up passes. At 5-11 and 190 pounds, he’s a corner playing safety, and he proved he’s tough enough to handle the job. Now he’s the key part of the rebuild under the new coaching staff.
26. John Battle, Sr. LSU
LB Devin White is the team’s biggest defensive star, and CB Greedy Williams isn’t that far behind. But Battle, a 6-3, 201-pound senior, is going to be a key factor, too, as the team’s second-leading returning tackler making 61 tackles with an interception. He caught a break last year getting an extra year of eligibility, and now he’ll be one of the defense’s biggest producers.
25. Reggie Floyd, Jr. Virginia Tech
Like a smallish linebacker as much as a safety, the 6-0, 221-pounder can bring the pop, coming up with 72 yacks with three interceptions. The team’s leading returning tackler, he hit Clemson with ten stops and was amazing in the open field all year long. Now he’ll push hard for All-ACC honors.
24. Jalen Thompson, Jr. Washington State
The team’s leading tackler earned all-Pac-12 honors making 73 tackles with four interceptions. Always around the ball, he was great at pouncing all over fumbles and and coming up with big plays. At 6-0 and 191 pounds, he’s got good size and can move.
23. Tariq Thompson, Soph. San Diego State
That’s how you make a debut. The 6-0, 200-pounder dominated at times as a true freshman, making 63 tackles with five interceptions. Rock steady against the run, he’s a fearless tackler, but he made his biggest impact with two interceptions against Northern Illinois – his pick six was a key play in the tight win – and two more late in the year against New Mexico.
22. Dameon Baber, Sr. Nevada
The team’s leading returning tackler made 94 tackles, returned two of his three picks for touchdowns. All three picks came against San Jose State, and even scored in the game on a special teams play. A big tackler, he started the season with 21 stops in his first two games, and came up with 22 tackles in a mid-season two game stretch.
21. D’Cota Dixon, Sr. Wisconsin
For an amazing defense that’s missing some of the key parts in the secondary, the 5-01, 204-pound Dixon will be more than just a leader and all-conference star. He might not be too big when the ball is in the air, but he’s got speed, range, and can pop, making 55 tackles last season despite missing a few games.
20. Javon Hagan, Jr. Ohio
A good part-time starter in his first season, the 6-0, 207-pounder from Florida showed off his upside with three picks, six forced fumbles and eight broken up passes. Last year he broke up seven more throws and was second on the team with 85 tackles, highlighted by his 14 in the key loss to Akron.
19. Dravon Askew-Henry, Jr. West Virginia
Could the 6-0, 202-pounder come back after missing all of 2016 with a knee injury? He came up with 57 tackles with six tackles for loss, five broken up passes and a pick. More steady than sensational, he’s now well past the injury and should be in for a massive final year, doing more against the pass while being a lock to come up with at least 70 stops.
18. Jordan Fuller, Jr. Ohio State
While he might not have been one of the team’s bigger stars, he came up with one of the team’s biggest seasons, finishing second on the team with 70 tackles with two interceptions, including a huge play in the win over Michigan. The 6-2, 207-pounder will be an all-star in the classroom as well as on the field.
17. Jonathan Crawford, Sr. Indiana
He’s got the 6-2, 197-pound size along with the speed to make the NFL scouts drool. He can hit, coming up with 62 tackles, and he can make things happen attacking the ball, breaking up eight passes. A three-year veteran, he’s a leader, a playmaker, and he has all the tools to be the main man for a rebuilding D.
16. Jalen Young, Sr. Florida Atlantic
The FAU offense might have the star power, but Young will be on the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year short list. He’s not massive at 5-11 and 185 pounds, but he’s a baller, coming off a seven-pick season with 77 tackles. Big in the big games, he intercepted three passes in the huge win over Marshall, and two more in the conference championship victory over North Texas.
15. Aaron Williams, Sr. Nebraska
The Scott Frost defense needs a lot more talent and a lot more playmakers, and it starts with the veteran Williams. He made 62 stops and three picks as a sophomore, and 48 more tackles with two interceptions in an injury-plagued 2017 run. An All-Big Ten star in the classroom, if he can stay healthy, he’ll be on the All-Big Ten football team, too.
14. Antoine Brooks, Jr. Maryland
He slimmed down a bit, and now he’s found a home. The former linebacker is now 5-11 and 210 pounds, and he can bring the thump as an all-around nickel defender. Great behind the line, he came up with 9.5 tackles for loss and was second on the team with 77 tackles, including 13 against Ohio State.
13. Nigel Warrior, Jr. Tennessee
For a team that needs stars on both sides of the ball, the son of former Kansas City Chief and Tennessee Vol, Dale Carter, is one of them. Decent as a freshman, he was all over the place as a sophomore, making 83 tackles with three forced fumble and seven tackles for loss. He also came up with one of the team’s few big highlights over the second half of the season, taking a pick 70 yards for a score against Missouri.
12. Amani Hooker, Jr. Iowa
The star of the Iowa offseason, the 6-0, 210-pounder should be the new big thing in the Big Ten for a team that’s become great at cranking out new big thing – Josh Jackson, Desmond King – defensive backs. Good last season, he made 56 tackles with two picks, taking one for a huge score against Ohio State. Now, watch out for something special.
11. JoJo McIntosh, Sr. Washington
With 6-1, 211-pound size and outstanding athleticism and quickness, the pro scouts are all over him. He only has two carer interceptions, but he can move, and he can tackle, with 155 career stops. He’ll get behind the line from time to time, and he’ll be a tone-setting popper in another all-star season. And then he’ll be off to be the star of some NFL secondary.