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Top 10 Safeties in 2016 NFL Draft – Jayron Kearse Could Be The Next Kam Chancellor

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Just like with everything in life, your value skyrockets when you’re good in multiple areas instead of just one. When looking at this upcoming safety class, you’ll see exactly what I mean.

Most of these prospects are ‘hybrid’ type guys, who are not only capable of playing in pass coverage, but they’re also capable of lining up on the edges and causing havoc in opposing backfields.

Let’s take a look at my top ten safeties of this 2016 draft class.

1. Jayron Kearse, Clemson – The first thing that stands out about Kearse is his elite size at this position. He stands at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds.

With that kind of size, it makes you wonder why he isn’t a receiver, but that’s what makes him unique at the safety spot. During his three years at Clemson, Kearse has totaled seven interceptions to go along with 11 passes defended (six this season).

Also, Kearse isn’t afraid to lay the wood.

He has 47 tackles this season, with 6.5 of them being for losses.

2. Vonn Bell, Ohio State – He’s only listed at 5-foot-11, 200 pounds, but Bell makes up for it in a lot of different ways.

Bell has tremendous ball skills, discipline and he presents very good tackling technique, which is becoming a lost art among defensive backs. However, at this size there are times when opponents are able to drag him along for an extra yard or two.

Nonetheless, the good definitely outweighs the bad with Bell and he’s one of those guys that you know exactly what you’re getting out of them.

3. Jeremy Cash, Duke – This prospect is one of the most underrated players heading into the 2016 NFL Draft.

When watching him on film, what’s really impressive is his versatility. He has played both safety positions, while being positioned as a dime linebacker and nickel cornerback at times.

Cash is tall and rangy at 6-foot-2. He has sideline to sideline speed and he isn’t afraid to mix things up in the box, which is evident when you see he has 18 tackles for losses on the season.

4. Karl Joseph, West Virginia – Although he may be undersized at 5-foot-11, 197, Joseph is one of the hardest hitting safeties in the country.

Unfortunately, Joseph’s season came to a sudden end after suffering a knee injury during a non-contact drill in practice. He only played in four games this year, but he was able to gather five interceptions in that short time frame.

Teams will obviously be scared to take Joseph early on draft night, but he could be a steal for some lucky team.

5. Kevin Byard, Middle Tennessee – Undersized and from a small school must equal bad prospect, right?

That’s far from the case with Byard.

He was a two-star prospect out of high school, which has fueled him into the player he is today. When watching him, you’d think he’s a cornerback, but then he reminds you of his toughness when he mixes things up in the middle of the field.

On the season, he has 61 tackles and four interceptions.

6. Tony Conner, Ole Miss – His ability to line up in the middle of the field and on the back end is a gift and a curse.

It’s great that Conner has the ability to line up in multiple spots on the field, but teams looking for someone with a defined position may pass up on him early.

It also doesn’t help that Conner missed time with a meniscus tear.

7. Miles Killebrew, Southern Utah – Unlike fellow small schoolmate, Kevin Byard, Killebrew offers elite size at 6-foot-3, 223 pounds.

Despite his bigger frame, Killebrew has the speed and athleticism to cause havoc in opposing teams backfields and he has the ability to defend wide receivers/tight ends.

Just like all young defensive backs, Killebrew will just have to get used to the speed of the game at the next level.

8. R.J. Williamson , Michigan State – Unfortunately, Williamson’s senior season hasn’t quite gone as planned. The team success has been great in East Lansing, but there’s no doubt Williamson would love to be on the field to contribute to it.

He was forced to get biceps surgery, which has caused him to miss the last two months.

With all of that being said, Williamson will be playing on Sunday’s next year due to his ball-hawking ability and great nose for the ball.

If healthy, he’ll be a very safe pick.

9. Elijah Shumate, Notre Dame – He would’ve fit perfectly in the NFL ten years ago, but with the game becoming so pass happy, Shumate will be asked to do a lot more in coverage, which is an area he struggles at.

However, you can throw Shumate all over the field because he has a natural nose for the football. He’ll bring instant help against the run and considering he runs a 4.57, there’s hope for him becoming a solid coverage guy one day.

10. Jordan Simone, Arizona State – His story is simply remarkable.

Simone was originally a walk-on at Arizona State, but he would eventually turn into the Sun Devils most productive defensive player.

A season ago, Simone totaled 74 tackles to go along with 4.5 for losses and two sacks. Before injuring his knee, Simone had 74 tackles again this year with 9.5 for losses.

Assuming rehab goes well, expect for Simone to be a nice sleeper pick in the middle to late rounds.


About Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels is an NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has several years of experience covering the NFL and NCAA football. He's the radio color commentator for Lincoln University football. Mark's work has been featured on Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and Yard Barker.