As the college football season continues into it’s second full month more and more speculation and early mock drafts are being published and debated. While quarterbacks continue to dominate that headlines, all the other positions are starting to give us some ideas of who the top prospects are. Today, our focus will be on the safety position.
During the previous draft cycle there was a lot of talk and speculation on the San Francisco 49ers possibly investing their first round selection on a safety. Those talks will most likely continue into next year’s draft cycle as well. It doesn’t hurt that San Francisco 49ers GM John Lynch was a former safety himself during his playing days. With that said, let’s take an early look at some of the top draft eligible safeties for 2018 who will be in action tomorrow, along with the college football game info you need to catch all the action! Please note, if a player is not in action tomorrow they will not be listed in this article.
* Indicates Junior Status
Derwin James*, Safety
6’3” 211 lbs.
Florida State @ Wake Forest - 3:30pm - ABC
Is this the best secondary defender eligible for the 2018 NFL Draft? Very early in the season, I would say so. Even with his season lost last year due to a knee injury, James is a game-changing presence on the field. He set the tone and made his mark in the opening game of the season against the number one ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. He finished that game with six tackles and contributed with a sack. His versatility and his ability to line up at multiple positions only increases his value. At the next level he has the ability to play free or strong safety. He has that rare blend of size and speed, and the ability to cut receivers off their route. His top notch football instincts put him in great position to make a play on the ball, and will battle with even the most physical receivers. Keeping an eye on durability is something to watch, however if his season goes the way I imagine he very well could be the first defender off their board in next spring. James is a lock in the top 10.
Minkah Fitzpatrick*, Safety
6’1” 203 lbs.
No. 1 Alabama vs Ole Miss - 9pm - ESPN
Is he a safety or is he a corner? Fitzpatrick has certainly been splitting his time at both positions throughout his career at Alabama. Last season Fitzpatrick recored 66 tackles, with 8 interceptions, and seven passes broken up. Fitzpatrick is a ballhawk who can anticipate where the pass is heading. He follows the quarterback’s eyes with ease putting himself in positions to make a play. Like many on the Crimson Tide defense, Fitzpatrick plays a physical brand of football. Has the speed to track down deep threat receivers and cover wide ranges. Like James, Fitzpatrick had a strong opening game against the Florida State Seminoles. Currently, Fitzpatrick is a first round talent.
Armani Watts, Safety
5’11 - 195 lbs.
Texas A&M vs. South Carolina - 7:30pm - SEC Network
Watts had a productive 2016 season recording 56 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions, and 3 passes broken up. Watts is a playmaking safety, who makes his presence known on the field. Hits with authority, and finishes his tackles cleanly, quickly wrapping his arms around his opponent and bringing them to the ground. Currently I see Watts as a free safety prospect heading into the 2018 NFL Draft. He has the centerfielder range ability, and covers a lot of field with his speed and agility, both straight-line and lateral from sideline-to-sideline.
Jordan Whitehead*, Safety
5’11” - 190 lbs.
Pittsburgh vs Rice - Noon - ACC Network
Perhaps Whitehead will be ranked higher than number four when the season concludes. However, a three game suspension has dropped him in the rankings. With that said, Whitehead is an elite talent at the safety position. Last season he recorded 108 tackles, six passes broken up, one interception, and one forced fumble. He might be the most physical and hardest hitting safety in the country. Watching his tape, it seems like Whitehead is always involved in a play that occurs. I like his football instincts, and his ability to play stronger the deeper the game goes. However, his size is a bit of a concern. Also, with previous injuries, his durability will need to be monitored. Now that his suspension is over it will not surprise me if Whitehead moves up in these rankings once he gets into a flow and good rhythm throughout the rest of this season.
Ronnie Harrison*, Safety
6’3” - 216 lbs.
No. 1 Alabama vs Ole Miss - 9pm - ESPN
It shouldn't be all that surprising that Bama has two members of their secondary represented in top five position rankings. Like his partner Fitzpatrick, Harrison has also made his presence known on the field with his own physical brand of football. In 2016 he recored 86 tackles, with seven passes broken up, and two interceptions. I have him ranked right up there wth Whitehead as being one of the most physical safeties in the country this season. I like Harrison’s ability to make his presence known up at the line of scrimmage and break up running plays. His play against the pass has been improving every season as well. He plays with confidence and physicality in man-cover and one-to-one coverage. He hits with authority, and finishes tackles cleanly.
Here is the full Saturday Schedule for College Football - All times (EST)
Northwestern @ #10 Wisconsin - Noon - ABC Network
#18 South Florida @ East Carolina - Noon - CBSSN
Vanderbilt @ #21 Florida - Noon - ESPN
Houston @ Temple - Noon - ESPNU
New Mexico State @ Arkansas - Noon - SEC Network
Maryland @ Minnesota - Noon - FS1
Rice @ Pittsburgh - Noon - ACC Network
North Carolina @ Georgia Tech - Noon - ESPN2
Syracuse @ NC State - 12:20pm - ACC Network
Central Michigan @ Boston College - 1pm - ACC Network
Indian @ #4 Penn State - 3:30pm - Big Ten Network
#7 Georgia @ Tennessee - 3:30pm - CBS
Murray State @ #17 Louisville - 3:30pm - ACC Network
Florida State @ Wake Forest - 3:30pm - ABC Network
Ohio @ UMass - 3:30pm - N/A
Baylor @ Kansas State - 3:30pm - ESPN2
UTEP @ Army - 3:30pm - CBSSN
Navy @ Tulsa - 3:30pm - ESPNU
Buffalo @ Kent State - 3:30pm - ESPN3
Texas State @ Wyoming - 4pm - N/A
UCONN @ SMU - 4pm - ESPNEWS
Arizona State @ Stanford - 4pm - PAC 12 Network
Eastern Michigan @ Kentucky - 4pm - SEC Network
Iowa @ Michigan State - 4pm - FOX
Miami (OH) @ #22 Notre Dame @ 5pm - NBCSN
#24 Mississippi State @ #13 Auburn - 6pm - ESPN
Akron @ Bowling Green - 6pm - ESPN3
Troy @ #25 LSU - 7pm - ESPNU
Charlotte @ Florida International - 7pm - N/A
Middle Tennessee @ Florida Atlantic - 7pm - N/A
South Alabama @ Louisiana Tech - 7pm - ESPN3
Marshall @ Cincinnati - 7pm - ESPN3
North Texas @ Southern Mississippi - 7pm - N/A
Ball State @ Western Michigan - 7pm - ESPN3
Coastal Carolina @ Louisiana Monroe - 7pm - ESPN3
Air Force @ New Mexico - 7pm - CBSSN
Memphis @ UCF - 7pm - ESPN2
#11 Ohio State @ Rutgers - 7:30pm - Big Ten Network
South Carolina @ Texas A & M - 7:30pm - SEC Network
#2 Clemson @ #12 Virginia Tech - 8pm - ABC Network
#6 Washington @ Oregon State - 8pm - PAC 12 Network
#15 Oklahoma State @ Texas Tech - 8pm - FOX
Ole Miss @ #1 Alabama - 9pm - ESPN
Nevada @ Fresno State - 10pm - N/A
Northern Illinois @ #19 San Diego State - 10:30pm - CBSSN
San Jose State @ UNLV - 10:30pm - ESPNU
Colorado @ UCLA - 10:30pm - ESPN2
California @ Oregon - 10:30pm - FS1
Colorado State @ Hawaii - 11:59pm - N/A
What are YOUR thoughts on the top 5 safeties? Who are you excited about seeing in action today? Please share in the comments below!