The main aim of the pre-draft process every year is to evaluate the risks and potential rewards tied to selecting each player available. Those prospects who represent very little ‘risk’ are considered safe picks. Even though they may not offer the high end ceiling some of their counterparts. While many NFL teams salivate over high potential phenoms, the NFL also values those players who you can slot into the starting lineup right away with very few concerns. Here are the safest prospects at every position on defense. To make this interesting, I have not decided to not allow myself to choose anyone I have a first round grade on. You can check out my piece looking at the safest players on offense here.
iDL – Armon Watts, Arkansas
Watts won’t wow you with sheer athleticism, but he is a stout run defender with advanced hand use. In the run game, Watts is disruptive due to a combination of violent hands and a strong base. However, Watts isn’t just a two down space eater. Showing in his senior season he can be a force getting after the passer racking up 7 sacks. When rushing the passer Watts wins with refined hand use and body control. Even if he isn’t the best athlete, he will be a contributor in the NFL who can crack the rotation in year 1.
Edge – Chase Winovich, Michigan
Winovich may be the best run defender along the edge in the 2019 class. HIs effort in contain and power in his hands allow him to consistently make plays against the run. As a pass rusher, he has impressive initial quickness upfield, a solid understanding of how to use his hands and enough flexibility to turn the corner. His motor is constantly running and he should be a contributor right away in a 3-4 scheme. I don’t think he will be a premier pass rusher in the NFL. However, his run defense and motor will allow him to carve out a valuable role for himself.
LB – Germaine Pratt, NC State
There aren’t many quality options behind the he two Devin’s in this year’s LB class. Germaine Pratt is one of the few backers behind the top 2 that I would pound the table for this year. An underrated athlete with the coverage ability you would expect in a former safety, Pratt checks a lot of boxes in today’s NFL. He may be one of the more sure tacklers in the class and processes information well post snap. I think he is a day 1 starter and has the skillset to fit a variety of schemes.
CB – David Long, Michigan
Long combines great athletic ability, press coverage and the ability to make plays on the ball. He was rarely beat at Michigan and showed a knack for staying in the receivers hip pocket with his physical style of play. Going into Long’s tape I was expecting to give him a mid round grade, as he hadn’t received a ton of buzz. He graded out in the day two range for me and could make an instant impact. I think he is a potential high level starter in a three year window at the NFL level.
S – Taylor Rapp, Washington
An excellent open field tackler and run defender, Rapp is one of the most reliable box safety’s in the draft. He combines his consistency in run support with great discipline and instincts in zone. With the matchup problems many of today’s tight ends cause Rapp’s physicality, anticipation and solid recovery speed allow him to stay in phase with tight ends in man coverage. He is a day one starter in the NFL who you can rely on playing at a consistently high level.