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2019 NFL Draft: Safety reinforcements are slim pickings

If the Bills are looking for a young safety prospect, it’ll be slim pickings in the draft

With the possible exception of Tre’Davious White, no recent addition to the Buffalo Bills have been as important as the safety tandem of Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. The two free-agent acquisitions have had perhaps the biggest hand in elevating Buffalo’s defense from mediocre to elite. Unfortunately, the Bills brain trust has been slow to either acquire capable backups, or prepare for the pairs’ inevitable decline. Last year’s fifth rounder, Siran Neal, could hardly get on the field in three-safety looks. Clearly the team doesn’t believe in his ability to see the field. With ten picks in the 2019 Draft, the team may feel comfortable using one on a young prospect with upside at the position.

It’s only fitting that this year’s draft seems to lack immediate impact starters, because that’s not what the Bills need at this point. They’re looking for a player to throw into the rotation and eventually develop into a starter. More about the safety prospects below.

Tier I

Deionte Thompson (Alabama)
Taylor Rapp (Washington)

Thompson will get knocked for his lack of bulk at 196 pounds and how that will affect his tackling. That’s something that can be improved, though, and misses what he can bring to a team as a rare single-high safety that can roam and prevent deep passes. Rapp’s pure long speed may be lacking, but his explosiveness in the short areas of the field means he can man roles all over the field, including the slot. Whichever team drafts him is going to appreciate his Energizer bunny-like motor.

Tier II

Nasir Adderley (Delaware)
Johnathan Abram (Mississippi State)
Mike Edwards (Kentucky)
Juan Thornhill (Virginia)

Adderley showed off his ball skills and hard-hitting mentality in the Senior Bowl, but it doesn’t look like he has the chops to be a single-high free safety. Abram is perhaps the most aggressive hitter in the class, regardless of position, but he also misses way too many tackles trying to line up the big hit. Edwards is a smart, fluid and disciplined player who is comfortable in coverage. Unfortunately he lacks the size many teams want at 5’11”. Thornhill, a former cornerback with evident ball skills, is a player Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott could fall in love with.

Tier III

Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (Florida)
Darnell Savage, Jr. (Maryland)
Jaquan Johnson (Miami-Florida)
Marvell Tell III (USC)

Gardner-Johnson was a jack-of-all-trades at Florida, but he may be best suited to a role where he can keep his eyes on the quarterback and use his physical gifts to break up passes and come down with interceptions. Still a bit raw, Savage is likely going to put on a show at the combine, elevating his stock a bit and perhaps convincing a team they can mold him into a much better player. A well-rounded prospect, it’s not clear where Johnson stands out. He’s not overly fast, or big, or sticky in coverage. Another player that never lived up to his athletic talent, Tell needs to go to a team willing to teach him to be more disciplined in the back of the defense.