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2024 NFL Draft prospect rankings: Safeties

Julian Catalfo / theScore

theScore's prospect rankings series takes a position-by-position look at the top players in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Top 50
QB | RB | WR | TE | OL
ED | DL | LB | CB | SAF

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Nubin is a high-floor prospect who already looks ready for the NFL. He's a versatile safety who can contribute in the box and cover. What will help his easy translation to the next level are his ball skills and instincts. Where he looks most comfortable is jumping short to intermediate throws. His physicality also shines through at the catch point and in the box, where he is a solid tackler. There isn't a lot to dislike here. The Minnesota safety should produce a lengthy NFL career as a playmaker who does most of his damage in the box and intermediate area of the secondary.

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It shouldn't surprise anyone if Hicks has the best career out of all the safety prospects in this class. He comes equipped with the size and tool set to be a high-quality starter in the league. Thanks to his 6-foot-2, 200-pound-plus frame, Hicks is an asset in the box. But that's not all. He's also got the ability to carry receivers and tight ends in coverage from the slot. He may not be a true center fielder safety, but Hicks' versatility from the box to the slot to deep safety makes him an intriguing talent. He is sometimes guilty of playing too hot and may not have the natural range for a deep safety, but he should be a key chess piece in the NFL.

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Bullard may not have the biggest frame at 5-foot-10 and 198 pounds, but he plays as if he's at least 10 pounds heavier. The Georgia safety is not afraid to get involved in the run game and deliver tackles with authority. Bullard is a versatile defensive back who has experience playing as the deep center fielder and as a slot cornerback. He recognizes routes well and has the athleticism to provide NFL-caliber range as a deep safety. His primary hiccup is he doesn't have the man coverage ability to consistently stick with faster and shiftier slot wideouts. Bullard's play recognition ability and athleticism make him best fit for a role where he can watch the play develop and then pounce, which is what he does best.

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With 4.45 speed and a massive frame, Bishop is one of the freakiest safeties in this year's draft. He played a variety of positions at Utah, including single-high, two-deep, in the box, and in the slot. However, where he'll be best deployed in the future is likely inside the box or as a two-deep safety who can jump routes over the middle in a robber role. Bishop can sometimes be a split second late to close on deeper routes, which gets him in trouble at times. It also causes problems when he comes in at full steam and over-pursues his target. But, he's lethal closer to the line of scrimmage where he can be a menace in the backfield and punish receivers with devastating hits when they catch balls in his vicinity. His ability to get after the quarterback is also a strong attribute in his profile. While Bishop may not have the splash plays in his highlight reel that others in this class do, he has all the fundamental traits to develop into a starting box safety.

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Taylor-Demerson is going to be an intriguing package come draft weekend. He brings athleticism, versatility, and, most importantly, ball skills to the table. He tested incredibly well and his measurables pop off his tape. With the range to be the last line of defense and the ball skills to come downhill quickly to jump routes, Taylor-Demerson has what it takes to make an impact at the next level. He also has experience in the slot. What may hold him back is his lack of size, which could make him very one-dimensional in the NFL, and his tendency to always look for the home-run play, which leaves him vulnerable to routes developing behind him. However, if there's a middle-of-the-pack safety that can end up being a grand slam pick, it may very well be Taylor-Demerson.

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Kinchens is this draft's purest ballhawk safety. With his strong instincts, the Miami product is seemingly always around the football. His 11 interceptions over the last two seasons stand as a testament to that. His picks occurred in all areas of the field, too, thanks to his usage in single-high coverage and in two-safety looks. He's also a striking hitter when he has to come downhill against the run. However, his play as a ballhawk is very hit or miss. Sometimes, he can be pulled out of position in anticipation of making a big play. His athleticism is also very concerning, as he didn't test well and may not have the range to reach his ceiling at the next level. Still, there's enough to admire in Kinchens' game and it's hard to bet completely against him continuing his success in the NFL considering his body of work.

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Bullock is a cornerback cosplaying as a safety. That goes for both how he plays the position and his physical frame. At 6-foot-2 and 188 pounds, Bullock is lean. But, like most cornerbacks, his coverage ability is incredible. The USC defensive back has great instincts and range, which makes him a highly intriguing safety prospect. He looks NFL-ready when he's left to roam at safety or in the slot, where his man coverage stickiness and length really shines. The big knock on him is that he's a giant liability in the box with his tackling and run instincts being big weaknesses. Still, Bullock is surely near the top of this year's safety class when it comes to coverage ability. If his future team finds him a role in coverage that doesn’t ask him to contribute much against the run, there will be a very high ceiling for them to try unlocking.

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Teams in the market for a box safety won't find a purer prospect than Mustapha. The Wake Forest safety looks most natural coming downhill into the box or the backfield. Mustapha may be the best pure tackling safety in this year's class, too, which he shows off while locking onto targets with ease. Ballcarriers rarely break his tackles. His instincts in the box are also quite good. And while he shows adequate ability in coverage, he will likely get exposed there if left on his own at the next level. His athleticism doesn't project to be sufficient to keep up with receivers when he has to turn his hips upfield or chase crossers entering his space. His lack of length also leaves him victim to some missed diving arm tackles. But when it comes to squaring up targets head on, Mustapha is as clinical as they come.

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NFL teams taking a defensive back ranked this low may as well target one that checks the boxes of size, experience, and versatility like Oladapo does. A big part of Oregon State's defense, Oladapo showed that he can be an asset in the box, slot, and in the secondary. In the box, Oladapo is a valuable extra defender against the run and can even be used as a blitzer to great effect. He may not have the speed to cover the deep half of the field by himself, but he’s more than able to be a big slot defensive back and cover lesser ground. While he may not be a true ballhawk, he is very opportunistic and produced a number of key forced fumbles. There could be a path for Oladapo as a subpackage player or box safety in the NFL.

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Simpson is severely undersized, which makes him a difficult prospect to imagine building a long career in the pros. However, his talent and athleticism is hard to deny when watching his tape. The Auburn safety just has a knack for getting to the football. A true ballhawk, Simpson not only identifies routes quickly, but his click-and-close speed is impressive to watch. A cornerback turned safety, Simpson can also play in the slot. Though his measurables list every reason why Simpson won't translate to the NFL, his fluid movement and ball skills will do everything to challenge that.

Other notable prospects

Dominique Hampton, Washington
Tykee Smith, Georgia
Beau Brade, Maryland
Josh Proctor, Ohio State
Sione Vaki, Utah

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