2021 NFL Draft: Top 10 safety rankings

Matt Valdovinos, PFN draft analyst, lays out the 2021 NFL Draft safety rankings.

The 2021 safety class is one of my favorite positional groups of the entire class. The talent alone is the best we’ve seen in a few years. It’s full of versatility, whether you need a traditional box safety, a match-up piece, or a single high specialist, this class has it all. A disclaimer, these rankings are my opinion based on film evaluation so they will likely come as a shock considering the consensus view on some of these players. If you have an issue with my rankings please tweet at me and let me know what you don’t agree with.

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2021 NFL Draft Safety Rankings

10) James Wiggins, Cincinnati 

One of my early draft crushes last season, I was devastated when James Wiggins tore his ACL before the season. How he bounces back this year will be paramount to his draft stock. Wiggins possesses excellent athletic ability blended with quality size at 6’0″ 205 pounds. He’s not a natural single high but has the instincts and speed to play the position. He’s best utilized as a match-up piece against dynamic tight ends. His man coverage skills are very good for a safety of his size, and he’s a quality run defender as well.

9) Trevon Moehrig, TCU

Some believe Trevon Moehriq is the best safety in the nation. He has elite size at 6’2″ and nearly 210 pounds. He’s a quality athlete and a former cornerback. His long arms clog passing lanes, and he’s been very productive against the pass over the last two seasons. Last season he recorded four interceptions and 15 pass breakups. He also forced two fumbles recovering one. Moehrig has the physical tools and balls to be a difference-maker, but he’s too often a liability as a tackler for me to move him higher for now.

Related | The top 10 cornerback rankings for the 2021 NFL Draft

8) Richard LeCounte, Georgia

One of the most well-rounded players in the class, Richard LeCounte has arguably the highest floor of any safety in this class. Consistently productive for the Bulldogs, he projects as a quality starter in the NFL. LeCounte has decent size, decent athletic ability, and a decent skill-set all around. Unfortunately, that can be both a pro and a con, as it lowers his ceiling in the NFL. Will LeCounte ever be an impact playmaker? Potentially, but I wouldn’t bet on it. However, he can be a consistent and quality starter for a long time.

7) Andre Cisco, Syracuse

I expect this to be the first ranking people have major issues with. I understand why many are so high on Andre Cisco. They cling to his play-making skills, and he is currently the nation’s active leader with 12 interceptions in just two years of play. That number alone is enough for someone to place Cisco as their number on safety, and there was a time where I too would have had a similar thought process.

However, as I grow I’ve learned that things like consistency reign supreme above all else. Cisco is inconsistent in both coverage and the run game. He has good size and promising athletic ability. I believe that, paired with his ball-hawking skills, make his upside strong. However, for every one play that I loved, there were five that worried me. Cisco must improve his down-to-down play before I can project him as an every-down player in the NFL. I also believe that his interception production is as much about being lucky as it is being good. However, as some say, maybe it’s better to be lucky than to be good.

Related | NFL Draft 2021: The top 10 linebacker rankings

6) JaCoby Stevens, LSU

The next LSU defensive back to be drafted will be safety JaCoby Stevens. Dubbed the “quarterback of the defense,” Stevens fills any role the Tigers ask of him. Big enough to play linebacker at 6’2″ 230 pounds, with the athletic ability to occasionally play single-high, expect teams to fall in love with Stevens physical tools. He projects best as a prototypical box safety. He has the size to engage blocks and the athletic ability to chase down ball carriers. He also presents an answer for tight ends, that defenses sorely need.

5) Caden Sterns, Texas

A freshman phenom at Texas, injuries derailed Caden Sterns’ season last year. I’m indescribably excited about seeing a fully healthy Sterns this season. At full strength, Sterns has legitimate All-Pro potential. Sterns has strong size and athletic ability and is a natural single-high free safety. His instincts and ball skills are both elite, he’s not elite against the run but he’s good enough for me to feel comfortable using him as a last line of defense. If Sterns is fully healthy this season, he could be the first safety drafted.

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4) Ar’Darius Washington, TCU

It’s not about the size of the dog in the fight, it’s about the size of the fight in the dog, and Ar’Darius Washington has plenty of fight. Listed at only 5’8″ 179 pounds, Washington plays much larger than he is. A spark-plug for TCU, Washington has elite ball-skills collecting 5 interceptions and 7 pass deflections last season, he was as consistent a tackler as they come. Many will devalue Washington to his size and I could see a world where the NFL lets him fall much further than he should, but make no mistake, Washington is an excellent football player.

3) Hamsah Nasirildeen, Florida State

He may be the most versatile player in not just the safety class, but the entire 2021 NFL Draft class. Florida State has lined him up at single-high safety, in the box, as a linebacker, and in the slot on numerous occasions. This is due to his great athletic abilities and elite size. Listed at 6’4″ and 212 pounds, Hamsah Nasirildeen is in the mold of an Isaiah Simmons with his ability to play all over the field.

He packs a major punch when he comes up an makes a pick, and his physical gifts make him an ideal match-up against tight-ends. Unfortunately, his season was abruptly ended to an ACL tear, but a big bounce-back season could be in store.

Related | 2021 NFL Draft: Top 10 interior offensive line rankings

2) Paris Ford, Pittsburgh

If you wanna have some fun, just watch some Paris Ford tape. He’s always around the ball laying punishment wherever he goes. Ford is an elite athlete, with the best closing speed I’ve ever seen. He doesn’t do it often at PITT, but I do believe Ford has the sideline to sideline speed to be a dominant center field type of safety.

He’s not great in man coverage, which leaves me hesitant to consistently play him in the box, and at 6’0″ 190 pounds, he’s by no means a big safety. Letting a punisher like Ford roam the top of your defense would leave opposing receivers terrified. For most players, I like to use a single clip of one of their top plays, for Ford please enjoy these compilations of clips made by fellow PFN analyst Nick Farabaugh.

Related | 2021 NFL Draft: Top 10 defensive line rankings

1) Jevon Holland, Oregon

Arguably my favorite player in the 2021 Draft, Oregon’s Jevon Holland is the best safety in the nation. Holland possesses great size, good athletic ability, and has produced at a high level. His biggest calling card though is his incredibly high football IQ. Holland is a monster against both the run and the pass because he dissects plays before they happen.

I was so impressed with his game against Stanford that I had to post a thread about it. I view Holland as a top-10 player in the class, and he is my highest-graded safety in the 2021 NFL Draft class.

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