There’s nothing safe about playing safety in today’s NFL. Offenses employ deception almost every down, and safeties are liable for the mistakes of those in front of them. It’s a cruel, merciless world, but the best safeties rise above the chaos and exert their control. Can any safeties in the 2021 NFL Draft follow suit? Here’s a look at the list of selections and what each player brings to the table.
Which safeties were drafted in the 2021 NFL Draft?
Let’s take a look at the safeties selected in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Jevon Holland, Oregon | Round 2, Pick 36 | Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins love versatility in their secondary, so it’s no surprise they chose Jevon Holland with their second-round selection.
Holland has the physical traits to play various roles; at his pro day, he logged a 4.47 40-yard dash, a 35.5-inch vertical, and a 126-inch broad jump at 6-foot-1, 207 pounds. Holland is an effective communicator, and his athletic profile translates well into the free safety role the Dolphins envision him playing. On top of that, he can also be an effective slot defender at a moment’s notice.
Richie Grant, UCF | Round 2, Pick 40 | Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons didn’t have much at safety heading into the 2021 NFL Draft, so it was imperative to address the position relatively early. They did so by drafting UCF standout Richie Grant as the second safety off the board.
Grant will be a 24-year-old rookie, but he comes as perhaps the most NFL-ready single-high safety in the draft. He has exceptional range and playmaking ability on the back end. Additionally, Grant owns the physicality to come into the box and stop ball carriers in their tracks. Grant no doubt won the Falcons over with his Senior Bowl performance — he made plays all week in Mobile.
Trevon Moehrig, TCU | Round 2, Pick 43 | Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders just can’t seem to get it right on defense. Here’s to hoping that recently-hired defensive coordinator Gus Bradley will provide better results. He’ll have some help from a new infusion of talent in 2021, including second-round safety Trevon Moehrig.
Moehrig was regarded as one of the best safeties in the 2021 NFL Draft throughout most of the pre-draft process. In the end, he fell behind both Holland and Grant. Holland is more versatile, and Grant is a bit more consistent, but Moehrig has the upside to thrive, nonetheless. He flashes impressive ball skills deep down the field, and he also has the size and solidity to convert closer to the line.
Andre Cisco, Syracuse | Round 3, Pick 65 | Jacksonville Jaguars
It was a bit of a surprise to see Andre Cisco go this high. However, injuries notwithstanding, one could argue he deserved to be here. Cisco amassed 12 interceptions and 14 pass deflections in his first two collegiate seasons, proving himself as the ultimate ballhawk deep in the secondary.
An ACL injury ended his 2020 season not long after it began, and Cisco wasn’t quite ready to test at his pro day. Thus, there’s still some uncertainty surrounding him. But if Cisco can get back to 100%, he moves exceptionally well for his 6-foot-1, 216-pound frame. His pure instinct for playmaking will be a welcome sight for the Jaguars.
Divine Deablo, Virginia Tech | Round 3, Pick 80 | Las Vegas Raiders
While Moehrig figures to take on a role closer to that of a free safety, Divine Deablo should be able to factor in as a strong safety or perhaps a hybrid linebacker.
Deablo possesses an enticing athletic profile. He stands at 6-foot-3, 226 pounds, with a 4.45 40-yard dash, a 34-inch vertical, and a 126-inch broad jump. Coming off a year in which he snatched 4 interceptions, Deablo is trending up, and he can be a versatile, dynamic piece for Gus Bradley. Considering the turmoil of the Raiders defense, it’s at least possible that Deablo has a substantial role early on.
Safeties selected in the 2021 NFL Draft | Rounds 4 & 5
6) Tyree Gillespie, Missouri | R4-P143 | Las Vegas Raiders
7) Jamien Sherwood, Auburn | R5-P146 | New York Jets
8) Caden Sterns, Texas | R5-P152 | Denver Broncos
9) Michael Carter II, Duke | R5-P154 | New York Jets
10) Shaun Wade, Ohio State | R5-P160 | Baltimore Ravens
11) Darrick Forrest, Cincinnati | R5-P163 | Washington Football Team
12) Jamar Johnson, Indiana | R5-P164 | Denver Broncos
13) Shawn Davis, Florida | R5-P165 | Indianapolis Colts
14) Richard Lecounte III, Georgia | R5-P169 | Cleveland Browns
15) Talanoa Hufanga, USC | R5-P180 | San Francisco 49ers
Only five safeties were selected over the first two days of the 2021 NFL Draft. The first half of Day 3 was not only able to eclipse that number but double it. The Raiders selected their third safety with the tenacious Tyree Gillespie, while high-upside specimen Caden Sterns and instinctive playmaker Jamar Johnson both went to Denver. Once viewed as a potential first-round cornerback, Shaun Wade fell to the Ravens and projects well at the safety position.
The Jets doubled up with two very different players — linebacker hybrid Jamien Sherwood and Duke speedster Michael Carter II. Talanoa Hufanga is an intriguing fit with the 49ers, and Richard Lecounte, though not athletic, has a visible floor with grit and a high IQ. Two of the most exciting picks, however, might be Darrick Forrest and Shawn Davis. Both are elite athletes, and both are entering ideal situations for future development.
Safeties selected in the 2021 NFL Draft | Rounds 6 & 7
16) Hamsah Nasirildeen, Florida State | R6-P186 | New York Jets
17) Joshuah Bledsoe, Missouri | R6-P188 | New England Patriots
18) Damar Hamlin, Pittsburgh | R6-P212 | Buffalo Bills
19) Brady Breeze, Oregon | R6-P215 | Tennessee Titans
20) JaCoby Stevens, LSU | R6-P224 | Philadelphia Eagles
21) Mark Webb, Georgia | R7-P241 | Los Angeles Chargers
22) James Wiggins, Cincinnati | R7-P243 | Arizona Cardinals
23) Tre Norwood, Oklahoma | R7-P245 | Pittsburgh Steelers
Eight safeties were selected in Rounds 6 and 7 of the 2021 NFL Draft, which comprised many different molds. The Jets took another hybrid linebacker in Hamsah Nasirildeen. The Eagles followed a similar template by selecting the hyper-athletic JaCoby Stevens.
Three of the more intriguing picks beyond that include Damar Hamlin, James Wiggins, and Tre Norwood. Wiggins is an exceptional athlete with a well-rounded game who could contribute for Arizona if he can stay healthy. Hamlin also has some measured upside sitting behind Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. Meanwhile, the Steelers, known for their development on defense, could coach the instinctive Norwood into a solid player.
How many safeties were drafted in 2021?
Although no safeties were selected in Round 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft, the remaining six rounds made up for that deficit. In total, 23 safeties found new homes in the 2021 NFL Draft. Yet, some may transition to linebacker at the next level. 23 isn’t a particularly staggering figure, especially compared to other position groups. Still, it does stack up favorably to last year’s crop. In 2020, only 21 safeties were selected.
Even so, the 2020 safety class has already produced an impressive clip. Early picks like Antoine Winfield and Jeremy Chinn have emerged as rising stars on defense, while later-round picks like Jordan Fuller and Kamren Curl also found success in their debut seasons. It’s rare for a class to have such an imprint early, and that’s what the 2021 group will be up against, as expectations rise throughout the summer.
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