Top 10 Safeties in the 2022 NFL Draft: Kyle Hamilton, Daxton Hill, and Lewis Cine form the ‘Big Three’

With the 2022 NFL Draft kicking off later this month, here are Pro Football Network's top 10 safeties in the class.

The NFL Draft is knocking on the door. All-star games and the NFL Combine have been completed, leaving only pro days between us and the annual selection event. As the 2022 NFL Draft nears, here are Pro Football Network’s top 10 safeties in the class!

Top 10 Safeties in the 2022 NFL Draft

While the top five safeties in the 2022 NFL Draft are exceptional talents, the bottom five are worth a look.

10) JT Woods, Baylor

At 6’2″ and 195 pounds with 32 3/8″ arms, JT Woods is a rangy playmaker in the secondary. He lit up the NFL Combine with a 4.36 40-yard dash, 39″ vertical, and 10’8″ broad. Over the last three years at Baylor, he has seen significant snaps in the box, slot, and as a deep safety. His combination of versatility and physical tools will see him selected relatively high in the 2022 NFL Draft.

9) Markquese Bell, Florida A&M

One of — if not the — HBCU prospect in the class, Markquese Bell wasn’t too shabby at the Combine either. At 6’2″ and 212 pounds, he recorded a 4.41 40 time, 36.5″ vertical, and 10’3″ broad. Those are impressive athletic numbers for a player who predicates his game on physicality.

Bell is a thumper in the middle of the field and isn’t afraid to lower his shoulder to lay the boom. He can be more technically refined and plays with high hips in coverage, but Bell is worth a Day 3 selection.

8) Kerby Joseph, Illinois

Kerby Joseph was a bit overshadowed by Illinois’ lack of success. Nevertheless, he used his 33″ arms to snatch 5 interceptions in his first year as a full-time starter in 2021. He didn’t run the 40-yard dash but did log a 38″ vertical and 10’3″ broad in Indianapolis.

Joseph’s a bit of a raw prospect from an experience standpoint, but he owns stellar ball skills and fluid hips. While top speed may preclude him from a primary free safety role early on, his tackling ability and special-teams experience will earn him a roster spot.

7) Nick Cross, Maryland

Possibly the highest riser from the pre-draft process at the safety position, Nick Cross also turned heads in Indy. At a solidly-built 6’0″ and 212 pounds, the Maryland defender ran a seeing 4.34 40-yard dash, produced a 37″ vertical, and jumped 10’10” in the broad.

Cross set career highs with 67 tackles, 3 sacks, and 3 interceptions last year. He can stop ball carriers in their tracks both at the line of scrimmage and in the open field. Thus, Cross is best utilized in a role that allows him to play downhill more often than flipping his hips upfield.

6) Verone McKinley III, Oregon

Verone McKinley III is an interesting projection. His frame (5’10” and 198 pounds with 30 5/8″ arms) and athleticism leaves much to be desired as is more akin to a corner than safety. But his film showcases an instinctual and versatile defender that can be a ball hawk in coverage. Regardless, McKinley’s run-defending prowess might keep him at deeper alignments or as a slot corner in passing situations.

5) Jaquan Brisker, Penn State

Contrary to McKinley, Jaquan Brisker is one of the easier safety projections. He needs to be deployed near the football. He is a demon attacking the line of scrimmage and is stout in run defense. His explosion downhill is exceptional, but he is a different mover having to drop back in coverage. Brisker is a box/slot safety in the NFL that can set the tone from Day 1.

4) Jalen Pitre, Baylor

If you want a culture changer, coach on the field, and reliable DB, they don’t get much better than Jalen Pitre. He didn’t run in Indy but generated top-10 figures among all participants in the three-cone (6.74) and short shuttle (4.18).

During his five-year career at Baylor, Pitre rarely saw time as a deep safety. Truthfully, he is more of a slot corner than anything else. But his instincts, short-area quickness, and motor are a defensive coordinator’s dream.

3) Lewis Cine, Georgia

The top three are a lot closer than they were at the beginning of the year. Lewis Cine is a plug-and-play safety in nearly every role. He is well built at 6’2″ and 199 pounds and crushed the Combine with a 4.37 40-yard dash, 36.5″ vertical, and 11’1″ broad. Cine is a stout tackler, routinely taking proper angles to ball carriers. In coverage, he quickly reads routes/play designs and possesses a beautiful speed turn.

2) Daxton Hill, Michigan

Slide Daxton Hill into the slot or free safety and reap the rewards. He can make up for mistakes from corners but won’t be much help in run fits. He closes ground with blink-and-you-miss-it speed and has the coverage ability to thrive in single or two-high shells. Hill’s skill set will be highly sought after in the 2022 NFL Draft, and he will be a key contributor from Day 1.

1) Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame

Prior to putting on Kyle Hamilton‘s tape, I simply harness my inner Dirty Harry and say, “Go ahead, make my day.” There isn’t much not to like with Hamilton’s game. At 6’4″ and 220 pounds with 33″ arms, he made plays all over the field for Notre Dame. Much has been made of his 4.59 40 time, and while it is significant, Hamilton’s eyes and instincts offer sideline-to-sideline range.

His skill set and physical tools make him a defensive chess piece that will cause issues for modern offenses. Hamilton is not only the top safety in the class but quite possibly the best overall prospect, regardless of position.

James Fragoza is a Writer and News Editor at Pro Football Network. You can read his other work here and follow him on Twitter @JamesFragoza.


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