In the modern NFL, the safety position is becoming the ultimate chess piece. The versatility and all-around utility required to play the position effectively are daunting. But at the same time, prospects with the necessary abilities can be greatly rewarded. What does the 2024 NFL Draft safety class have to offer NFL teams?
Ranking the Safeties in the 2024 NFL Draft
It’s too early to provide any referendums on the 2023 NFL Draft safety class. There’s a chance the group could exceed expectations. However, evaluators were generally on the same wavelength in calling it a weaker class than normal.
Even the best players available, like Alabama’s Brian Branch, fit better into specific roles and were different from traditional prospects.
Versatility, like the kind that Branch offers, is valuable, but being able to play in two-high and single-high, or match up against big slot WRs and move TEs with size, is just as much of an asset.
Luckily, there appears to be a good amount of variety and multiplicity in the 2024 NFL Draft safety group.
10) Trey Taylor, Air Force
At a certain point, production does speak to a player’s ability to flow to the right spot and make plays on the football when opportunities come his way. That’s the case for Trey Taylor, the 2023 Jim Thorpe Award winner, who logged three interceptions in 2023.
At around 6’0″ and 205 pounds, Taylor has the size and density to hold strong in support, but his most prominent function is his range and playmaking ability on the back end. He’ll get to show off his tools in front of evaluators at the 2024 Shrine Bowl.
9) Malik Mustapha, Wake Forest
It doesn’t always get the most coverage, but playing in support and enforcing is one of the most important roles for a safety to play at the NFL level. That’s a role that Wake Forest’s Malik Mustapha plays very well, and that’s one reason why he’s on the 2024 Reese’s Senior Bowl roster.
At 5’10” and 207 pounds, Mustapha has a strong and compact frame and explodes downhill when triggering on plays. He’s a tackling machine with his closing speed and play strength, but he’s also shown to pedal and manage space as a zone coverage defender.
8) Calen Bullock, USC
A former WR, Calen Bullock stands at 6’3″ and 180 pounds with elite ball skills. Beyond that, his build and athletic profile translate extremely well at safety. He’s an explosive, high-energy athlete with elite deep speed and range who dramatically erases space while tracking throws.
Run support is where Bullock stands to improve. He needs to add more mass to his frame, he struggles with angles at times, and he needs to become a consistent tackler. But Bullock’s playmaking upside in the coverage phase will surely win over defensive coaches.
7) Jaden Hicks, Washington State
If your team needs an attacking box safety, there aren’t many better options in the 2024 NFL Draft than Jaden Hicks. Over the past two seasons at Washington State, Hicks — a 6’3″, 205-pound defender — amassed 155 tackles, eight TFLs, 3.5 sacks, three picks, and 10 pass breakups.
He’s not the most fluid space manager at the intermediate and deep levels, but Hicks shines when he’s able to crash downhill and attack runners. He explodes across pursuit paths and can cut off paths upfield, and his range in support allows him to halt positive plays.
6) Javon Bullard, Georgia
Versatility is a common theme across this entire list. But it’s one thing to be able to play in the slot when needed. It’s another to be a stellar slot cornerback who adds field safety capabilities. Georgia’s Javon Bullard falls in the latter category.
Bullard is a ravenous competitor both in tight coverage and support. His biting physicality is a central part of his game, but his coverage chops on tape are just as strong. Though he’s a bit light, he’s fast, fleet-footed, fluid, and savvy with his technique.
5) Cole Bishop, Utah
Utah’s football program is consistently one of the most well-coached in the nation, and that naturally translates to year-by-year NFL Draft production.
In the 2024 cycle, the Utes have one of their best defensive prospects in recent memory, ascending safety Cole Bishop.
MORE: NFL Draft Order
Bishop has been a stalwart defender ever since he stepped on campus. In 2022, he registered 83 tackles, six tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, an interception, and three pass deflections. In 2023, he added 6.5 more TFLs, two additional picks, and four more PBUs.
At 6’2″and 205 pounds, Bishop’s profile is impressively complete. He’s a disciplined coverage defender over the top who can also cut off running angles, deconstruct blocks, and impose his will in support.
4) James Williams, Miami (FL)
If you see a player on Miami’s defensive film who towers over everyone in the secondary, chances are it’s James Williams. At 6’5″ and 224 pounds, Williams has an unnatural size for safety. It can be easy to hype up that kind of prospect prematurely in the NFL Draft realm, but Williams has done enough on tape to earn some excitement.
Williams can make plays on the ball, as evidenced by his four picks and 13 deflections over the past three seasons. Yet, the most actionable utility for his frame comes in support.
Williams accelerates quickly for his frame, and his sheer size advantage can help him violently slab runners with physicality when encroaching on the line.
3) Kamren Kinchens, Miami (FL)
As many ball hawks as there are on our top safeties list for the 2024 NFL Draft, none are more prolific than Miami’s Kamren Kinchens.
In 2022, Kinchens put up six interceptions at the back end of the Hurricanes’ secondary. In 2023, he added five more while logging 59 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss.
Kinchens is a high-level center-fielder — a rarity at the safety position. And he brings more to the table as well. At 5’11” and 202 pounds, his frame serves him well as a tackler when roaming into the box.
All this being said, there are lapses on Kinchens’ tape, both with zone awareness and angles in run support. But Kinchens’ highs are some of the highest in the 2024 NFL Draft safety class, and his range in deep coverage is unmatched.
2) Beau Brade, Maryland
The Maryland Terrapins produced a first-round DB in Deonte Banks last cycle and another draft pick in Jakorian Bennett. They sent Nick Cross to the Indianapolis Colts in Round 3 in the cycle before that.
At this point, Maryland has been established as a producer of NFL talent in the secondary, and Beau Brade is the next early-round prospect to watch. Moreover, 2022 was Brade’s first season as a full-time starter, and he passed the audition with flying colors.
The 6’1″, 205-pound safety racked up 85 tackles, four tackles for loss, two interceptions, five pass breakups, and two forced fumbles.
MORE: 2024 NFL Draft Big Board
In 2023, Brade returned with 72 tackles, four more TFLs, a pick, six pass breakups, and another forced fumble. His performance down the stretch earned him an invite to the Senior Bowl, which he accepted.
Not only is Brade productive, physical, and versatile, but his brand of mobility — explosive, twitched-up, high-energy, free-flowing — is also extremely translatable. He has the tools to be a multifaceted NFL starter with all-encompassing role flexibility.
Who Is the Best Safety in the 2024 NFL Draft?
With Andrew Mukuba transferring to Texas for 2024, there’s more room for competitors to tangle over the top safety spot in the 2024 NFL Draft. Right now, the top safety on our board at PFN is Minnesota’s Tyler Nubin.
1) Tyler Nubin, Minnesota
This year, Tyler Nubin broke Minnesota’s all-time school record for interceptions in a career. He logged five in a campaign that earned him first-team All-Big Ten honors. And generating turnovers is just one of the many NFL-quality things he does on tape.
At 6’2″ and 205 pounds, Nubin has the size and length. He’s an explosive and physical competitor in both phases of the game, but the most impressive part of Nubin’s profile is his intelligence.
His angle awareness and instincts are superlative, and he has the vision to be right at home in the fast-paced NFL.
The only major knock on Nubin’s profile is that he lacks elite long speed and range. But both physically and mentally, he has the traits to be a high-quality starter at the professional level.
- Thomas Harper, Notre Dame
- Kitan Oladapo, Oregon State
- Tykee Smith, Georgia
- Jaylon Carlies, Missouri
- Jay Stanley, Southern Miss
- Josh Proctor, Ohio State
- Sione Vaki, Utah
- Kenny Logan Jr., Kansas
- Demani Richardson, Texas A&M
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