The Colts have a trio of starting caliber safeties including Malik Hooker, Clayton Geathers, and Matthias Farley, but each comes with their own durability concerns.
Given the importance of the safety position in Matt Eberflus’ defensive scheme, it could be a prudent idea for the Colts to begin grooming a long-term starter to pair with Hooker in the backend of their secondary.
With that being said, here’s the latest positional prospect big board:
5. Juan Thornhill, S, Virginia
At 6’0”, 205 pounds, Thornhill had 98 tackles (team high), 4.5 tackles for loss, 7 passes defensed, and 6 interceptions (3rd most in nation) in 13 starts, as he earned All-ACC First-Team honors as a senior.
With a 4.42 forty time and a ridiculous 44.0 inch vertical, Thornhill might be the best athlete among all prospects in this group.
Thornhill transitioned from cornerback, so he has the ability to play all over the secondary.
As such, he possesses impressive coverage skills and rangy, ball-hawking ability for the safety position. Still learning the position, Thornhill needs to work on his pursuit angles and honing in his instincts, as he can be fooled occasionally on play-action and deep throws.
One of my favorite things about the 2019 safety class is just how many guys have experience at cornerback. Adderley, Gardner-Johnson, Thornhill can all lock up in man.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 3, 2019
Juan Thornhill allowed the lowest passer rating among draft eligible safeties this season pic.twitter.com/hAjiwgQx9e— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) April 14, 2019
Great job by Juan Thornhill. My safety1 in this class. Plays all levels extremely well. 10 interceptions the last 2 season. Ball hawk. And also great job by Bryce Hall staying upfield shoulder, squeezing the post to his help. Hall would’ve been my CB1 in this class pic.twitter.com/SBWMUSb66U— CrockTIME (@eric_crocker) April 20, 2019
Draft expert @TonyPauline says #UVA safety Juan Thornhill is the fastest riser at his position as we head towards the draft Thursday. Believes he could be the second safety taken this year, in the late first or early second round.— Mike Barber (@RTD_MikeBarber) April 22, 2019
NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah on #UVA's Juan Thornhill: "He’s a player that I really like. He can play safety, he can play corner. I like him as a pure free safety. I just love his range.” Said teams worry about missed tackles with Thornhill.— Mike Barber (@RTD_MikeBarber) April 18, 2019
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. also high on #UVA safety Juan Thornhill. Has him as a second round pick.— Mike Barber (@RTD_MikeBarber) April 22, 2019
4. Darnell Savage, S, Maryland
The 5’11”, 198 pound senior safety recorded 52 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 2 passes defensed, and 4 interceptions (2nd most in the Big Ten; 1 for a touchdown) in 12 starts for the Terrapins defense last season—earning 2nd-Team All-Big Ten honors.
Savage ran a blistering fast 4.36 forty time and has a vertical jump of 39.5 inches, so he’s no doubt super-athletic.
The former Maryland standout is fluid in coverage, has exceptional closing speed, and could be an asset for a team in the slot—perhaps playing a Micah Hyde type role for a secondary.
However, he lacks ideal size and that costs him at times against bigger bodied receivers in coverage and with his overall tackling success.
Is Bob Sanders v2.0 available in this year's draft class? @PFF_Sam takes a closer look at the similarities between Sanders & Maryland S Darnell Savage.https://t.co/cZgz5Qdsxa pic.twitter.com/SfwCmFrYln— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 21, 2019
Jeremiah also said he wouldn't be at all surprised if Maryland safety Darnell Savage Jr. gets into first round. Said no player has more steam heading into draft than Savage. "Teams love him."— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) April 18, 2019
4.39u for #Maryland FS Darnell Savage.— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) March 4, 2019
The first line of my Savage report "Sudden athlete with twitchy reflexes" and he lived up to that in his 40.
.@TerpsFootball @darnellsavage_ is a true “cover safety” with elite speed. Besides great measureables, Savage started 36 straight ; never shys from contact, looks like he has real passion for the game. Played some of his best games v big programs. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/cJT2KA1ivt— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) March 8, 2019
3. Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware
The 6’0”, 206 pound senior safety had 87 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 7 pass breakups and 4 interceptions in 12 starts for the Fightin’ Blue Hens defense. As a result of his exceptional play, Adderley was a 2nd-team AP FCS All-American and First-Team All-CAA member.
Adderley has experience at both cornerback and safety, so he has the versatility and coverage skills to thrive lining up either in the slot or along the outside.
He looks smooth and fluid in coverage and has the type of instincts/ball skills that teams simply covet in their secondary.
On the other hand, he struggled in play recognition and can be occasionally ‘dooped’ by opposing offensive coordinators/quarterbacks in coverage.
One of the best plays I’ve seen this fall. Delaware safety Nasir Adderley shows recover ability, tracks the ball and fully extends for INT. Big time play! https://t.co/xBkoCyWh04— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 10, 2019
Don't get too caught up on 40 time numbers coming out of Nasir Adderley's pro day. Pulled up with a hamstring injury, so the 4.6 times being shared are not accurate, I'm told.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 22, 2019
Adderley at Delaware is my top senior. And I have Thornhill and Abram behind him. I also have Rapp ahead of Thornhill - he doesn't really do anything "special" but he's good across the board. At safety that's not a bad thing.— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) November 17, 2018
Nasir Adderley has affirmed he’s a deep safety this week, which is where I want him anyway. Technique isn’t ideal at all in man coverage. He’s fine on TEs though— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) January 24, 2019
2. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, S, Florida
Measuring in at 5’11”, 210 pounds, the junior safety recorded 71 tackles, 9.0 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, 2 passes defensed, and 4 interceptions (2 for touchdowns) in 13 games last season for the Gators notoriously stingy defense.
Gardner-Johnson ran a 4.48 forty time and posted a 36.0 inch vertical, so he’s still a very good athlete compared to his contemporaries in his own right.
The big defensive back can either play the slot or high as a safety, as he has tremendous versatility like many of the top end safeties in this draft class. Gardner-Johnson has impressive fluidity in overall coverage, but can struggle at times in run defense.
He has the size to handle tight ends and might be one of the best coverage slot men in this group; however, he can be a bit slow in his reads and reactions at times.
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson's 86.9 grade while playing the slot was better than any other SEC defensive back this season by a fairly wide margin. pic.twitter.com/xlYGhKuF1M— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) April 13, 2019
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson locked-down for the Gator's secondary and allowed the fewest yards per catch among SEC cornerbacks this season. pic.twitter.com/vNrDoHrft7— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) January 16, 2019
1. Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State
The 5’11, 205 pound senior safety earned AP 3rd-Team All-American and 1st-Team All-SEC honors, as he had 99 tackles (team high), 9.0 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, 5 passes defensed, two interceptions, and a forced fumble in 13 games.
Highly regarded for his instincts and hard-hitting style, Abram is the ideal nickel linebacker in a defense, as he can still hold his own effectively in coverage.
However, he’s not as adept in coverage as others on this list and as such, it’s no surprise he struggles the further he is from the line of scrimmage.
For a Colts team that could use an identity and improved physicality in the backend of their secondary, Abram would make a whole lot of sense.
Based on style of play, my 5 favorite players to watch in this class:— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) March 30, 2019
Their competitiveness jumps off the screen. 100mph at all times. My red star players in this class.
I’m at the airport waiting to board a flight & studying Miss State safety Johnathan Abram...Really fun player to watch. Big, explosive and athletic dude. Happy New Year! pic.twitter.com/a7L4RZW23q— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 1, 2019
I could see Abram going late 1st or very early 2nd https://t.co/lXV6h7E0Aj— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 24, 2019