clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Ballard’s Big Board: 5 Top NFL Draft Safety Prospects for Colts

South Carolina v Florida Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

With the NFL Draft three —yes, only three days away, it’s time to look at 5 potential top safety prospects on Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard’s big board.

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

Miami v Virginia Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

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.

NCAA Football: Quick Lane Bowl-Boston College vs Maryland Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

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.

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

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.

Auburn v Mississippi State Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

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.