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2024 NFL Draft: Ranking Top 11 Safety Prospects

University of Minnesota safety Tyler Rubin
Minnesota Golden Gophers defensive back Tyler Nubin (27) celebrates after catching an interception against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Huntington Bank Stadium on Aug. 31, 2023. (Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports)

The free agent market was flooded with safeties, some of whom are still available. That might be because teams are waiting to see how the fairly deep position shakes out in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Let's take a look at the top 11 safety prospects:

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Ranking 2024 Safety Prospects

11. Sione Vaki, Utah

Rated on a 1-9 scale

Big Board Rank: 138

Height: 5-foot-11

Weight: 210

Sione Vaki was the starting strong safety in Utah’s nickel defense. He was versatile, playing from deep middle third to the box and even flexing out to the slot. He only played for two seasons at Utah. During the 2023 season, he transitioned into a two-way player as a running back when their room was short-staffed due to injuries. Vaki accrued 520 total yards and five TDs in seven games on offense. He is a densely built athlete but lacks length. He is a high-motor, physical defender who is not afraid to mix it up near the line and will do whatever his team asks of him.

Vaki projects best as a versatile reserve defensive back, but his best fit would be as a strong safety who would play down in the box in a heavy single-high scheme. He can rotate back to cover the deep third as well. He has also shown he can be a two-way player and an intriguing chess piece for offensive coordinators to use out of the backfield or the slot just to get the ball in his hands and let his speed and physicality pick up positive gains. His versatility and physicality will make him a key contributor on special teams and potentially as a returner.

>>READ MORE: Vaki's Full Scouting Report

10. Tykee Smith, Georgia

Rated on a 1-9 scale

Big Board Rank: 124

Height: 5-foot-10

Weight: 202

Tykee Smith was the starting nickelback in Georgia’s base nickel defense. He began his career at West Virginia and transferred after two seasons. Smith is a sufficient athlete with enough straight-line speed to stick with most receivers down the field. His change-of-direction ability and acceleration are a little lower than one would like for a defensive back. He lacks size and length but has solid strength throughout his frame. He plays with a calm demeanor and does not show much emotion, but his willingness to come up to the line and in the box shows his competitive spirit.

Smith projects as a versatile backup defensive back who fits best as a shallow-coverage nickel defender. His strongest traits are his instincts, impact in the run game and sound tackling. The proper defensive scheme can mask his sticky hips and lack of ideal range. While shallow coverage may be his primary use, he is an effective blitzer. His intelligence and sound tackling would make him a core special teams player.

>>READ MORE: Smith's Full Scouting Report

9. Calen Bullock, USC

Rated on a 1-9 scale

Big Board Rank: 98

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 188

Calen Bullock was the starting free safety in USC’s nickel defense. He has plus athleticism with the size and speed to play the position at the next level. Bullock has a solid, trim frame that requires added muscle. His effort and aggression come and go. He does not always display strong competitiveness or give full effort.

Bullock best projects as a No. 3 safety and role-playing starter. He would be best utilized playing a deep zone and should come in on third-down dime packages as a deep zone player. His open-field speed and athleticism will allow him to contribute on special teams, but he must significantly improve his tackling form to earn a larger role.

>>READ MORE: Bullock's Full Scouting Report

8. Jaylin Simpson, Auburn

Rated on a 1-9 scale

Big Board Rank: 93

Height: 6-foot

Weight: 179

Jaylin Simpson was a starting safety in Auburn’s nickel defense and primarily played on the open-field side of the formation. Simpson played in 46 games for Auburn, making 22 starts. An excellent all-around athlete, Simpson was a high school state champion in football, basketball and track & field. He has a very thin frame and skinny waist but is a very natural athlete with very fluid and efficient movement. He is not afraid of playing physically and charging down into the box to stop the run. Simpson has a good motor.

Simpson projects as a No. 3 safety who best fits playing zone in the deep levels of a defense in both one- and two-high safety schemes. On third downs, he will be best suited to play in deep coverage with his range and athleticism. On special teams, he should easily find a role due to his athleticism and competitiveness.

>>READ MORE: Simpson's Full Scouting Report

7. Malik Mustapha, Wake Forest

Rated on a 1-9 scale

Big Board Rank: 90

Height: 5-foot-10

Weight: 209

Malik Mustapha was primarily the centerfielder in Wake Forest’s nickel defense but was used in various roles. Not only did he line up as the single-high safety, but he also lined up in their two-high structures, rolled down as a robber, played in the slot, aligned as a linebacker and even came off the edge to rush the passer. Mustapha has a running back build, short and squatty and lacks ideal height for the position. However, he’s a good athlete who is very fluid and moves around well. He plays with a high motor, pursues the ball well and competes on every down.

Mustapha projects as a No. 3 safety who can line up all over the field. When playing deep, fitting into a two-high shell will allow him to take away half of the field. When rolling down to the intermediate level, he has the awareness to jump routes and pick up tight ends and receivers in man coverage. Then, down near the line of scrimmage, his aggression and physicality should show up in the run game. His aggressiveness, athleticism and speed mean he should excel on most special teams units.

>>READ MORE: Mustapha's Full Scouting Report

6. Javon Bullard, Georgia

Rated on a 1-9 scale

Big Board Rank: 89

Height: 5-foot-11

Weight: 198

Javon Bullard played safety in Georgia's base nickel defense in 2023 but also was a slot corner the previous season. Bullard has good length for his size with room to add weight. He is a borderline very good athlete with fluid hips and change-of-direction skill, but a lack of top-end long speed limits his athleticism. Bullard has good competitiveness and toughness, but he sometimes takes plays off.

Bullard projects as a versatile No. 3 safety at the next level. He will fit best as a deep two-high or intermediate zone defender who can rotate into the slot in passing situations. Bullard also figures to be an impactful part of kickoff and punt coverage due to his ability to get moving to top speed.

>>READ MORE: Bullard's Full Scouting Report

5. Kitan Oladapo, Oregon State

Rated on a 1-9 scale

Big Board Rank: 84

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 216

Kitan Oladapo lined up as a versatile safety in an Oregon State defense that plays a mix of man and zone coverage. He can play in the field and boundary and is comfortable playing near the line of scrimmage and slot. Oladapo is a loose and fluid athlete who also has good size and length for the position. He has some twitch to his movements and shows good straight-line speed rallying to the ball. He is a feisty competitor who is never afraid to throw himself into contact. Oladapo was also a vocal leader.

Oladapo projects to be a role-playing starter as a third safety at the next level. He will be best suited in a defensive scheme where he can play at multiple spots on the field to utilize his versatility. His size, athleticism, and competitiveness are valuable traits that will help him get on the field in a role early. Those strengths can immediately translate to being a core NFL special teams player.

>>READ MORE: Oladapo's Full Scouting Report

4. Jaden Hicks, Washington State

Rated on a 1-9 scale

Big Board Rank: 83

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 211

Jaden Hicks played safety in Washington State’s hybrid defense. He often lined up in the box as a third linebacker but had snaps in the slot, as a half-field safety and occasionally as a true centerfielder. Hicks is a hulking presence at safety with a frame that resembles a SAM linebacker. He utilizes this size and length to punish anyone who crosses his path while moving sideline to sideline with rare fluidity and nimbleness reserved for a player of his stature.

Hicks projects best as a third safety at the next level and could be used as a big nickel in a defense that asks him to play underneath zones and be a matchup piece when facing tight ends who excel as receivers. Though he should not be asked to consistently play overtop, he is not at dire risk of exposure either. His sufficient range and good instincts lend him some scheme versatility. Ultimately, his size, aggression and movement skills will get Hicks on the field early. Hicks should contribute to all core four special teams on Day 1.

>>READ MORE: Hicks' Full Scouting Report

3. Cole Bishop, Utah

Rated on a 1-9 scale

Big Board Rank: 82

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 206

Cole Bishop was a starting safety for Utah’s base nickel defense, with heavy Cover 3 and Cover 2 usage. He played significant snaps as the free safety and the strong safety. Bishop has sufficient size for the position and a frame that may add a little weight, but not much. He has good athleticism with fluid hips, straight-line speed and acceleration to compete at the next level. He has a knack for making big plays in a variety of ways, and while usually reserved, he plays hard against both the pass and the run.

Bishop projects as a No. 3 safety whose versatility allows him to fit in a variety of roles. He would likely fit best as a free safety in a single-high defense because he is a reliable deep option, but some teams could use him as a strong safety impacting the shallow game. His football intelligence, size and speed should make him a core special teams player.

>>READ MORE: Bishop's Full Scouting Report

2. Kamren Kinchens, Miami

Rated on a 1-9 scale

Big Board Rank: 30

Height: 5-foot-11

Weight: 203

Kamren Kinchens was a starting safety in Miami’s base nickel defense. He primarily ranges deep in coverage, but he has rotated down to the slot and into the box. Kinchens is a rangy, physical athlete who plays with good speed and instincts. He is not afraid to throw his body into the run game and make plays across the field.

Kinchens projects as a three-down NFL strong safety, but he has the athleticism to play at multiple levels of the defense. He needs to develop his man coverage skills, so on third down, he would be best used on the back end as the deep defender where he can read, react and close on routes. Kinchens has shown an ability to blitz from deep and get pressure on the quarterback and could do the same if schemed up. His physicality and speed will allow him to be a core member of all special teams units.

>>READ MORE: Kinchens' Full Scouting Report

1. Tyler Nubin, Minnesota

Rated on a 1-9 scale

Big Board Rank: 24

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 199

Tyler Nubin lined up as the boundary safety in a Minnesota defense that heavily favors zone coverage. The Gophers primarily played in two-high safety structures, and when they moved into single-high coverages they had Nubin play deep safety. He spent five seasons at Minnesota and started 43 straight games. He has good size for the position and a long frame. Nubin shows good mobility in his hips, however he doesn’t change direction as quickly as desired. He is a tough player who isn’t afraid to be physical and he is a clear vocal leader on the field, getting his teammates in position and holding them accountable if there is any miscommunication.

Nubin projects to be a starting-level NFL safety due to his size, instincts and natural playmaking ability. He will fit best into a defensive scheme that primarily utilizes two-high zone coverages, but he can also play the centerfield as the lone deep safety. He was a core special teams player throughout college and can serve a role early in his professional career.

>>READ MORE: Nubin's Full Scouting Report