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Top Safety Prospects For 2016

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It's been over a month since my "too-early" Big Board for the 2016 NFL draft, a ranking that includes 2015 underclassmen. For this I'll go a little deeper into each position group, so you'll get an idea of well over 100 of the top NFL prospects for 2016. That said, it goes without saying that these rankings are preliminary, as I have hundreds of hours of evaluation ahead for the 2016 class.

A couple of important notes about the rankings below:

• I've split them into seniors and underclassmen; it's important to have a baseline number of seniors because those players are certain to be a part of the 2016 NFL draft process (if they choose to be).

• I won't go too heavy into actual scouting reports, as those are still a work in progress.

With those parameters in mind, here's an early look at the top safety prospects for the 2016 NFL draft. With corners and safeties there are guys who can do both, and I'll try to note some of those cases./p>

Top 5 senior safeties:

1. Jeremy Cash, Duke Blue Devils: In Duke's system, Cash is the "strike safety" -- which is something of a hybrid role between linebacker and safety. In other words, he's expected to be able to make plays in the box, and he does just that. He had 111 last year, and the one-time Ohio State Buckeye who transferred to Duke is in line for a big senior season.

2. Karl Joseph, West Virginia Mountaineers: With great instincts, a hitter's mentality and play-making skills, Joseph goes into his senior year at West Virginia already the school record-holder in forced fumbles. I point out the forced fumbles because he's truly one of the great hitters in college football, even while playing at under 200 pounds. Coverage skills will improve, but I expect his hitting to be coveted.

3. Deon Bush, Miami Hurricanes: Was absolutely great for a true freshman in 2012 but took a step back as a sophomore, with injuries part of the problem. Last year he made a leap and showed more of the all-field game you want out of a free safety.

4. Jalen Mills, LSU Tigers: What you have in Mills is the frame and fluidity of a coveted cornerback, which he could be at the next level and which he had been for a couple years at LSU before he flipped to safety. So while safety might not even be his best position ultimately, at least you're getting the versatility.

5. Darian Thompson, Boise State Broncos: A typical good developmental story out of Boise State, a three-star recruit who is going to play on Sundays. Thompson shows great instincts and range and is a ballhawk who has shown impressive ball skills. He has good length at 6-2 as well.

Top 5 underclassmen safeties:

1. Tony Conner, Mississippi Rebels: A physical strong safety who has no fear in attacking the line of scrimmage and makes himself difficult to block through the use of both quickness and leverage, Conner can jolt a receiver in press, and he has loose hips for a 215-pound player and can turn and run pretty well. Already has a ton of experience.

2. Su'a Cravens, USC Trojans: Want a remarkable stat? How about 17 tackles for loss out of a safety? That was Cravens last year, a big (6-1, 225), physical, guided missile who can also drop and drive on throws and display great hands when he has a chance to make a play. Special talent.

3. Vonn Bell, Ohio State Buckeyes: Got his first start as a true freshman in the Orange Bowl and hasn't looked back. Plays well away from the line of scrimmage, making good reads on the ball and showing the ability to hand onto errant throws, but he's also a willing tackler and could lead the Buckeyes in that category in 2015.

4. Nate Andrews, Florida State Seminoles: Led the Noles in INTs as a true freshman in a defensive backfield packed with future pros, and took another solid step forward in 2014. If he wasn't lauded as much as most FSU players out of high school, blame the fact that coaches tried him everywhere, including QB, where he was pretty good.

5. Eddie Jackson, Alabama Crimson Tide: I had Jackson penciled in as one of of my top five junior cornerbacks, but in speaking to coaches down there I flipped him over to safety based on what I believe they'll ask him to do in 2015. Kid is a great competitor and was back on the field remarkably quick after an ACL tear in spring practice last year.


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Guest King Jigsaw

I'm also watching K.J. Dillon from W.Virginia. He may be better than Joseph.

Cue the KJ Dillon thread consisting of nothing but a YouTube highlight video.

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I like Jalen Mills myself, but I think right now he will be too far up the board for us to draft. It depends on what they try to do next year, improve the position next too Willie Mo, or try to get his eventual replacement... I do think Craven will be there, but again its mighty early to say but still fun to speculate.

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