It’s time to ramp up the preview for the 2022 college football season as Week 0 is just weeks away.
The 2022 PFF College Football Preview Guide has just dropped and in conjunction with that is an expansion of PFF’s preseason positional rankings that will be rolled out over the next couple of weeks.
Below are PFF’s picks for the top-25 safeties/slot corners entering the 2022 college football season along with some superlatives at the end, including the biggest projections and sleepers.
(Note: This has nothing to do with pro potential.)
The Top Dog
Covering the slot is difficult — a defensive back has to be smart and quick while also profiling as a physical tackler who is ready to defend extra space — but no one in college football is better at doing it than Johnson. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound defensive back posted top-three rankings in the Power Five in both slot passing stops (14) and yards per slot coverage snap (0.58) in 2021. He blew up plays underneath, as he used his length to his advantage and rarely let anything get by him. Overall, Johnson earned an 87.4 PFF grade for the 2021 season — not too shabby for a true sophomore. This year, the Aggie will also be getting some time in more of a traditional safety job.
Bullock displayed high-level playmaking traits as a true freshman in 2021 and is a candidate to become elite in 2022. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound safety intercepted a couple of passes and broke up four others en route to a 72.3 coverage grade this past year.
Williams has superstar potential thanks to his off-the-charts physical traits. It’s not a matter of if — it's a matter of when — the 6-foot-5, 224-pound safety makes the major jump. The 2021 five-star recruit produced the fourth-highest coverage grade in the ACC (78.1) as a true freshman last year.
Smith recorded the third-best slot coverage grade in the FBS over his true freshman and sophomore seasons as the “spear” in West Virginia’s defense. He then transferred to Georgia last offseason, but injury prevented him from helping out the Bulldogs during their national title run. If healthy in 2022, he’ll be one of the best players on Georgia's defense.
Johnson has posted top-20 PFF grades at the position in each of the last two seasons. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound safety has accumulated 51 defensive stops in that span, the fourth-most at the position.
Wazzu plucked Lee — one of the best safeties at the Group of Five level — from the transfer portal. The Nevada product owned an 81.4 PFF grade last year, ranking 19th among all FBS safeties. He’s not afraid to get dirty in the box, as his 35 stops (tied for sixth) and five forced fumbles (most) in 2021 can attest.