10 safeties to know ahead of the 2025 NFL Draft

2K5RKY1 Georgia Bulldogs defensive back Malaki Starks (24) looks on during a college football regular season game between the Auburn Tigers and the Georgia Bu

Georgia’s Malaki Starks: The rising junior could be the first safety in three years to go in the first round.

Looks like one of the strongest positions in next year’s draft: After a weaker safety class in 2024, the 2025 class looks to be much stronger at the position.

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The 2024 NFL Draft was historically weak at the safety position. The first one taken, Tyler Nubin, wasn’t selected until the No. 47 pick. That’s the latest for the first safety selected this century.

The 2025 class looks to be much better on the backend, as there are multiple players who should go in the top 50. Here are the 10 safeties to know as we head into summer scouting for the 2025 NFL Draft.

(Please note: This isn’t necessarily a ranking of the top-10 prospects, rather a watch list.)

Check out our other 2025 NFL Draft summer watch list positional lists

QB | RB | WR | TE | OT | IOL | DI | EDGE | LB | CB

Malaki Starks, Georgia

As a true freshman in 2022, Starks led all Georgia defenders with 847 snaps during its national championship run. His eight combined interceptions and forced incompletions that year were tied for fifth among SEC safeties.

Starks built off his freshman year by earning an 84.8 run-defense grade as a sophomore, which placed him seventh in the Power Five for his position. He was also tied for sixth in that same group with seven forced incompletions in 2023. 

The rising junior is an elite athlete who’s a standout run defender and tackler for the position while also consistently making plays in coverage. He’s the favorite to be the top safety off the board in 2025 and will likely be a first-round selection.

Kevin Winston Jr., Penn State

Winston is as reliable as they come. The sophomore posted just a 2% missed-tackle rate last year, second among all safeties in the country. His 90.6 run-defense grade ranked third among FBS safeties as well.

Winston was far more than just a safety who excelled at stopping the run. In fact, he was the only safety in the nation who posted 85-plus grades as a run-defender and in coverage last year. His well-rounded game will likely evoke some comparisons to another great Penn State safety in Jaquan Brisker.

Xavier Nwankpa, Iowa

Nwankpa finished the 2023 season as the most valuable safety in the country according to PFF’s wins above average metric. He did that by posting an 88.4 coverage grade, which was tied for fourth among Power Five safeties.

The rising junior is an athletic player with great instincts who will be a major part of what should still be one of college football’s best secondaries.

Xavier Watts, Notre Dame

Watts took home the Bronko Nagurski Trophy in 2023, given to the best defensive player in college football. While his underlying metrics didn’t necessarily paint the senior in the same light, there’s no denying that he was a big-time playmaker for Notre Dame’s defense. 

Watts led the FBS with seven interceptions last season and didn’t allow a touchdown into his coverage. His 37.8 passer rating allowed in 2023 was the eighth-best mark by a Power Five safety. 

To take his game to the next level, Watts needs to improve in the run game and as a tackler. He posted just a 62.5 run-defense grade last year and missed 18% of his tackle attempts. The latter figure placed him in just the eighth percentile for the nation’s safeties in 2023. 

Rod Moore, Michigan

Moore had a relatively down junior season (71.3 grade) compared to what he did as a sophomore (83.9 grade). However, he still has been the sixth-most valuable returning Power Five safety over the past two years according to PFF’s wins above average metric. His six interceptions in that stretch is tied for third in that same group.

Unfortunately, he won’t have much of an opportunity to rebound in his senior campaign as he just recently tore his ACL in practice. He’ll still be a leader of Michigan’s defense from the sidelines until he can get back onto the field, which might not happen until later in the season.

Keon Sabb, Alabama

Sabb wasn’t even a starter for Michigan last season, but he made the most of his 360 snaps. The sophomore was one of six Power Five safeties who earned 80.0-plus grades both in coverage and as a run-defender. Despite only playing the 161st most coverage snaps among Power Five safeties (221), Sabb forced the third-most incompletions (eight).

While replacing Downs is nearly an impossible task, Alabama still picked up a top-10 safety through the transfer portal in Sabb.

Hunter Wohler, Wisconsin

Wohler was the second-most valuable safety in the country this past season according to PFF’s wins above-average metric. His 89.9 coverage grade trailed only Tyler Nubin among the nation’s safeties. 

He also doubled as an excellent run-defender as well. His 11 tackles for loss/no-gain were the most among Power Five safeties while his 28 run-defense stops were second. Wohler is an excellent downhill player who’s capable of making plays deep in coverage as well.

Aubrey Burks, West Virginia

Among returning Power Five safeties over the last couple of seasons, Burks has the best coverage grade (90.3) while ranking second in overall grade (90.2). The junior’s 22 coverage stops in that span is third among all Power Five safeties.

Burks needs to improve as a tackler, but the rising senior is a rangy player who consistently makes plays in the backend of the Mountaineers’ defense.

Sonny Styles, Ohio State

Styles entered Columbus with a ton of hype as the No. 4 overall recruit in the 2022 class. He began to show why he was rated that high as a sophomore this past season. His 84.2 run-defense grade was eighth among Power Five safeties in 2023 and he was sixth in that same group with seven tackles for loss/no gain.

With his prowess as a run-defender, it should come as no surprise that Styles is a massive safety at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds. He projects best as a box safety at the next level and could even transition to linebacker. In fact, there have been reports that Styles has been practicing at linebacker this spring.

Malachi Moore, Alabama

Moore was absolutely stellar as a true freshman in 2020. While playing mostly in the slot that year, he was the fourth-most valuable corner in the country according to PFF’s wins above-average metric. 

He struggled over the following two seasons, posting just a 65.1 grade in that span. Moore played far more in the box this past season and responded with a 77.5 grade, his best since 2020. He’s a versatile defensive back who can wear a number of hats for his defense.

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