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2020 NFL Draft: How Antoine Winfield Jr. overcame two medical redshirts to become one of the best safeties in the class

Minnesota safety Antoine Winfield Jr. entered the 2020 college football season with as much to prove as anyone. After a solid true freshman campaign in 2016 that resulted in a 70.7 PFF overall grade, Winfield played the first few games of the 2017 season before being knocked out for the year due to injury, resulting in a medical redshirt. He then came back in 2018, and the same thing happened — Winfield played well in the first few games, was hurt, missed the rest of the year and had to obtain a medical redshirt. 

[Editor’s note: Check out PFF’s 2020 Mock Draft Hub, NFL Draft Big Board and NFL Mock Draft Simulator. PFF Elite subscribers can also download the 1,100-page 2020 NFL Draft Guide.]

The fourth-year redshirt sophomore always had NFL aspirations — Winfield's father was a lockdown cornerback in the NFL for over a decade. We only have data starting in 2006 on Antoine Winfield Sr.'s career, but from then to 2012 there’s no doubt he was one of the top defensive backs PFF saw in its early years.

During that span, Winfield Sr. was the fourth-most valuable defensive back in regard to PFF WAR, right behind Darrelle Revis, Charles “Peanut” Tillman and Champ Bailey and one spot ahead of Ed Reed. Winfield Jr. clearly has big shoes to fill.

Prior to last season, the possibility of him as a Day 1 or 2 draft pick was a longshot — he needed to prove he was healthy to have any shot at the NFL. He did that, and then some.

Winfield started all 13 games for Minnesota, recording an 88.1 overall grade, which ranked eighth among FBS safeties, while intercepting seven passes and forcing two incompletions and two fumbles. Today, he’s 38th on the PFF Draft Board and the fourth-best prospect at his position behind Grant Delpit of LSU, Xavier McKinney of Alabama and Ashtyn Davis of California.


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