NFL Draft News & Analysis

2022 NFL Draft: Safety prospect superlatives

New Orleans, LA, USA; Baylor Bears safety Jalen Pitre (8) gestures after a play against the Mississippi Rebels in the second quarter of the 2022 Sugar Bowl at the Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The 2022 NFL Draft boasts a very strong safety class that will almost certainly contain a first-rounder after none went on Day 1 last year. In fact, I’d bet good money that we see more than one safety come off the board on Thursday, April 29.

Here are the guys with the skill sets NFL teams should want in their defense.

BEST SINGLE-HIGH: NICK CROSS, MARYLAND

Cross has serious range, which is what players need to be a true difference-maker as a single-high safety. And cross has more of it than any safety in the class.

The 215-pounder ran a blazing 4.34-second 40-yard dash at the combine and was also a member of Maryland’s track team. 

BEST TWO-HIGH: JAQUAN BRISKER, PENN STATE

Brisker plays such a steady brand of football in coverage. You simply won’t see him giving up big plays — it’s why he allowed a grand total of only 378 yards in three seasons. When working top-down, he’s as safe as it gets in this class.

BEST BOX SAFETY: KYLE HAMILTON, NOTRE DAME

Hamilton’s size, length and physicality make him a borderline linebacker prospect at the next level. In a jersey, he looks more like Darius Leonard than any NFL safety. He can take on blocks and stick running backs in their tracks as a box player.

BEST SLOT: JALEN PITRE, BAYLOR

This is quite literally who Pitre was for the Bears. Of his 2,109 career snaps, 2,065 came either in the box or slot. So, while he’s grouped with the safeties, he’s really never played that position. The good news is that slot is pretty much a full-time role in the NFL nowadays, and Pitre was as good as anyone in the country at it, earning grades of 88.6 and 82.7 the past two seasons.

MOST VERSATILE: LEWIS CINE, GEORGIA

Over his career, Cine has been asked to wear a lot of hats in Georgia’s defense, and he’s worn them admirably time and time again. This past season, he took 155 snaps from the box, 118 from the slot and 534 deep. For his career, Cine has earned above-average grades from all three alignments.

BEST TACKLER: LEWIS CINE, GEORGIA

It was a tight race between Cine and Cincinnati’s Bryan Cook for this spot, but ultimately Cine’s consistency over his career means he gets the nod. In three years, he’s never missed more than 10% of his tackle attempts over a season. For his career, he’s missed only 11 tackles on 159 attempts (6.9%). 

BEST BALL HAWK: KERBY JOSEPH, ILLINOIS

Joseph’s five picks and four pass breakups in his lone year as a starter didn’t happen by accident. His instinctive play combined with his long arms and ball skills is a good combination to be a playmaker in coverage. Even though he didn’t even lock down a starting role at Illinois until his senior season, he should still come off the board somewhere on Day 2.

You've got the first pick with your finances. Western Southern Financial Group.
Sponsor

NFL Draft Featured Tools

  • Live picks, grades and reaction to the 2022 NFL Draft.

  • 250+ three-page scouting profiles - advanced stats, 3-year grades, player comps, combine data and Senior Bowl grades - for the 2022 draft class.

    Available with

    Edge
  • PFF's Big Board for the 2023 NFL Draft offers three-year player grades, combine measurables, position rankings, and in-depth player analysis for all of the top draft prospects.

    Available with

    Edge
  • Our exclusive database, featuring the most in-depth collection of NCAA player performance data.

    Available with

    CFB Prem Stats+
Pro Subscriptions

Unlock NFL Player Grades, Fantasy & NFL Draft

$9.99 / mo
$39.99 / yr

Unlock Premium Stats, PFF Greenline & DFS

$34.99 / mo
$199.99 / yr
College Subscriptions

Unlock College Player Grades and Preview Magazine

$7.99 / mo
$27.99 / yr

Unlock NCAA Premium Stats & PFF Greenline NCAA

$29.99 / mo
$119.99 / yr