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Buyer-beware when drafting these 3 safety prospects

BLACKSBURG, VA - SEPTEMBER 7: Safety Vonn Bell #11 of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks on prior to the game against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Lane Stadium on September 7, 2015 in Blacksburg, Virginia. Ohio State defeated Virginia Tech 42-24. (Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images)

In preparation for the 2016 NFL draft, PFF’s team of analysts has spent the past few months putting together our overall draft board and positional prospect rankings.

In doing so, PFF has identified players at each position who qualify as “buyer-beware” prospects, based on where these players are showing up on most evaluators’ draft boards. Here are three such prospects among this year’s safety class.

1. Keanu Neal, Florida

Over the past months, Neal has been constantly rising on pundits’ draft boards and is widely regarded as a top-50 prospect by now. While Neal played more than 1,100 snaps over his last two seasons at Florida and made numerous flashy plays, his production on the field does not justify his current position on the aforementioned boards.

Last season, Neal received negative grades for his work against the run and in coverage, which resulted in an overall grade of -3.0, good for 78th in this year’s safety class. When watching the tape, you can see that his aggressive style led to several splash plays; however, his aggressiveness also led to take risks too often, which frequently backfired. As a result, Neal finished the season with 16 missed tackles, tied for sixth-most in the 2016 safety class.

2. Vonn Bell, Ohio State

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Bell played more than 900 snaps for the Buckeyes in both the 2014 and 2015 seasons, and has become one of the more consistent and reliable safeties in the country over this period. However, he does not seem to make enough impact plays to justify the pre-draft buzz around him. He also does not appear to possess great game speed and often hesitates and waits for the play to come to him.

As he doesn't take many risks, his playing style should be paired with solid tackling; however, he notched nine missed tackles in 2015. In addition, he seemed to be extremely vulnerable to double-moves by wide receivers, which often resulted in touchdowns. All in all, Bell is a solid player, but he does not seem to have an upside that would justify selecting him before the third round.

 3. T.J. Green, Clemson

There have been talks about Green being a Day 2 prospect; however, neither his grade (-2.8, 76th in this year’s safety class) nor his tape backs up these evaluations. The biggest positive in Green’s play is that he is quick to react to runs and can frequently make plays close to the line of scrimmage when he doesn't get blocked. However, he struggles coming off blocks and his reaction time to runs often backfires, as he is vulnerable to play-action passes. Although he is projected to become a free safety, he struggles mightily in coverage. Green received the lowest coverage grade in this year’s safety class (-10.8) and allowed the fourth-most receiving yards (479). His struggles in coverage were never more evident than in the National Championship game, where he allowed five receptions, 133 yards, a touchdown, and a perfect (NFL) passer rating of 158.3.

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