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Fantasy Football: How the 2023 rookie safety class stacks up using key stable metrics

Auburn, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Jordan Battle (9) reacts after a defensive stop against the Auburn Tigers during the first quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

NFL draft season is well underway, and there are plenty of fantasy football general managers who are building their rookie draft boards for dynasty purposes. Utilizing all information available is going to be key in building those draft boards, and looking at how each position stacks up against one another from an analytics standpoint is just one of the many tools to consider during the evaluation process. This series focuses purely on the key stable metrics that translate more often than not from college to the NFL.

A few notes about how this series will work:

  • Rankings are based entirely on how these players performed in PFF’s stable metrics over the past two seasons.
  • Athletic ability and size are not taken into account for this process. Again, this is just one of many evaluation tools to consider.
  • This list includes all 14 quarterbacks from Mike Renner’s draft board but does not provide any weight to projected draft capital or the ranking.

Top-10 safeties in PFF coverage grade since 2021

Player PFF Coverage Grade Coverage Snaps
Jordan Battle, Alabama 91.6 1,109
Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M 90.9 698
Marte Mapu, Sacramento 90.0 852
JL Skinner, Boise State 89.3 610
Gervarrius Owens, Houston 89.2 793
Ronnie Hickman, Ohio State 89.0 828
Daniel Scott, California 87.9 941
Sydney Brown, Illinois 86.2 801
Brian Branch, Alabama 86.0 798
Ji’Ayir Brown, Penn State 85.8 732

When it comes to overall coverage grade over the last two seasons, no player scored higher or saw more of a workload than Alabama’s Jordan Battle, who was deployed more as a deep safety this past season after being used a bit more in the box and slot in previous seasons. However, the shift didn’t affect his grades, as he earned an overall grade and coverage grade above 80.0 in each of the last three seasons.

Antonio Johnson made the transition from the slot to more of a typical safety role in 2022 and was able to maintain strong grades across the board. The 2021 season, where he played 75% of his defensive snaps in the slot, earned his highest career coverage grade (88.7), though his 79.7 coverage grade in 2022 was still very strong. Johnson came up with the most defensive stops in coverage (26) among this year’s safety class over the past two seasons.

Top-10 safeties in PFF coverage grade with no pressure since 2021


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