NFL Draft’s best safety prospects, ranked for the 2024 class

We’re inching closer to the 2024 NFL Draft, and we have plenty of prospects and position groups to break down before Round 1 kicks off. Next up for review we’re taking a look at some of the safety prospects in this year’s class.

Presented here are those safeties who SB Nation believes to be among the top 10 at their position in this year’s draft class. How did we reach a consensus? SB Nation’s community of NFL draft analysts each ranked their top safety prospects, and this list represents the cumulative results of those individual rankings.

There were no safety prospects taken in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, and it seems as though the same situation could bear out in 2024. The last time a safety prospect was selected in the draft’s first round was in 2022, when Kyle Hamilton went 14th overall to the Baltimore Ravens. With the vast majority of the NFL switching to a predominantly “two-deep” safety look, the position overall has been devalued a bit. We no longer see many “do it all” safeties as the centerpiece of a team’s defense. Instead, safeties now have more defined niche roles — and this year’s class certainly offers that in different ways.

Read on below to find out who made the list, and where, on SB Nation’s top 10 safety prospects of the 2024 NFL Draft class.

10. Malik Mustapha, Wake Forest

Mustapha is a compact safety who’s built well with above-average play strength. His positional strengths lie in his aggressiveness and ability to quickly close on tackles. Malik Mustapha will likely be a down safety in the NFL, spending most of his time near the line of scrimmage. Mustapha possesses good athleticism but looks out of place at times when playing the deep safety position.

9. Cole Bishop, Utah

The widest range of votes on our list — one voter had him as high as three, but he was also as low as 11. I’ll confess: Mine was the vote that had Bishop at three, and he’s one of my favorite prospects of this draft. Bishop was a three-year starter and a leader of Utah’s secondary. He’s a tremendous athlete and versatile enough to play down in the box or up high in a split safety look. Bishop was a menace when he dropped down, being used as a “robber” in coverage. He has the athleticism to cover tight ends man to man, and the tenacity to lay the hit-stick on imposing ball carriers. I think Bishop has a chance to be the best safety to come out of this class if he lands in the right situation.

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8. Beau Brade, Maryland

Brade offers quality size and length for an NFL safety, and he had two solid years of production at Maryland. He takes the appropriate angles on ball carriers in the run game, and when collapsing on wide receivers in zone coverage. Brade seems to possess good play recognition and has a knack for playing the football when it’s in the air. He might start as a rotational safety and special teams guy, but Brade the chance to develop into a starter.

7. James Williams, Miami

Williams is a giant safety prospect at 6’4” and 231 pounds. He projects to be a box safety or nickel linebacker, as Williams doesn’t offer much in coverage situations. He’s an explosive hitter who uses his length and athleticism to close run lanes quickly. Williams may need some time to figure out exactly how he’ll fit into an NFL defense, but he has some unique traits that provide upside near the line of scrimmage.

6. Dadrion Taylor-Demerson, Texas Tech

Taylor-Demerson may have the best instincts and football IQ out of anyone in this group. His anticipation and high-end processing skills often put him in the correct spot to make plays, and he has the natural ability to make those plays. The knock on Taylor-Demerson is that he doesn’t have the desired size (5’10”, 197 pounds) for a typical NFL safety, but he makes up for that in his versatility. He can play multiple positions in the secondary and he’s comfortable in various defensive schemes. One vote among our lists placed him as high as third.

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5. Jaden Hicks, Washington St.

Hicks had a wide breadth among our rankings, with one second-place vote and one ninth-place vote. The red-shirt sophomore from Washington oozes with upside. He has the desired size (6’2”, 211 pounds) and athleticism of an NFL safety, but he might need more time to develop. Hicks proficiently owns his area of the field and is a force to be reckoned with when the ball is in his vicinity. His tackling is inconsistent and will need to be cleaned up, but Hicks is an interesting prospect who has a chance to be an above-average starter.

4. Kamren Kinchens, Miami

To put it bluntly, Kinchens had an atrocious showing at the NFL Scouting Combine. His draft stock plummeted — from being discussed as the top safety in the draft, to questions whether he will be drafted by the end of Day 2. That being said, Kinchens did some damage control and improved some of his athletic testing numbers at his pro day. Regardless of testing numbers, Kinchens is a game-changing safety, evident by his 11 takeaways over the last two seasons. His game tape and instincts are second to none, but his poor testing speed and occasional mental mistakes might give teams pause. Kinchens might need a more defined role in the NFL, likely closer to the line of scrimmage, but wherever he’s put he will make plays.

3. Calen Bullock, USC

Bullock is a long and rangy deep safety prospect who also has the athleticism to match up man-to-man in the slot. He isn’t great in run support and that will likely limit him to a deep safety role. That’s perfectly fine, given he’s superb in that role. Bullock is a fluid mover who can change direction on a dime, possessing the body control and timing of a wide receiver. Whichever team selects Bullock has their deep safety position locked down for the foreseeable future.

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2. Javon Bullard, Georgia

Simply put, Bullard is a good football player. He may not be the fastest or biggest among his peers, but he knows how to play the position and he plays it well. Bullard seems more comfortable closer to the line of scrimmage, and that could find him being used in a big nickel role in the NFL. He offers production in both run support and pass coverage. Bullard has good spatial awareness in zone coverage and shows a natural stickiness when latching onto a wide receiver. A true playmaker, Bullard will find a way to positively affect a game no matter where he plays.

1. Tyler Nubin, Minnesota

Nubin was the unanimous top safety among our voters. He has the ideal size, length, and instincts to be a top-tier ball-hawking safety in the NFL. Nubin has an uncanny ability to “time his pounce” on the ball when it’s in the air. He’s capable in run support but he’s at home when playing over the top as a deep safety. Nubin has the “it” factor of an elite playmaker and likes to play games with opposing quarterback to bait them into throwing the ball where he wants it to go. Sometimes it looks like he’s playing chess to a signal caller’s game of checkers. Tyler Nubin will be an instant impact player the minute he sets foot on an NFL field.

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