2019 Draft Snapshot: Safeties

Welcome to Draft Day.

The first round of the annual event will begin at 7 tonight (CT) in Nashville.

The Miller Lite Vikings Draft Party will coincide with the opening night. It is scheduled from 6 to 11 p.m. on at U.S. Bank Stadium and will feature live coverage of the draft by “Voice of the Vikings” Paul Allen and KFAN. Tickets are available for purchase here.

The second and third rounds will be held on Friday, with festivities beginning at 6 p.m. (CT).

The fourth round will start at 11 a.m. (CT) on Saturday and be followed by Rounds 5-7.

The Vikings currently have eight selections in the draft, beginning with the 18th overall pick.

Vikings.com is taking a glance at the top prospects at each position leading up to the draft.

Schedule

April 11: Running backs

April 12: Tight ends

April 15: Quarterbacks

April 16: Wide receivers

April 17: Offensive tackles

April 18: Centers and guards

April 19: Defensive tackles

April 23: Linebackers

April 24: Cornerbacks

April 25: Safeties

Where the Vikings Stand

The Vikings currently have five safeties on their roster, including three returners from last season. Pro Bowler Harrison Smith is the longest-tenured defensive back on Minnesota’s roster and is entering his eighth NFL season. The 30-year-old has started all 16 games over the past two seasons and 98 of his 99 total games in Purple. Anthony Harris, whom the Vikings signed as an undrafted free agent in 2015, will vie for the other safety spot. He made nine starts last season in place of the injured Andrew Sendejo, who signed with Philadelphia in free agency. Also returning for the Vikings is Jayron Kearse, a seventh-round selection in 2016 who has been a solid contributor on special teams and been utilized in packages.

The Vikings added Jordan Martin and Derron Smith to the safety group through free agency this spring. Both most recently played in the Alliance of American Football – Martin for the San Diego Fleet and Smith for the San Antonio Commanders. Smith originally was a sixth-round pick by the Bengals out of Fresno State.

Recent Draft History (over past five years)

Total number of safeties taken: 98

Round 1: 13 (3 in 2018, 3 in 2017, 2 in 2016, 1 in 2015, 4 in 2014)

Round 2: 12 (1 in 2018, 6 in 2017, 2 in 2016, 3 in 2015, 0 in 2014)

Round 3: 11 (4 in 2018, 2 in 2017, 3 in 2016, 0 in 2015, 2 in 2014)

Round 4: 19 (4 in 2018, 4 in 2017, 3 in 2016, 3 in 2015, 5 in 2014)

Round 5: 14 (3 in 2018, 3 in 2017, 2 in 2016, 3 in 2015, 3 in 2014)

Round 6: 16 (3 in 2018, 5 in 2017, 4 in 2016, 2 in 2015, 2 in 2014)

Round 7: 13 (0 in 2018, 3 in 2017, 3 in 2016, 3 in 2015, 4 in 2014)

While the numbers are fairly spread out across the seven rounds, it’s interesting that Round 4 has seen the highest number of safeties off the board over the past five years. There are also three rounds (Round 2 in 2014, Round 3 in 2015, Round 7 in 2018) in which no safeties were selected by teams.

The Prospects (based on rankings by Dane Brugler of The Athletic)

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1. Nasir Adderley

Delaware, Senior, 6-foot-0, 206 pounds

2018 stats: Started 12 games; recorded 86 tackles (48 solo), 1.5 tackles for loss, 7 pass breakups, 4 interceptions, 1 forced fumble; 5 kickoff returns for 149 yards and a touchdown

Quotable: “It’s great. I’ve done it since my freshman year, and I’ve been on everything since. I’ve been on kickoff, kick return, punt return, gunner on punt, and it’s been great. I just love being able to affect special teams because special teams is a huge part of the game. That’s something I look to take advantage of.” – Adderley on embracing special teams roles

Expert take: “Overall, Adderley has the bad habit of taking the cheese, but he has the essential ingredients of a starting NFL free safety with his play speed, toughness and ball skills, projecting best in a single-high role.”Brugler

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2. Deionte Thompson

Alabama, Redshirt Junior, 6-1, 195

2018 stats: Started all 15 games; recorded 79 tackles (48 solo), 3.5 tackles for loss, 6 pass breakups, 2 interceptions

Quotable: “My favorite safety is Earl Thomas. We went to the same high school. I watched Earl play in high school, in college and the NFL. I like Harrison Smith as well, a guy that I really model my game after. Eddie Jackson, a former Alabama player, [is another player] I model my game after. There’s a lot of safeties in the league, but those three.” – Thompson on which NFL safeties he looks up to

Taking advantage: Thompson was highly touted coming out of high school but was behind a well of talent in Alabama’s secondary. After redshirting in 2015, he bided his time and started out as a special teams contributor in 2016. When several of Alabama’s defensive backs departed for the NFL Draft following the 2017 campaign, Thompson stepped into a starting role and took full advantage of the opportunity.

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3. Taylor Rapp

Washington, Junior, 6-0, 208

2018 stats: Started 13 games; recorded 59 tackles (33 solo), 2 interceptions, 5.0 sacks, 6.0 tackles for loss, 5 passes broken up, 3 fumble recoveries

Quotable: “I think I can do everything on the back end. I think my biggest asset is my versatility, and I think I can do everything. I can cover a deep third, I can cover a deep half, I can roll down to the box, I can go to the alley and tackle. I can blitz, I can cover receivers, I can cover the slot, I can cover a tight end. I think I’m the complete package.” – Rapp on his versatility

Coming in sixth: Rapp’s three fumble recoveries in 2018 ranked sixth in FBS. Temple’s Chapelle Russell led the nation with five.

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4. Johnathan Abram

Mississippi State, Senior, 5-11, 205

2018 stats: Started 11 of 13 games; recorded 99 total tackles with 9.0 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, 2 interceptions, 5 pass breakups, a forced fumble and fumble recovery

Quotable: “Pretty much throughout this whole season I know I was ready the way I played, the way

I handled myself on and off the field, I have pretty much been a pro. My approach throughout the week is pretty much how a pro goes throughout his business. So, for me, like I said, I knew last year I wasn't ready mentally because there I had to find a balance between my off the field life and on the field. So,

what I mean by that is last year was pretty much about all ball. I had no balance between my family and football. And, so, this year I pretty much found that balance, and my family, they accepted the role and they actually helped me in my role of studying and preparing myself for every week.”

Expert take: “Johnathan Abram is a joy to watch hunt the football. He plays with energy, speed and the killer instinct that I want on my football team.”Brugler

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5. Juan Thornhill

Virginia, Senior, 6-0, 205

2018 stats: Started 13 games; recorded 98 tackles (62 solo), 6 interceptions returned for 141 yards, 4.5 tackles for loss and 7 passes broken up

Quotable: “I’m a ball hawk. I had 13 career interceptions, six interceptions this year. It seems like every year I get more and more interceptions. I was always taught that the ball is the most important thing. You can’t score points if you don’t have the football, so with a guy like me, you’ll definitely get the ball back to the offense and allow us to put up more points.” – Thornhill on what he will bring to an NFL team

Combine standout: Thornhill garnered some attention at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, where he topped the safety class in the vertical jump (44 inches) and the broad jump (11 feet, 9 inches).

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6. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson

Florida, Junior, 5-11, 210

2018 stats: Started 11 of 13 games played for the Gators; recorded 71 tackles (37 solo), 4 interceptions returned for 110 yards and 2 touchdowns, 3.0 sacks, 9 tackles for loss and 2 passes broken up

Quotable: “I went from freshmen year at free safety, sophomore year at strong safety, junior year at corner/nickel. That’s all it was. I made a major improvement in tackling. Not everybody can tackle. I had to fix myself. I fixed my attitude toward the team […] I can honestly say that I was for myself at one point in time because I didn’t know what was going to happen next. It’s just a blessing to be here. A lot of people still talk down on me. I don’t get a lot of hype. But I don’t really care about all that. I just want to win, go to the best team, whoever picks me up, and just do what I got to do.” – Gardner-Johnson on improving each season

Expert take: “An ideal nickel defender, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson has only average play strength and anticipation vs. the pass, but his quick, aggressive play style allows him to make plays at every level of the field.”Brugler

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7. Darnell Savage

Maryland, Senior, 5-11, 198

2018 stats: Started 12 games; recorded 52 tackles (38 solo), 4 interceptions (ranked 16th in FBS) returned for 30 yards and a touchdown, 5.5 tackles for loss and 2 passes broken up

Quotable: “I think the first thing is the energy and excitement. I’m always upbeat, always smiling, always just a happy individual. I try to bring everyone around me up. Everybody isn’t always going to be in the same thought process. Everyone has their own things going on in their lives. I just try to be a positive influence and put a smile on peoples’ faces.” – Savage on what makes him a leader

Both sides of the ball: Before playing safety at Maryland, Savage played offense and defense in high school at Caravel Academy. As a senior, he earned Delaware All-State honors after racking up 1,298 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, in addition to recording 54 tackles.

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8. Mike Bell

Fresno State, Redshirt Junior, 6-3, 210

2018 stats: Started all 14 games for the Bulldogs; recorded 87 tackles (53 solo), 3 interceptions, 0.5 sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss and 8 passes broken up

Quotable: “Lastly, I would like to thank my teammates that I have been so blessed to be around. Without you guys I don’t know if I would’ve made it. Every single one of you guys have made an impact on my life in one way or another. To my DB brothers, we have created a brotherhood that would never be broken. You guys have been the highlight of my years at Fresno. I’ll always be a bandit for life. Go Dogs!!” — Bell in a statement when he announced his decision to enter the draft

Baldy’s vote of confidence: Former NFL coach and NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger tweeted film of Bell and said he and teammate Jeff Allison “are good football players” despite rougher outings at the NFL Scouting Combine.

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9. Mike Edwards

Kentucky, Redshirt Junior, 5-10, 205

2018 stats: Started 13 games; recorded 82 tackles (56 solo), 2 interceptions returned for 79 yards and a touchdown, 9.0 tackles for loss, 6 passes broken up and a forced fumble

Quotable: “The game comes easy to me. Not easy, but it comes natural. I’ve been playing football for a long time. I study the game, and I love the game. It all just comes natural to me. I really love the game, and I take pride in how I play. Whoever I’m out there playing with, it doesn’t matter, I’m going to go 110 percent.” – Edwards on why football comes naturally to him

Honoring family: Edwards wears a pink mouthpiece in memory of his aunt, Angie Evans, who passed away from breast cancer in 2013.

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10. Marquise Blair

Utah, Senior, 6-1, 195

2018 stats: Started 14 games for the Utes; recorded 59 tackles (44 solo), 2 interceptions returned for 5 yards, 2.0 tackles for loss, 2 passes broken up and a forced fumble

Quotable: “That [playing style] just comes from not wanting to be embarrassed, not wanting to feel like you lost that rep. That’s where it comes from. I feel like I want to win every rep against whoever I’m going against, whatever player it is, you got to win.” – Blair on being an “edgy” player

From JUCO to Utah: Blair played two seasons at Dodge City Community College before transferring to Utah. There, he was named First-Team National Junior College Athletic Association All-American as a sophomore after recording 24 tackles for loss, which ranked third in the NJCAA.

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