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Draft Snapshot: 10 Takes on Safeties in 2017 NFL Draft

The clock is ticking on the 2017 NFL Draft.

One of the league's most important events kicks off with the first round at 7 p.m. (CT) on April 27 in Philadelphia. The second and third rounds begin at 6 p.m. (CT) on April 28. Rounds 4-7 start at 11 a.m. (CT) on April 29. 

The Vikings currently have eight selections in the draft, beginning with the 48th overall pick, which is the No. 16 spot in the second round.

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

Safeties cap off the final installment of this pre-draft series.

Where the Vikings Stand

Harrison Smith is a two-time Pro Bowler and a key leader in Minnesota's secondary. Andrew Sendejo made 14 starts in 2016 and racked up 72 total tackles (according to coaches' tally) with a pair of interceptions. Anthony Harris made three starts last season, and Jayron Kearse started one game as a rookie. Antone Exum, Jr. missed all of the 2016 season due to injury, and Cedric Thompson spent part of the season on the practice squad.

Recent Draft History (over past five years)

Total number of safeties taken: 95

Round 1: 11

Round 2: 10

Round 3: 12

Round 4: 16

Round 5: 13

Round 6: 18

Round 7: 15

More safeties have been picked in the middle-to-late rounds of the draft, but some standouts are snagged early. Smith was a first-round pick in 2012 and is one of the premier players at his position.

The Prospects (based on rankings by CBS Sports)

-Note: These players are divided into the top five free and strong safeties



1. Malik Hooker (free safety)

Ohio State, Redshirt sophomore, 6-foot-1, 206 pounds 

Combine numbers

None; did not participate due to injury

2016 stats: totaled 74 total tackled with five tackles for loss, seven interceptions and a forced fumble; ranked second nationally with 181 interception return yards; named as a First-Team All-American; earned First-Team All-Big Ten honors; semifinalist for the Thorpe Award

Hot take: According to Dane Brugler of CBS Sports, Hooker is a "gifted athlete with impressive blend of burst, body control and reflexes. Outstanding play speed, covering a lot of green. Magnet to the ball due to his cover awareness, field vision and range. Transfers weight to smoothly open his hips, turn and run without gearing down."

Brugler also noted Hooker's "wild pursuit angles dent his batting average as a tackler. Lowers his pads with an accurate strike zone, but needs to clean up his mechanics when breaking down to be a better finisher. Trusts his eyes and follows the ball, but vulnerable to misdirection and play fakes."

2. Budda Baker

Washington, Junior, 5-foot-10, 195 pounds

Combine numbers

40-yard dash: 4.45 seconds

Bench press: 15 reps of 225 pounds

Broad jump:  9 feet, 7 inches

Vertical jump: 32.5 inches

3-cone drill: 6.76 seconds

20-yard shuttle: 4.08 seconds

2016 stats: started all 14 games; led Huskies with 71 tackles (49 solo) and 10 tackles for loss; added 3.0 sacks, six pass breakups, two interceptions; named All-America by the NCAA and multiple outlets and was a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, the Lott IMPACT Trophy and the Bednarik Award; recorded four tackles and two pass breakups in the Pac-12 Championship; notched six tackles and a 16-yard sack against Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl that doubled as a national semifinal game

Hot take: According to Dane Brugler of CBS Sports, Baker is a "rangy athlete with the instant accelerator to cover a lot of green -- state champion sprinter in high school. Twitchy reflexes to stay in phase in man coverage, showing suddenness when flipping his hips and changing directions. Instinctive and quick to click-and-close on plays in front of him."

Brugler also noted Baker is "undersized and lacks the body type to comfortably carry 200 pounds. Lack of ideal height/length shows in coverage and as a tackler, gaining body position, but missing valuable inches. Wild break down skills dent his batting average as a tackler."

3. Marcus Williams 

Utah, Junior, 6-foot-1, 202 pounds

Combine numbers

40-yard dash: 4.56 seconds

Bench press: 14 reps of 225 pounds

Broad jump: 10 feet, 9 inches

Vertical jump: 43.5 inches

3-cone drill: 6.85 seconds

20-yard shuttle: 4.20 seconds

60-yard shuttle: 11.26 seconds

2016 stats: played and started 11 games; recorded 64 total tackles with a tackle for loss and five interceptions; added two forced fumbles and three passes defended; Second-Team All-Pac-12 selection; Second-Team All-American by the Pro Football Focus; First-Team Academic All-Pac-12

Hot take: According to Rob Rang of CBS Sports, Williams "has an excellent feel for what the offense is trying to do with the cover awareness to bait and force quarterbacks to think twice when he is in the area. His play speed and range allow him to cover a lot of green, displaying smooth hip action, acceleration and vision to track the ball in flight."

Rang also noted that Williams "lacks the bulk scouts would prefer at the position, possessing relatively narrow hips and thin limbs that may leave him more vulnerable to injury. In part due to his lack of preferred size, Williams is not an intimidating hitter that strikes fear into opposing receivers crossing the middle."

4. Marcus Maye

Florida, Redshirt senior, 6-foot, 207 pounds

Combine numbers

Did not participate in drills

2016 stats: played and started in Florida's first nine games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury; recorded 50 tackles with one sack, one interception and six passes defended; Second-Team All-SEC by multiple outlets

Hot take: According to Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, Maye is a "ready-made safety frame with muscular build and long arms. Really instinctive with above-average field vision and feel for the game. Eyes dart back and forth from quarterback to receiver. Correlates quarterback's eyes and actions to a corresponding route and gets the early jump."

Zierlein also noted that "Despite (Maye's) instincts, credited with 10 touchdowns allowed during time at Florida. Inconsistent ball tracker. Has issues playing both ball and man down the field, and can lose feel with receiver."

5. Desmond King

Iowa, Senior, 5-foot-10, 201 pounds

Combine numbers

40-yard dash: did not participate (abdominal strain)

Bench press: 14 reps of 225 pounds

Broad jump: 9 feet, 9 inches

Vertical jump: 34 inches

3-cone drill: 6.67 seconds

20-yard shuttle: 4.18 seconds

60-yard shuttle: 11.57 seconds

2016 stats: recorded 58 tackles (42 solo), 3.5 tackles for loss, seven pass breakups and three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) in 13 games; returned 26 punts 264 yards; returned 27 kickoffs 750 yards (27.8 yards per kickoff return led the Big Ten)

Hot take: According to Rob Rang of CBS Sports, King "is an instinctive, passionate defender with the agility, ball skills and quickness to handle coverage duties in the NFL, as well as the physicality and open-field tackling skills necessary to hold up in run support. He's physical enough, in fact, to handle the conversion to safety - the position his head coach, Kirk Ferentz, initially thought he would play." 

Rang also noted that King "is a better football player than athlete. He doesn't possess elite agility or speed and didn't face many true speed demons in the Big Ten. King doesn't possess the makeup speed to recover if he's beaten initially."

1. Jamal Adams (strong safety)

LSU, Junior, 6-foot, 214 pounds

Combine numbers

40-yard dash: 4.56 seconds

Bench press: 18 reps of 225 pounds

Broad jump: 10 feet, 0 inches

Vertical jump: 31.5 inches

3-cone drill: 6.96 seconds

20-yard shuttle: 4.13 seconds

60-yard shuttle: 11.92 seconds

2016 stats: recorded 76 tackles (42 solo), 7.5 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack, four passes broken up and one interception over 12 games played. He earned First Team All-America honors from CBS Sports and Pro Football Focus following the season and was voted as a permanent team captain for an LSU defense that allowed only 16 touchdowns in 12 games

Hot take: According to CBS Sports, Adams "shows rare key and diagnosis skills. He is hyper-aggressive in run support, flying up field and slipping past blockers to provide the Tigers with almost another linebacker at the point of attack. Belying his lack of starting experience, Adams shows impressive awareness to sniff out misdirection and is a terrific open-field tackler."

According to CBS Sports, "finding relative weaknesses to Adams' game is difficult. He is slightly smaller than scouts would prefer at the position and has been supported by quality cover corners on the outside throughout his time at LSU. He shows great trust in his teammates, sacrificing himself to funnel ball carriers back inside toward the rest of the defense rather than attempting to make every tackle on his own."

2. Jabrill Peppers

Michigan, Redshirt sophomore, 5-foot-11, 213 pounds

Combine numbers

40-yard dash: 4.46 seconds

Bench press: 19 reps of 225 pounds

Broad jump: 10 feet, 8 inches

Vertical jump: 35.5 inches

2016 stats: recorded 72 tackles (47 solo), 16 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, one interception in 12 games; 27 rushes for 167 yards and three touchdowns; two receptions for 3 yards; 21 punt returns for 310 yards (14.8 average that ranked fifth in FBS) and a touchdown; 10 kickoff returns for 260 yards; Lott IMPACT Trophy winner (defensive best in character and performance); Paul Hornug Award (nation's most versatile); finished fifth in Heisman voting; consensus All-American; voted Team MVP; first player in Big Ten history to win three individual awards (2016 Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year, Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year, Rodgers-Dwight Return Specialist of the Year)

Hot take: According to Rob Rang of CBS Sports, Peppers "possesses a compact, muscular frame and the easy athleticism that translates well to the NFL. Peppers is one of the most instinctive players in the country, showing terrific awareness and the closing speed to take full advantage of his awareness. He accelerates quickly, showing the quick-twitch burst to flash through gaps and close on ballcarriers and easily changes directions."

According to Rang, Peppers "will be viewed by some as a tweener, lacking the bulk to remain close to the line of scrimmage, and has limited experience playing deep in coverage. He is surprisingly strong but is often reliant upon avoiding rather than taking on blocks and is knocked to the ground too often, struggling to recover when knocked off-balance."**

3. Josh Jones

North Carolina State, Redshirt junior, 6-foot-1, 220 pounds

Combine numbers

40-yard dash: 4.41 seconds

Bench press: 20 reps of 225 pounds

Broad jump: 11 feet

Vertical jump: 37.5 inches

2016 stats: started all 13 games; totaled 109 tackles (62 solo) with 3.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions and a sack; added a forced fumble and a fumble recovery; earned Honorable Mention All-ACC honors by media

Hot take: According to Dane Brugler of CBS Sports, Jones "looks the part with his height, length and build. Explodes out of a cannon on his tackling angles, accelerating in a flash. Speedy in pursuit to track down ballcarriers from behind. Aggressive hug-and-finish tackler in the open field. Creates stopping power with his downhill demeanor.

Rang also noted that Jones is "upright in his movements, lacking sink to smoothly redirect his momentum. Late to flip and attach to receivers in coverage, losing momentum to wasted steps. Bites on the backfield action. Anticipates well, but he is still learning how to recognize various limbs on the route tree."

4.Obi Melifonwu**

Connecticut, Redshirt senior, 6-foot-4, 224 pounds

Combine numbers

40-yard dash: 4.40 seconds

Bench press: 17 reps of 225 pounds

Broad jump: 11 feet, 9 inches

Vertical jump: 44 inches

2016 stats: started all 12 games; totaled 128 tackles with 2.0 tackles for loss, four interceptions and a fumble recovery; named First-Team All-American Athletic Conference; earned All-ECAC and All-New England honors; played in Reese's Senior Bowl

Hot take: According to Dane Brugler of CBS Sports, Melifonwu is "impressive on the hoof with shredded physique. Knuckle-dragging arms with a gigantic wingspan. Fluid range of motion and doesn't show any stiffness in his movements. Transfers his weight smoothly to turn and run. Stride-for-stride acceleration and playing range."

Rang also noted that Melifonwu is "not explosive and more of a one-note athlete. Doesn't trust his reads and waits until the ball is thrown before committing. Hyper-conservative and often attacks at half-speed to limit mistakes, sacrificing yardage. Routinely late to the sideline."

5. Eddie Jackson 

Alabama, Senior, 6-foot, 201 pounds

Combine numbers

Bench press: 10 reps of 225 pounds

2016 stats: started all eight games he played in; suffered season-ending leg injury against Texas A&M; recorded 24 total tackles and two pass breakups and an interception; earned Second-Team All-SEC honors from coaches

Hot take: According to Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, Jackson "has solid athleticism for the safety spot. Not a speed merchant but has the instincts and range to play over the top. Gets secondary lined up. Can cover tight ends and the occasional slot receiver. Former cornerback who played wide receiver in high school. Has the tracking, timing and hands to take the ball away when he gets his shot."

Zierlein also noted Jackson is "long, but lanky and not built for a physical pounding. Grab and drag tackler. Will do what he has to against the run, but he's not going to be a tone-setter with his hitting. Dominant defensive front made his job in coverage much easier."

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