News | Minnesota Vikings – vikings.com

2022 NFL Draft Prospects for Vikings: Safeties

View photos of potential safeties the Vikings can select in the 2022 NFL Draft.

In the leadup to the 2022 NFL Draft, Vikings.com is taking a position-by-position look at prospects who have garnered a range of attention from national outlets. The series will include rankings by those national outlets, stats and background information for multiple prospects. We'll also include comments that experts shared during interviews.

Vikings status at safety

Harrison Smith remains the mainstay in the secondary, as the 2012 first-round pick is set to enter his 11th season in Purple. The 2022 season will also mark the first year of a multi-year contract extension Smith signed in August.

But just as Smith has been a constant, so has the carousel at the starting spot next to him. Multiple players have filled that role over the years, including Xavier Woods in 2021. Woods signed with the Panthers as a free agent this offseason.

That leaves just three other safeties on Minnesota's roster, all of whom are young and relatively inexperienced.

Camryn Bynum started twice as a rookie in 2021, recording an interception, a sack and three passes defensed, but he is only entering his second season as a safety after playing cornerback in college. The Vikings also have Josh Metellus and Myles Dorn at that spot, but both of those players have mostly been special teamers in the past year or so.

At this point, Bynum would likely be the top internal option to start next to Smith. But that could change if Minnesota adds to the position group in the draft.

View the best photos of Vikings S Harrison Smith from the 2021 season.

Ask the analyst

Dane Brugler is one of the most well-respected and insightful draft analysts around the country. His annual draft guide, dubbed "The Beast," features scouting reports on 399 prospects and has rankings and testing data for 1,698 prospects. The draft guide can be found here. Follow him on Twitter @dpbrugler for his analysis.

View the best safety photos from the 2021 season shot by Vikings photographers.

Kyle Hamilton is the clear top prospect, but who's next on your list?

Brugler: "For me, it's Dax Hill from Michigan. It's the versatility that he offers — he can cover tight ends and receivers, he can play a split-safety role. You can do so many things with him. He's 6-foot, 190 pounds. Really good athlete, and he has a knack for playing sticky coverage. That's what a lot of teams are looking for. He can shut down a speedy slot receiver or a big tight end. That versatility is probably going to land him in Round 1."

Is safety a mid-round possibility for Minnesota?

Brugler: "I think so, even as early as the second round. Jalen Pitre from Baylor, he's 5-11 and 200 pounds, but he's so interesting from the way he way used. He played that Star position at Baylor, where he was on the edge, in the slot, single high. He was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. He led the Big 12 in tackles for loss, he can play downhill, but he also had three forced fumbles and two interceptions. If you're looking for versatility, you need a guy like Pitre. That's a name to keep an eye on for Vikings fans."

Any late-round sleepers you have your eye on?

Brugler: "One that really stands out is Percy Butler from Louisiana. He ran a 4.36 [in the 40-yard dash], so he's got the speed. There's a lot to like about what he can bring on special teams. He was a big-time special teamer, so even though he might not be ready to start right away, he's going to be a standout special teamer. That matters and is a big deal with coaches. With Butler, he has that. And he has starting upside to maybe eventually get there and be in the safety rotation."

Expert rankings

Daniel Jeremiah currently has four safeties in his overall Top 50: 4. Kyle Hamilton, 19. Dax Hill, 40. Jalen Pitre and 46. Lewis Cine.

ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr., has two safeties in his overall Top 25: 5. Hamilton and 13. Hill.

Rankings for safeties by Jeremiah, his NFL Media counterpart Bucky Brooks, Kiper, analytics site Pro Football Focus and Brugler are listed below.

Prospects

Note: Heights and weights are from each player's profile on NFL.com (linked for each player's name).

S Kyle Hamilton
S Kyle Hamilton

School: Notre Dame | Year: Jr. | Ht: 6-foot-4 | Wt: 220 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel JeremiahBucky BrooksMel Kiper, Jr.Pro Football FocusDane Brugler
S1S1S1S1S1

2021 stats: 7 games; recorded 34 total tackles (19 solo) with two tackles for loss, three interceptions and four passes defended

Hoops background: Hamilton was a star on the hardwood before he became a prized football recruit, as he received a basketball scholarship to Tulane at age 15. His father, Derrek, played college basketball at Southern Miss and was drafted by the Nets in 1988, and his brother, Tyler, played basketball at Penn.

Brugler's breakdown: "Very unique player. He's 6-4, 220 pounds and you don't see a lot of safeties with that size. I know people were disappointed with his 40 time, but if you watch his film, this guy has range and long strides. You don't watch his film and say, 'Oh, that guy is slow.' He plays instinctive, smart. He's smart and bright as a player. Having that processing ability, it gives him a head start. I actually wouldn't be surprised if he fell out of the top 10 [because] not every team is looking for a unique safety that early in the draft. So 11, 12, 13, that might be the sweet spot with Washington, Minnesota, Houston. That might be exactly where we see him come off the board."

S Daxton Hill
S Daxton Hill

School: Michigan | Year: Jr. | Ht: 6-foot-0 | Wt: 191 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel JeremiahBucky BrooksMel Kiper, Jr.Pro Football FocusDane Brugler
S2S2S2CB7S2

2021 stats: 14 games; recorded 69 total tackles (42 solo) with 4.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, two interceptions, eight passes defended and a fumble recovery

Family footsteps: Hill's brother is NFL running back Justice Hill, who is with Baltimore and was a standout at Oklahoma State. Dax Hill, who was the 2018 Oklahoma Gatorade Player of the Year in high school, played in 33 games and had four career interceptions at Michigan.

S Lewis Cine
S Lewis Cine

School: Georgia | Year: Jr. | Ht: 6-foot-2 | Wt: 199 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel JeremiahBucky BrooksMel Kiper, Jr.Pro Football FocusDane Brugler
S4S4S3S2S4

2021 stats: 15 games; recorded 73 total tackles (43 solo) with two tackles for loss, one interception and nine passes defensed

Bright Star: Cine helped Georgia win a national title this past season and came up clutch in the season finale as he was named the Defensive MVP in the win over Alabama.

Brugler's breakdown: "He has one of the more unique journeys I've seen. Born in Haiti, grew up in Florida, learned to play football in Boston, was a top recruit in Texas and earned All-American status at Georgia. It doesn't get much more diverse than that. He's a guy you feel like is an ascending player. You love his football IQ and he plays fast, but you wish he made more plays on the ball in creating interceptions. But he'll come downhill and hit you, he's that type of enforcing safety. He could sneak into the first round."

S Jalen Pitre
S Jalen Pitre

School: Baylor | Year: Redshirt Sr. | Ht: 5-foot-11 | Wt: 198 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel JeremiahBucky BrooksMel Kiper, Jr.Pro Football FocusDane Brugler
S3UnrankedS5CB6S3

2021 stats: 14 games; recorded 75 total tackles (56 solo) with 18.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, two interceptions, seven passes defended, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries

Award winner: Pitre was among the national leaders in tackles for loss in 2021, which helped him capture Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. He continued a trend of Baylor defenders winning the award, as Vikings defensive tackle James Lynch took home the accolade in 2019.

S Jaquan Brisker
S Jaquan Brisker

School: Penn State | Year: Sr. | Ht: 6-foot-1 | Wt: 199 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel JeremiahBucky BrooksMel Kiper, Jr.Pro Football FocusDane Brugler
UnrankedS3S4S3S5

2021 stats: 12 games; recorded 63 total tackles (38 solo) with six tackles for loss, two interceptions, five passes defended and a fumble recovery

Senior standout: Brisker was also a consensus All-American by multiple outlets, was a First-Team All-Big Ten honoree and was voted Penn State's Defensive MVP.

Brugler's breakdown: "He took advantage of that extra year due to COVID. He came back and really elevated his game. He played hurt most of the year, and that's important context when you watch him on film. If you're looking for an all-around safety, toughness and play-making ability, Brisker has that. I think he comes off the board early [in Round 2 or the middle of it], maybe on the cusp of where the Vikings are at in Round 2."

S Kerby Joseph
S Kerby Joseph

School: Illinois | Year: Sr. | Ht: 6-foot-1 | Wt: 203 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel JeremiahBucky BrooksMel Kiper, Jr.Pro Football FocusDane Brugler
UnrankedUnrankedS9S4S7

2021 stats: 12 games; recorded 57 total tackles (41 solo) with a tackle for loss, 1.0 sack, five interceptions, two passes defended and two fumble recoveries

A rare feat: Joseph earned First-Team All-Big Ten honors at safety, becoming the first Illinois player at that position to earn that accolade since 1989. He also became just the fifth Illinois safety to be a First-Team selection in the past 50 years.

Brugler's breakdown: "He's more of a third- of fourth-round option. Awesome in his final year, but he was not a regular starter until his senior year. They played him as the single-high safety, sometimes 20 or 30 yards off the ball. They trusted him because he has the range to go make plays. He can come up in run support. He's leaner at 6-1 and [about] 200 pounds but he has really long arms at 33 inches. There are some offensive tackles in this draft that don't have 33-inch arms. That length is something that teams always mention when you bring up Joseph."

S Nick Cross
S Nick Cross

School: Maryland | Year: Jr. | Ht: 6-foot | Wt: 212 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel JeremiahBucky BrooksMel Kiper, Jr.Pro Football FocusDane Brugler
UnrankedUnrankedS7S5S8

2021 stats: 12 games; recorded 66 total tackles (44 solo) with 3.5 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, three interceptions, two passes defended and two forced fumbles

Quick learner: Cross didn't play football until his freshman year of high school, playing basketball and soccer before his found his way to the gridiron. But he did study the game as a teenager by watching various NFL safeties on YouTube.

S Bryan Cook
S Bryan Cook

School: Cincinnati (after Howard) | Year: Sr. | Ht: 6-foot-1 | Wt: 206 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel JeremiahBucky BrooksMel Kiper, Jr.Pro Football FocusDane Brugler
UnrankedUnrankedT-S10S6S6

2021 stats: 14 games; recorded 96 total tackles (57 solo) with five tackles for loss, 1.0 sack, two interceptions and nine passes defended

Tackling machine: Cook racked up plenty of tackles in his time at Cincinnati and Howard. He registered 217 total tackles in college, with 155 of them being solo stops. He also tallied 11 total tackles for loss in college.

S Verone McKinley III
S Verone McKinley III

School: Oregon | Year: Redshirt Jr. | Ht: 5-foot-10 | Wt: 198 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel JeremiahBucky BrooksMel Kiper, Jr.Pro Football FocusDane Brugler
UnrankedS5S8S13S10

2021 stats: 14 games; recorded 77 total tackles (44 solo) with a tackle for loss, six interceptions, six passes defended and a forced fumble

Plenty of versatility: McKinley is listed as a safety on Oregon's depth chart, but he lined up all over the secondary for the Ducks. He spent time at safety, cornerback and in the box, and Lance Zierlein of NFL.com projects him as a nickel safety in the NFL.

DraftParty_1329x750

2022 Miller Lite Vikings Draft Party

Vikings Draft Party is making its return to in-person festivities at U.S. Bank Stadium! The party will kick off at 6 p.m. (CT) Thursday, April 28.

Advertising