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2021 NFL Draft Prospects for Vikings: Safeties

View photos of potential safeties the Vikings can select in the 2021 NFL Draft. Read the full story HERE.

In the leadup to the 2021 NFL Draft, 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

Entering his 10th season in Purple, Harrison Smith has remained a mainstay for the Vikings at safety. A five-time Pro Bowler and 2017 First-Team All-Pro selection, Smith is still among the game's best players at his position. He is entering the final season of his current contract.

The Vikings signed former Cowboys safety Xavier Woods this offseason after Anthony Harris signed with the Eagles. And although Woods is on a one-year deal, the 25-year-old is currently expected to be the starter next to Smith.

The Vikings also have Josh Metellus on the roster. He was a 2020 sixth-rounder who primarily played on special teams as a rookie. Myles Dorn and Luther Kirk, neither of whom have played in an NFL game, are also on the current roster.

Ask the analyst

Dane Brugler is a draft analyst for The Athletic who produces one of the most comprehensive and thorough draft guides each spring. Dubbed "The Beast," Brugler's guide includes 415 scouting reports, NFL-verified pro day data for over 600 prospects and is nearly 262,000 words in length.

Brugler, one of the most well-respected analysts across the football world, recently chatted with about the 2021 safety prospects. He gave his insight on Minnesota's draft history at that spot, and also gave a peek into what the upcoming draft could mean for the Vikings in the secondary at that spot.

"Harrison Smith is going to go down as one of the best defensive players in Vikings franchise history," Brugler said. "But he's 32 years old and in the final year of his contract, so his future beyond this upcoming season is a little uncertain.

"Woods was OK in Dallas, and I think there's a chance he hasn't played his best football yet," Brugler added. "Maybe we see that this year, but maybe there's an upgrade in the long-term plans for Minnesota."

Brugler said that Smith's longevity has allowed the Vikings to find solid players next to him without having to spend high draft picks on them.

"I found it interesting that under [Vikings General Manager] Rick Spielman, the Vikings haven't invested heavily in the safety position in the first five rounds, and you can make the case they haven't had to," Brugler said. "They haven't been avoiding it. But over the last 10 years, Smith is the only safety the Vikings have drafted in the top five rounds. Maybe we see that change this upcoming draft as they try to figure out what the long-term vision at that position looks like."

Expert rankings's Daniel Jeremiah currently has just one safety in his overall Top 50: 19. Trevon Moehrig.

ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr., also has one safety in his overall Top 25: 20. Moehrig.

Rankings for each player within the safety position group by Jeremiah, his NFL Media counterpart Bucky Brooks, Kiper, analytics site Pro Football Focus and Brugler are listed below.


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


School: TCU | Year: Jr. | Ht: 6-foot-1 | Wt: 202 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
S1 S1 S1 S1 S2

2020 stats: 10 games; started every game; 47 total tackles (30 solo), 2.0 tackles for loss, 9 pass breakups, 2 interceptions; consensus All-American; First-Team All-Big 12; Thorpe Award winner as the nation's top defensive back

Turnover machine: Moehrig was part of nine total takeaways in his final two seasons at TCU, notching six interceptions, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery as a sophomore and junior. According to TCU stats, that number was tied for the second-most takeaways over the past two seasons in the FBS level of college football.

Brugler's analysis: "He was a high school corner and wide receiver, and you see that on his tape. He's rangy, very smooth to turn and run, outstanding ball skills. He's a ball hawk and in a lot of ways, he reminds me of Jessie Bates from the Bengals, one of the better up-and-coming safeties in the league. Moehrig is getting better and better, and I think it's fair to say he has the highest upside of the group."


School: Oregon | Year: Jr. | Ht: 6-foot-1 | Wt: 207 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
Unranked S2 S3 S5 S3

2020 stats: opted out of season due to the COVID-19 pandemic; 2019 stats: 14 games; all starts at safety; 66 total tackles (40 solo), 4.5 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions, 4 pass breakups; First-Team All-Pac 12 by PFF

Double threat: Holland played well on defense in 2019 and shined as a punt returner for the Ducks. He ranked 10th nationally with 244 punt return yards and averaged 15.3 yards per return on 16 attempts. He also had five returns of 20-plus yards, which tied for fourth in FBS.

Brugler's analysis: "He really played a nickel position for the Ducks, but he's more of a safety than a corner. He could do a little bit of both. He was an opt out, so we're missing that 2020 film, but he was so incredibly productive in 2019. He's disruptive in both the pass and the run … and there are some areas that will need to mature, but he checks boxes for athleticism, ball skills, toughness. When you check those three, that's a great place to start for a young safety."


School: UCF | Year: Redshirt Sr. | Ht: 6-foot | Wt: 197 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
Unranked Unranked S2 S4 S1

2020 stats: 9 games; 8 starts at safety; team-high 72 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 5 pass breakups, 3 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries and 2 forced fumbles; First-Team All-AAC

Storied career: Grant earned First-Team all-conference honors in his final three seasons at UCF. He also displayed a nose for the ball over four seasons, racking up 10 total interceptions (with one returned for a score), along with five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Brugler's analysis: "Grant is actually my top-ranked safety in this class. His production was outstanding and he led the team in tackles twice. I counted him for 17 turnover-worthy plays, and he gave up only three touchdowns through the air. The tape is just as impressive … he flies all over the field, makes plays in run support. He was recruited as a receiver, and you see that offensive background when the ball is in the air. I like his reactive quickness. He can play single high, can play split safety … he looks like a future starter."


School: Indiana | Year: Jr. | Ht: 6-foot | Wt: 205 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
Unranked S3 Unranked S3 S6

2020 stats: 8 games; all starts at safety; 43 total tackles (33 solo), 3.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 4 pass breakups, 4 interceptions and a forced fumble; First-Team All-Big Ten

Position switch: Johnson began his college career in a linebacker/safety hybrid role before moving to safety full time in 2019. He excelled in his final two seasons, as he became the first Hoosiers safety to earn First-Team All-Big Ten honors since Eric Allen in 1996. Allen was a second-round pick by the Eagles in 1988 and six-time Pro Bowler.


School: Syracuse | Year: Jr. | Ht: 6-foot-1 | Wt: 216 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
Unranked Unranked S4 S7 S5

2020 stats: 2 games; both starts at safety; 11 total tackles (seven solo), 0.5 tackle for loss, 1 interception

Fluke injury: Cisco started his junior season strong with an interception in Syracuse's first game, but he suffered a season-ending, lower-body injury before the team's third game when he collided with a teammate in pregame warm-ups. He totaled 12 career interceptions, including seven as a freshman in 2018.

Brugler's analysis: "We don't really have that 2020 film because Cisco had an ACL injury. The medicals will be an important part of his final draft grade and where he gets drafted. The first two seasons, he was incredibly productive. He was a bit of a late bloomer in high school with only one year starting on varsity, and you see that inexperience at times. He makes big plays but gives up some, too. He needs to dial back the aggressiveness, but you love the playmaking instincts, and that's what NFL teams are going to bank on. You'd rather him be aggressive and reel him back rather than to try and get him to be more aggressive. As long as his medicals are clean, he's a player who absolutely warrants Day 2 consideration."


School: Florida State | Year: Sr. | Ht: 6-foot-3 | Wt: 215 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
Unranked S5 S9 Unranked S4

2020 stats: 2 games; both starts at safety; 13 total tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1 pass breakup, 1 interception

Hard worker: While Cisco played two games and missed the rest of the season, Nasirildeen did the opposite. He worked his way back from an injury to start the final two games of the season, recording an interception in his final college game. Nasirildeen was a tackling machine for two years prior, leading FSU in tackles both seasons. As a junior in 2019, he became the first FSU player with multiple 17-tackle games in a season since 1990.


School: Missouri | Year: Sr. | Ht: 6-foot | Wt: 207 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
Unranked Unranked S6 S9 S9

2020 stats: 9 games; 8 starts at safety; 46 total tackles, 0.5 tackle for loss and 4 pass breakups

Versatile playmaker: Gillespie was a starter at safety for nearly three seasons for the Tigers after playing safety and running back in high school in Florida. He also stood out on special teams during his prep career. As a senior in 2016, he had a punt return for a score in one game and blocked a field goal in another.


School: Texas | Year: Jr. | Ht: 6-foot | Wt: 202 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
Unranked S4 S7 Unranked Unranked

2020 stats: 7 games; all starts at safety; 52 total tackles (30 solo), 1.5 tackles for loss, 1 interception and 3 pass breakups

Fast start: Sterns starred as a true freshman in 2018 when he was a First-Team All-Big 12 selection and also the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year. He became the first Longhorns true freshman defensive back to start the first 13 games of his career since 2008, led the team with four interceptions and also blocked a kick.

Brugler's analysis: "He's a former five-star recruit and he put his name on NFL radars as a true freshman. But the last two years, he battled through injuries and inconsistencies … his overall impact declined. He's tough to figure out because the ability is there, and we've seen him do it … and he tested like an elite athlete … but he plays overly conservative and doesn't have the tape of a playmaker. Opinions around the league are all over the map on him, but I think he could be a good value in the middle rounds."


School: TCU | Year: Redshirt So. | Ht: 5-foot-8 | Wt: 176 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
Unranked Unranked Unranked S6 S7

2020 stats: 10 games; all starts at safety; 37 total tackles (25 solo), 5 pass breakups; Honorable Mention All-Big 12

Immediate impact: Washington was a top safety prospect in 2018 but redshirted his freshman season. He then hit the field in 2019 and was a star, as Pro Football Focus had him as the nation's second-highest graded safety, behind only Moehrig (who tops this prospect list). Washington was the 2019 Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year and also earned Freshman All-American honors from multiple outlets.

Brugler's analysis: "He's a little tough because he's rangy and his instincts translate in both man and zone. But his issue is that he's 5-foot-8 and 176 pounds with 29 ¼ -inch arms. Those lack of inches show up on tape. There's plenty of "almost" plays in coverage and against the run where the lack of size shows up. He ran a 4.61 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day, so he doesn't have the testing that's going to help teams overlook the size. Teams are really going to have to look past that and focus on what he does well, which is his ability to be in the right place at the right time and force quarterbacks to re-think when they're trying to throw to his area. He's probably going to be a Day 3 prospect, but it wouldn't shock me at all if he outplays where he's ultimately drafted."


School: Southern Cal | Year: Jr. | Ht: 6-foot | Wt: 199 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
Unranked Unranked Unranked Unranked S8

2020 stats: 6 games; all starts at safety; 62 total tackles (40 solo), 5.5 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 4 interceptions; First-Team Associated Press All-American; First-Team All-Pac-12; Pac-12 Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year

Proud heritage: Hufanga is proud of his Polynesian heritage, as he was quoted as saying he picked Southern Cal because it was "basically a Polynesian school." The safety was also the 2017 Polynesian High School National Player of the Year. Hufanga has spent the past few months training with Hall of Fame safety Troy Polamalu, who played for the Trojans from 1999-2002 and added to the strong history of Polynesian players who have suited up for Southern Cal.


Vikings Draft Virtual Happy Hour

The #VikingsDraft Virtual Happy Hour, presented by Miller Lite will kick off Day 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft from 5:30-6:30 p.m. CT.

The exclusive live-streamed social hour will give fans the opportunity to interact and celebrate with their favorite Vikings analysts, players and influencers across, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.