2017 NFL Draft Preview: The Case for a Safety

Breaking down the Chiefs' safeties and looking at some prospects

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On the surface, the chances of the Kansas City Chiefs picking up a safety in the 2017 NFL Draft—particularly one early—don't look very good.

The team recently signed its leader, veteran Eric Berry, to a multi-year contract extension.

The Chiefs also signed former undrafted college free agent, , to a multi-year contract extension earlier this offseason as well.

When those two players are combined with the versatile veteran Ron Parker, who actually led all Chiefs defensive players last year with 1,101 snaps played, there's plenty of experience at the position.

All three bring something different to the table.

Berry has spent much of the past two years for the defense at the free safety position playing deep, while Sorensen has played the "dime" linebacker role. Parker has moved all over the field.

Those have been the three most consistent faces for the Chiefs defense at the safety position.

The Chiefs also recently signed free agent safety , who played in 41 games over the past three years with the Tennessee Titans (2014-15) and Baltimore Ravens (2016).

There's also some young talent there to develop as second-year player and one of last year's fourth-round picks, Eric Murray, played sparingly as a rookie on defense (64 total snaps) but excelled for Dave Toub's special teams units.

Overall, Sorensen and Murray led the team with each having played 367 special teams snaps for the Chiefs last year.

Kansas City Chiefs - Current Safeties

NAME

AGE

EXP

COLLEGE

Berry, Eric

28

7

Tennessee

Hall, Jimmy

25

2

Northwestern

Huff, Marqueston

24

3

Wyoming

Murray, Eric

23

R

Minnesota

Parker, Ron

29

6

Newberry

Sorensen, Daniel

27

3

Brigham Young

It's no secret that safety is a position of strength right now for the Chiefs.

Since arriving in Kansas City four years ago, general manager John Dorsey has drafted a total of 32 players, but he's only selected two safeties, and the Chiefs head into the 2017 NFL Draft with a total of 10 picks.

Chiefs Draft History Under GM John Dorsey - Safeties

Year

Round

Pick

Player

Games

College

2016

4

106

16

2013

5

134

2

The Chiefs have only selected a safety in the first round twice in franchise history, but both have been pretty good.

Obviously, the first one is Berry, who has been phenomenal, but the other was Jerome Woods, who helped lead a formidable defense for the Chiefs in the late '90s and stayed with the team for his entire career (1996-2005).

Pro Bowl Safeties Drafted by the Chiefs

Year

Rnd

Pick

Player

Pro Bowls

College

1

5

5

3

74

3

1

28

1

3

78

1

11

81

1

Heading into this draft, which many experts have said is extremely deep at the safety position, here's a look at the top five guys according to different analysts:

Experts Rank Top 5 Safeties in 2017 Draft

Rank

1

Jabrill Peppers Michigan

Malik Hooker Ohio State

Jamal Adams   LSU

Jamal Adams LSU

Jamal Adams LSU

2

Jamal Adams LSU

Jamal Adams LSU

Malik Hooker Ohio State

Malik Hooker Ohio State

Malik Hooker Ohio State

3

Malik Hooker Ohio State

Jabrill Peppers Michigan

Jabrill Peppers Michigan

Budda Baker Washington

Budda Baker Washington

4

Obi Melifonwu Connecticut

Marcus Williams Utah

Budda Baker Washington

Obi Melifonwu Connecticut

Jabrill Peppers Michigan

5

Marcus Williams Utah

Justin Evans Texas A&M

Obi Melifonwu Connecticut

Marcus Maye Florida

Marcus Williams Utah

Several of these players will already be gone by the time the Chiefs get around to picking at No. 27 overall—particularly in the case of Hooker and Adams, who are considered the elite prospects at the safety position in this draft and will most likely be gone within the first 10 picks.

With that said, there are still a lot of players who will be available after the first round who can make an impact early in their careers for an NFL team.

Five More Intriguing Players to Know

(Includes excerpt from NFL.com scouting report)

Texas A&M'sJustin Evans(6'0", 199 pounds)

Watching Texas A&M safety Justin Evans is an experience. Easy to see the Karl Joseph comparisons. pic.twitter.com/4mm1LLExEa — BJ Kissel (@ChiefsReporter) April 10, 2017

"Soft-spoken but carries a walloping stick. Plays the game with an elevated sense of urgency and excitement. He is a little undersized, but has plus speed, is an extremely physical hitter and can play deep or near the line of scrimmage. Athleticism and ball skills might lead a team to test him out as a slot corner. Regardless of where he plays, he has the talent to become a plus NFL starter and a potential Day 2 (Rounds 2-3) draft selection."

Florida'sMarcus Maye(6'0", 210 pounds)

"Interchangeable safety with the instincts of a free safety & the physicality of a box player."

"Interchangeable safety with the instincts of a free safety and the physicality of a box player. Thrives as a downhill player and has the instincts and speed to operate effectively from both single-high and two-deep looks. Has the physical attributes and intelligence to step into a starter's role early on and will be a strong contributor on special teams."

Boston College'sJohn Johnson(6'0", 208 pounds)

"Has starting experience as cornerback and safety. Can play high safety or cover the slot.…Bounces into run fits with lively feet and a tackle-ready base. Special teams monster with 30 tackles over the last three seasons on cover teams…Ascending defender with the experience, athleticism and ball skills. Johnson is well above average as a ball-tracker and has the soft hands to finish at the catch-point against receivers. He has decent size but won't be a banger as a tackler, however, his ability in coverage has NFL personnel men buzzing as a potential early starter in the league."

Utah'sMarcus Williams(6'1', 202 pounds)

"Ball-hawking free safety who has outstanding ball skills and has shown a propensity for causing turnovers. He can play from a high centerfield spot and utilizes his instincts to swoop down and challenge throws. He's able to get running backs down, but he's not physical enough to be a combination safety. NFL teams love defensive backs with athletic traits, instincts and ball skills. If he works out well before the draft, he should move up team boards."

North Carolina State'sJosh Jones(6'1", 220 pounds)

"Jones is a height-weight-speed prospect to be sure, but he's not just a traits-based safety. Jones has the appetite for hitting that teams will want around the box and he has the speed and ball skills to range and help against vertical threats from a deep safety spot. The big area of concern will be Jones' ability to play with better discipline in coverage and as a tackler. He has the ability to become a good, long-time starter in the league."

Why a safety makes sense for the Chiefs:

Much like the cornerback position, the safety spot is one in which a team just can never have enough talent.

Most NFL rosters carry more cornerbacks and safeties than any other position on the team, so there's naturally a need to keep restocking the cupboards.

Also, in a draft presumably this deep at the position, the Chiefs might be able to get a guy who perhaps in other years may have been selected higher but was pushed down because of sheer numbers.

Furthermore, the more talent that's added overall, regardless of position, the more difficult the decisions become when it's time to trim the roster, which is the exact problem NFL personnel men want to have. The Chiefs can make those decisions tougher down the road if one of these talented players is available and they decide to even further strengthen such an important position.

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