The 12th story in our position-by-position NFL draft series looks at the top safeties.
The new Falcons regime cleared the deck at the safety position.
General manager Terry Fontenot, with nine picks, will have some options to add some talent to the position throughout the NFL draft, which will be held April 29 through May 1 in Cleveland.
TCU’s Trevon Moehrig is considered the best safety in the draft.
“I see a guy that plays with a ton of confidence on the football field,” said SiriusXM NFL Radio analyst Mark Dominik, a former NFL general manager. “I see a guy with production also that can move around very well.”
Moehrig has some blemishes as a prospect.
“He doesn’t have the greatest top-end speed, but certainly gets himself into position,” Dominik said. “I like how smooth he is in the system. I like the way he plays the ball when it’s coming to him.”
Moehrig had a tendency to get beat, but he recovers nicely.
“You don’t like seeing the production that he’s had against him, even though he’s got the instincts, awareness and body control to get back in position to finish the play,” Dominik said.
Moehrig can play back in space, over the tight end or close to the line of scrimmage.
“He has the ability to play the run as well as the pass,” Dominik said. “I think he’s the top safety on the board. I look for him to be a good impact player, and (he) should be a guy that can start Day 1 for your organization.”
Moehrig met with the Broncos and Packers during the pre-draft process.
“The conversations have been good,” Moehrig said. “The meetings went really well. Kind of just background stuff.”
Some teams see Moehrig as a deployable weapon.
“The (Broncos) use their safeties in multiple roles, so if you can come here and be versatile, that’ll just help you even more,” Moehrig said. “I think I can fit in and plug and play anywhere they need me.”
Oregon’s Jevon Holland, a native Canadian, also is a top safety prospect.
“He’s my second safety, and I think he goes in the top 50,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said.
Holland also is a combination safety who can play in multiple spots.
“He’s built like a rangy center-field safety, but the bulk of the plays I see him make on tape, he’s really playing a slot,” NFL SiriusXM analyst Charles Davis said. “Kind of like a nickel corner. (His) ball skills are excellent.”
Central Florida’s Richie Grant and Indiana’s Jamar Johnson are other top safeties.
Jeremiah has Georgia’s Richard LeCounte ranked after Moehrig, Holland, Grant, Virginia Tech’s Divine Deablo and Syracuse’s Andre Cisco.
“When you look at LeCounte and you see on paper, the Pro Day and that he ran a 4.76 ... no way he’s going to be the sixth safety off the board,” Jeremiah said. “But his tape is really good.”
The NFL teams know that LeCounte is still recovering from the vehicular accident he had on a dirt bike Oct. 31.
“Talking to a bunch of teams that have all of the GPS data, he plays, if you’re going to do the equivalent, he plays like he’s a 4.4. safety,” Jeremiah said. “That’s how he plays on the field. He had the accident. I don’t think he’s fully recovered from that. He did not run well at his Pro Day. But most of the teams I’ve talked to are forgiving the workout and believing in the player that they saw on tape.”
LeCounte believes he’s getting healthier.
“Rehabbing my foot and getting it back to trusting myself, trusting my weight on it,” LeCounte said. “(I hoping to get) back into the tip-top shape that I was in before the wreck.”
Jeremiah projected that LeCounte will be selected in the fourth round of the draft.
Florida State’s Hamsah Nasirildeen, who had a 32-inch vertical and bench-pressed 225 pounds 17 times at his Pro Day, is another intriguing safety prospect.
“I feel like that’s one thing I can check the box on for sure,” Nasirildeen said. “Somebody who’s committed to the physical part of the game.”
The Falcons parted way with safeties Keanu Neal, Damontae Kazee, Ricardo Allen and Sharrod Neasman this offseason. They recently signed Duron Harmon (45 NFL starts) and Erik Harris (30 starts).
In addition to Harmon and Harris, the Falcons have Jaylinn Hawkins and T.J. Green on the roster at safety.
The Falcons likely will look to add to the position in the draft.
Allen signed with the Bengals, while Neal and Kazee reunited with former Falcons coach Dan Quinn in Dallas.
AJC’S POSITION-BY-POSITION SERIES
QUARTERBACKS: How far will Justin Fields drop in draft? | Top 10 QBs
RUNNING BACKS: Plenty of prospects to pick from | Top 10 RBs
WIDE RECEIVERS: Draft deep with talent | Top 10 WRs
TIGHT ENDS: Ability to create mismatches is key | Top 10 TEs
OFFENSIVE TACKLES: A ‘nasty’ bunch | Top 10 OTs
OFFENSIVE GUARDS/CENTERS: The men in the middle | Top 10 C/OGs
END RUSHERS: Pass on this draft stock | Top 10 DEs
DEFENSIVE TACKLES: One star among lackluster block | Top 10 DTs
LINEBACKERS: Deep class for position | Top 10 LBs
CORNERBACKS: Plethora of options for first two rounds | Top 10 CBs
SAFETIES: Falcons likely will add position player | Top 10 Safeties