NFL draft: Javon Bullard’s instinctive play style should translate well in NFL

georgia football-javon bullard-defense

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Georgia defensive back Javon Bullard (22) celebrates with teammate Tykee Smith (23) after an interception during the second quarter against Ole Miss at Sanford Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, in Athens, Georgia. (Jason Getz/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Here’s the ninth story of our position-by-position NFL draft series. Today, we’ll look at the top safeties.

It’s considered a down year at the safety position. It may be on the second day before a player is taken from that position group in the NFL draft, which is set for April 25-27 in Detroit.

“There are some interesting guys, some interesting safeties,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “I don’t think it’s a great safety class.”

Alabama’s Brian Branch, who played at Sandy Creek High, was the top free safety prospect last season. He was drafted 45th overall in the second round by the Lions. Alabama’s Jordan Battle, who was the top strong safety prospect, was drafted 95th overall in the third round by the Bengals.

“I don’t even think we have one – maybe (Tyler) Nubin goes in the top 50 from Minnesota in the second round,” Jeremiah said. “But man, we might not have a safety in the top 50 picks. It’s possible.”

Georgia safeties Javon Bullard and Tykee Smith are projected to be drafted in the third and fourth rounds, respectively.

“You’ve got Javon Bullard from Georgia, good player,” Jeremiah said. “We’ll see what happens with Jaden Hicks from Washington State. If he runs well, he will probably be gone by the (third round). You also have Malik Mustapha from Wake Forest, Tykee Smith from Georgia.”

Hicks didn’t run at the NFL Scouting Combine, but then ran the 40-yard dash in 4.49 seconds at Washington State’s Pro Day. The was fast enough to solidify the top safety spot.

Bullard’s versatility is a plus for him.

“Depends on what your team needs schematically,” Bullard said. “Some teams need safeties, some teams need nickels. Really just that versatility, that Swiss Army knife mindset being able to show my value to a team.”

Bullard believes he can help a team if he’s played back deep as a high safety or if the team lowers him into the box, closer to the line of scrimmage, to help the run defense and cover tight ends in pass coverage.

“Your versatility is your value,” Bullard said. “You can increase your value just being as versatile as you can. Just knowing that we played every position in the back end, every position in the secondary. Knowing that you had to do that at Georgia in order to be successful. It paid dividends for me. I’m truly grateful.”

Bullard has studied Tampa Bay safety Antoine Winfield Jr.

“One of those players I’ve definitely grown to love,” Bullard said. “I mean the guy’s not the biggest guy, not the fastest guy, but he’s a football player. At this level that’s all you want is a football player, and he’s an All-Pro safety. ... He’s one of the guys that I look up to for sure and model my game after.”

The knock on Bullard is that he’s not fast enough to run with wide receivers in man-to-man coverage. However, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds at the scouting combine.

Bills general manager Brandon Beane is not big on the numbers or athletic ability at the safety position. He wants to know if the player has football instincts.

“We want to know how quickly they can learn, how quickly they can process because back there,” Beane said. “The game’s moving fast and they do have to be able to process what’s going on with all the various route concepts, trying to match teams like Miami that throw the ball very well.”

Bullard believes he’s an instinctive player.

“It’s a feel for the game,” Bullard said. “I give all the honor and glory to God on that one, man. It’s just a feel for the game. Instincts, I don’t think can be taught.”

Utah safety Cole Bishop, who played at Starr’s Mill High, is one of the top prospects. He solidified his status by running the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds at the scouting combine.

Bishop was a three-star recruit and initially committed to Duke. Bishop believes his skill set projects well into the NFL.

“I think my ability to cover tight ends,” Bishop said. “I think I do that better than a lot of people. My versatility to play free (safety) and strong (safety). And my intelligence, I feel like I’m a smart player.”

Bishop played alongside Utah safety Sione Vaki, who also had a strong combine.

“He’s awesome, he’s also super versatile,” Bishop said. “This year we didn’t play free or strong. We just played sides, so being able to rotate back and forth which was awesome.”

Like Bullard, Bishop is a big Winfield fan.

“He blitzes,” Bishop said. “He’s in coverage. He has the ability to play deep. He does a lot of different things.”

Bishop played in 36 games for the Utes. He finished with 197 tackles, three interceptions, 7.5 sacks, four fumble recoveries and a forced fumble.

“I’ve always loved being a physical player since I was younger,” Bishop said. “I’ve always taken pride in it.”

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

Utah safety Cole Bishop, a graduate of Starr's Mill High School in Fayette County, talks about his Georgia roots while at the NFL scouting combine.


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RUNNING BACKS -- ‘Day two is going to be the running back day,’ an analyst says | Top 10 RBs

TIGHT ENDS -- Ex-Georgia standout Brock Bowers is the top tight end | Top 10 TEs

QUARTERBACKS -- After Caleb Williams, is Jayden Daniels or Drake Maye the next quarterback? | Top 10 QBs

OFFENSIVE LINE -- Mims, Van Pran-Granger could help NFL teams in the trenches | Top 5 C, OG, OTs

DEFENSIVE LINE -- T’Vondre Sweat’s recent arrest will impact his status | Top 5 DTs, DEs

LINEBACKERS -- Dallas Turner likes to hit quarterbacks | Top 10 LBs

CORNERBACKS -- Alabama cornerbacks Arnold, McKinstry ready for next level | Top CBs

SAFETIES -- Friday.



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TIGHT ENDS – Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer heads a dee TE class | Top 10 TEs

QUARTERBACKS – Bryce Young’s small stature no longer an issue in the NFL | Top 10 QBs

OFFENSIVE LINE – Skoronski’s short arm length being scrutinized for left tackle | Top 5 C,G, &OTs

DEFENSIVE LINE – Is Jalen Carter the real deal or a potential bust? | Top 5 DTs, DEs

LINEBACKERS – Dutchtown’s Will Anderson expected to go in the top 5 of NFL draft | Top LBs

CORNERBACKS – Former Georgia standout Kelee Ringo one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL draft | Top CBs

SAFETIES – Alabama’s Brian Branch, Jordan Battle are top safeties in the NFL draft | Top FS/SS

SPECIAL TEAMS – Michigan’s Jake Moody hopes to kick way to NFL draft | Top STs

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