Top 10 safeties in the 2023 NFL draft

Alabama defensive back Brian Branch breaks up a pass intended for Alabama wide receiver Javon Baker during the first half of an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla.

Credit: AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Combined ShapeCaption
Alabama defensive back Brian Branch breaks up a pass intended for Alabama wide receiver Javon Baker during the first half of an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla.

Credit: AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Here are the top five prospects at strong safety and free safety (with projected round) for the NFL draft, which is set for April 27-29 in Kansas City, Missouri:

STRONG SAFETY

1. Jordan Battle, Sr., SS, Alabama, 6-1, 206, Round 1: He was named third team All-American by the Associated Press. He made 71 tackles, two pass breakups and an interception.

2. JL Skinner, Sr., SS, Boise State, 6-4, 211, 2-3: He was named first-team All-Mountain West last season. He started 12 games and made 65 tackles and led the team with five pass breakups.

3. Kaevon Merriweather, Sr., SS, Iowa, 6-0, 207, 3: He was named second-team All-Big Ten by the Associated Press. He made 47 tackles, forced a fumble and had three interceptions.

4. Rashad Torrence II, Jr., SS, Florida, 6-0, 202: He played at Marietta High School. Started 12 games at safety and had 84 tackles in 2022.

5. Sydney Brown, Sr., SS, Illinois, 5-10, 213, 4-5: He started all 12 regular-season games and sat out the ReliaQest Bowl game. He finished with 59 tackles and six interceptions.

Best of the rest: Oklahoma State’s Jason Taylor II, Minnesota’s Jordan Howden, Pittsburgh’s Brandon Hill, Mississippi’s Otis Reese, California’s Daniel Scott, Boston College’s Jaiden Woodbey, Duke’s Darius Joiner and Rutgers’ Christian Izien.

FREE SAFETY

1. Brian Branch, Jr., FS, Alabama, 6-0, 193, 1: He finished his career at Sandy Creek as the program’s career interceptions leader. He was selected as the Georgia Class 5A Ironman of the Year by coaches. The award is presented to the top two-way player. He picked Alabama over Ohio State, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

2. Christopher Smith, Sr., FS, Georgia, 5-10, 188, 2: He played at Hapeville Charter Academy. He was a dynamic presence in Georgia’s secondary during its back-to-back national championship seasons. He intercepted six passes over the past two seasons.

3. Antonio Johnson, Jr., FS, Texas A&M, 6-3, 195, 2: He played in nine games last season and had 71 tackles and three forced fumbles.

4. Ronnie Hickman, Jr., FS, Ohio State, 6-1, 209, 2-3: He led the team with 100 tackles and started 17 consecutive games.

5. Jammie Robinson, Jr., FS, Florida State, 5-11, 194, 3: He played at Lee County. He played two seasons at South Carolina before transferring. He has seven career interceptions.

Best of the rest: Illinois’ Jartavius Martin, Penn State’s Ji’Ayir Brown, Notre Dame’s Brandon Joseph, Houston’s Gervarrius Owens.

Teams in need: Rams, Browns, Titans, Texans and Seahawks.

Local prospects: Trey Dean III, Sr., Florida (Dutchtown High): He played in 57 games over five seasons. He had 255 tackles and four interceptions. He started 12 games at safety last season.

Otis Reese, Sr., Mississippi (Lee County): He made 84 tackles, had three sacks and an interception last season. He started his career at Georgia and started 14 games for the Bulldogs in 2019.

Need area for Falcons: No. The Falcons signed Jessie Bates in free agency and drafted Richie Grant in the second round of the 2021 draft. Jaylinn Hawkins, last season’s starting free safety, could play some in Big Nickel – a three-safety package.

AJC’S 2023 POSITION-BY-POSITION DRAFT SERIES

WIDE RECEIVERSPast few drafts have spoiled NFL teams looking for wide receivers | Top 10 WRs

RUNNING BACKSRunning backs Bijan Robinson, Jahmyr Gibbs may have to wait to hear their names called | Top 10 RBs

TIGHT ENDSNotre Dame’s Michael Mayer heads a dee TE class | Top 10 TEs

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

OFFENSIVE LINESkoronski’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

LINEBACKERSDutchtown’s Will Anderson expected to go in top 5 of NFL draft | Top 10 LBs

CORNERBACKSFormer Georgia standout Kelee Ringo is one of the top cornerbacks in the draft | Top 10 CBs

SAFETIES – Friday

SPECIAL TEAMS – Saturday

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