JACKSONVILLE – The 2020 NFL Draft is relatively typical at safety.
Good players are available on the last line of defense – and if you want serviceable players, you can find them in a lot of rounds. But this may not be a year to look for "special."
"There's not really a high-end star player at safety," NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks told jaguars.com recently.
That's never uncommon at safety. The position isn't always selected in Round 1 – and it's rarely selected in the Top 10. There are first-round safeties this season, but none are likely to be selected early on the first night of the draft.
"The guys at the top are solid, but I wouldn't say they're star players," Brooks said.
Xavier McKinney, a safety from the University of Alabama, has emerged as the top player at the spot in recent weeks. He has been projected by many analysts in the Top 20, with some projecting him to the Jaguars with their second Round 1 selection – No. 20 overall.
"I think McKinney is the best safety in the draft," NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. "I think you're going to like him closer to the line of scrimmage. He can play high, but he's better when he can drop down and play in the box. And he's also, he's a great communicator."
The rest of the safety class is peppered with players who could sneak into the later part of Round 1, but who are generally projected in the second round or early third. One safety originally projected by many analysts in the first round – Grant Delpit of Louisiana State – is now more commonly projected later.
"He's athletic and rangy," Brooks said of Delpit. "He can do everything you want a safety to do in shorts. He runs around and makes plays and can do all that. The biggest issue he has is tackling. He's going to have to be a more physical presence in the NFL to be a guy who can be a factor."
CBSSports.com NFL Draft analyst Ryan Wilson said while McKinney is the draft's top safety, quality players – if not spectacular ones – can be found at the position in the middle rounds.
"I think Delpit might fall," Wilson said. "If he went to the second or third round, I could see that happening. People love Antoine Winfield Jr. of Minnesota; injuries were a problem but when he's in centerfield, he's a ballhawk. Those are all guys in the first three rounds."
PROJECTED FIRST-ROUND SAFETIES
Xavier McKinney, Alabama; Grant Delpit, Louisiana State; Ashtyn Davis, California; Antoine Winfield Jr., Minnesota.
CHANCES JAGUARS TAKE A SAFETY IN ROUND 1
JAGUARS AT SAFETY
Ronnie Harrison, Jarrod Wilson, Andrew Wingard, Josh Jones, Doug Middleton.
While some analysts project McKinney to the Jaguars at No. 20, that feels like national analysts not having a grasp of the roster. The Jaguars' incumbent safeties, Ronnie Harrison and Jarrod Wilson, must improve next season; Harrison made too many mistakes in his first season as a starter last season and Wilson was solid but not spectacular also as a first-year starter. But the Jaguars figure to have other needs to address early in this draft. If there was a special, difference-making safety available in the Top 50, the Jaguars could find the position hard to pass. If there's not, they seem likely to hope Harrison and Wilson improve in their second year as a tandem.
An early selection at safety might surprise draftniks; it wouldn't shock me. I'm still optimistic Harrison can overcome his struggles of late. He's young but has the kind of frame – plus high impact athletic ability – that could make him a really good player. Beyond him, you have Wilson – who you would really like as a fourth safety – and Wingard, who is primarily a special teams player. McKinney might fit the Jags at No. 20 and he's thought to have tremendous upside – a player who has everything you want in a safety in 2020, plus he brings an Alabama pedigree. Delpit was a popular pick before last season, but his struggles tackling dropped him down some boards. I really enjoyed watching Winfield, but then I enjoyed watching his father Antoine Winfield Sr. play for years in Buffalo and Minnesota. Beyond those names, Davis strikes a chord for many – as does Jeremy Chinn from Southern Illinois. I expect the Jags to address this position early on Day 3 unless something crazy happens Thursday or Friday.