The 2015 NFL Draft is less than two months away. Already, the XN Sports NFL Mock Draft 1.0 has been released.
Over the next two weeks, we will be releasing the top five draft prospects at each position leading up to the second edition of the mock draft.
Top 5 Cornerbacks In The 2015 NFL Draft
Rounding out our series is the rankings of the safety prospects. Perhaps only one player this year will come off the board in the first 32 picks, then mid- to late-round picks as teams set to build depth in their secondaries.
Here are the top five safeties in the 2015 class:
1. Landon Collins, Alabama
Far and away the best safety in the 2015 draft class, Collins is an impact-maker on the defensive side of the ball. Though numerous safeties have been drafted in the first round out of Tuscaloosa over the last few years, Collins might be the ultimate single-high defender that teams have been waiting for.
Collins boasts four years of experience and has prototypical size (6-foot, 228 pounds) for the position. He’s one of the better athletes to play safety, with quick feet and excellent body control. He’s a tough run defender and has the ability to cover tight ends in space. He racked up six pass breakups and two picks in 2013 with the Tide.
Collins has the potential to add a unique element to a defense, though there will be some growing pains as he adjusts to covering NFL receivers. Collins was better in 2013 than he was last season, so it’ll be interesting to see how 2015 goes down.
*2. Shaq Thompson, Washington
Thompson also ranked third among linebacker prospects, as he played multiple positions including safety during his time at Washington. Teams could be pondering Thompson’s fit at either position.
Some of the traits that makes Thompson an intriguing linebacker — his athleticism, his ability to cover a wide range of space from sideline to sideline and great coverage skills — makes him equally as dangerous in the defensive backfield.
The verdict is still out on where Thompson will fit in at the NFL level, but some teams believe Thompson is best suited to be a strong safety based on his workouts. He was a five-star recruit at safety coming out of a high school and could wind up returning there to begin his professional career.
3. Derron Smith, Fresno State
Arguably the most instinctive ballhawk in this year’s safety class, Smith is out to prove size is only a number as he looks to be a defensive difference-maker once he gets drafted.
Smith flashes signs of high football IQ with a good awareness at his position and feel for the game. He’s quick to diagnose plays and promptly react. Smith also has elite anticipation skills and playmaking instincts evident by 10 tackles for loss and four sacks during his career at Fresno State.
At 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds, Smith inevitably must overcome questions and concerns about his size. He’s able to get overpowered but remains aggressive. His height can factor into his ability to go up and lose jump balls as well.
4. Damarious Randall, Arizona State
One of the biggest risers at the position of late, the uber-athletic Randall possesses playmaking skills that make him an intriguing prospect.
Randall boasts above-average speed (4.46 second 40) and a plus-tackler (177 tackles in two years with the Sun Devils). He’s the type of safety that can excel on blitzes as well as in coverage. Though he’s a bit undersized, he wins a lot of 50-50 jump balls. He also has experience as a return specialist.
Randall is only 5-foot-11 and 196 pounds, so he’s a tad undersized to be an NFL safety. Some teams are toying with the idea of using him at cornerback, while others believe his coverage skills and athleticism will allow him to be effective in either spot.
5. Jaquiski Tartt, Samford
Tartt in the fifth spot represents a bit of a drop-off from Randall on down. He’s a physical defender with better size compared to some of the other prospects mentioned on this list, but must also prove he’s as good in coverage as they are.
Tartt’s size and strength make a difference in run support. He’s effective when lined up in the box and is aggressive when he comes from the top of the defense. That same aggressiveness costs him on play-action fakes when Tartt is susceptible to getting caught out of position and overreacting to the run.
Still, Tartt has the physical tools to cover in space. He’s solid at tracking the ball with big hands, but has his work cut out for him to become a truly great coverage safety. He may be best suited for a “robber” type of role.