Leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft, which runs from April 26-28, NESN.com is breaking down the New England Patriots’ best draft fits at each position. Next up: safeties.
Let’s put this lightly: New England Patriots fans are probably looking for some better safety depth after Super Bowl LII.
Based on reaction from social media, Patriots fans still are a little ticked at Jordan Richards’ performance in the Super Bowl. The Patriots have perhaps the best safety trio in the NFL in Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon, but McCourty and Chung will be 31 years old this season, and it might be time to start planning for the future at the position. Ideally, the Patriots would take a safety who can chip in at cornerback or in the slot.
We picked a safety with each of the Patriots’ eight 2018 NFL Draft picks.
Round 1, 23rd Overall Pick: Ronnie Harrison, Alabama
We think he’s a fit, at least. Harrison barely participated in any pre-draft testing. He ran a 4.63-second 40-yard dash with a 1.58-second 10-yard split, 34-inch vertical leap and 10-foot broad jump. He’s the right size for a Patriots safety at 6-foot-2, 204 pounds, and his 10-yard split and broad jump are within the Patriots’ normal standards for a draftable safety. His 40 and vertical are not, however.
Round 1, 31st Overall Pick: Justin Reid, Stanford
Reid, meanwhile, checks literally every draftable measurable standard. At 6-foot-1, 202 pounds, he ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash with a 6.65-second 3-cone, 4.15-second short shuttle, 36.5-inch vertical leap and 10-foot, 8-inch broad jump. It’s probably more likely the Patriots take Reid, who’s also incredibly intelligent, in the first round than a cornerback. He played a ton in the slot last season, so he has versatility.
Round 2, 43rd Overall Pick: Jessie Bates, Wake Forest
Bates, at 6-foot-1, 206 pounds, is a step slower than Reid. He ran a 6.78-second 3-cone drill at 6-foot-1, 206 pounds, however and also has experience in the slot.
Round 2, 63rd Overall Pick: Tarvarius Moore, Southern Miss
Moore is a Pro Football Focus favorite. He wasn’t invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, but he tore up his pro day with a 4.32-second 40-yard dash, 6.95-second 3-cone, 4.20-second short shuttle, 38.5-inch vertical leap and 11-foot, 1-inch broad jump. He also worked in the slot in college.
Round 3, 95th Overall Pick: Dane Cruikshank, Arizona
He’s listed as a safety in pre-draft coverage, but he mostly played cornerback in college. We’d let him try playing cornerback in the pros. He’s 6-foot-1, 218 pounds and ran a 4.41-second 40-yard dash with a 6.89-second 3-cone and 4.24-second short shuttle with a 38.5-inch vertical leap. He allowed 39 catches on 60 targets for 361 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions for a 71.6 passer rating against in 2017.
Round 6, 198th Overall Pick: Godwin Igwebuike, Northwestern
Hey look, another big, athletic safety who played in the slot in college. He’s 5-foot-11, 193 pounds and ran a 4.44-second 40-yard dash with a 6.56-second 3-cone and 4.12-second short shuttle.
Round 6, 210th Overall Pick: Siran Neal, Jacksonville State
Neal exploded off the turf at the NFL Scouting Combine with a 40.5-inch vertical leap. He’s not quite as quick as the guys above him on this list, though.
Round 7, 219th Overall Pick: Joshua Kalu, Nebraska
Kalu is 6 feet, 202 pounds and ran a 4.58-second 40-yard dash with a 6.74-second 3-cone, 41.5-inch vertical leap and 11-foot, 2-inch broad jump. He was a cornerback in 2017 but might move to safety given his lack of straight-line speed. Could he wind up being the 2018 version of Tavon Wilson, Duron Harmon and Richards as a late-round safety overdrafted by the Patriots?
Trade-up option: Derwin James, Florida State
James is the best safety in the class but should be out of range for the Patriots — unless they absolutely love him.
Mid-round option: Troy Apke, Penn State
Apke is a freak athlete who flew up draft boards after running a 4.32-second 40-yard dash with a 6.56-second 3-cone, 4.03-second short shuttle, 41-inch vertical leap and 10-foot, 11-inch broad jump.
He played some slot cornerback in 2017. He’s regarded as a fourth- or fifth-round prospect.