Welcome to the Second Year Safety 2020 Pre-Draft Status Check, where we’ll check on the status of eleven of the top twelve selected in the 2019 draft. Technically there were twelve designated safeties taken in the top four rounds, but Quincy Williams was considered a hybrid linebacker/safety. And after being drafted in the third round was inserted as a linebacker by Jacksonville in their defensive scheme. His latest Gridiron Ratings IDP article that he was in can be located HERE. So, let’s hit on the other designated safeties heading into their sophomore seasons. Now that most of the major free agency storylines have played out, and before the 2020 NFL draft.
second year safety
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Second Year Safety Status Check
Cleveland Browns – Rnd 4, Pick 17
Redwine didn’t exactly hit the field running in 2019, only playing 35% of the snaps available with five starts. And that can be expected as a mid-round fourth-rounder playing behind a few veterans. His most notable achievement when playing was only allowing 56% (9 of 16) completions when targeted. But he needs to clean up his tackling after missing 14% of his 49 attempts.
His current status as a viable IDP play in 2020 is looking pretty tough, the Browns recently signed veterans Andrew Sendejo and Karl Joseph to patch up their secondary. And his most direct path to snaps will be to outplay Sendejo for the free safety position, which can be done. Besides that scenario, Redwin could see an uptick in snaps as the third safety considering the current overall changes the Browns have made. And this could set him up better for 2021 with an opportunity at a full-time gig because Joseph and Sendejo were only signed to one-year prove-it deals.
Tennesse Titans – Rnd 4, Pick 14
Hooker didn’t get to start a contest last season, seeing just 30% of the available snap counts. And contributed mainly on special teams with 84% of the snaps. But when in action he had a solid miss tackle percentage of just 4.8% and held his own in coverage, by only allowing 6 of 13 (46%) completions when targeted.
Entering 2020, Hooker still sits behind veterans Kevin Byard and Kenny Vaccaro. And his best possible scenario would likely be to outplay Vaccaro for the strong safety position, which would be hard to do. His best window will come in the 2020 offseason when the Titans have an “out” in both of the veteran’s contracts.
Indianapolis Colts – Rnd 4, Pick 7
Willis received a lot of opportunities as a rookie, playing for and eventually replacing longtime veteran Clayton Geathers. He started nine contest altogether and saw 60% of the snaps. And likely a sign of his starting status only played 14% of the snaps available on special teams. But he did show some rookie traits by allowing 83% of the completions that came his way. Although with a nice amount of playing time, he did show secure tackling abilities by only whiffing on 10% of his attempts.
As of his 2020 pre-draft status after unseating Geathers in 2019, Willis looks like the starting strong safety next to free safety Malik Hooker. And after averaging seven combined tackles in seven of his starts that he received 75% or more of the snaps, he has the look and opportunity to be a potential DB1 in 2020. One that could reach within triple-digit tackles and given more schemed plays by the team to record statistics like sacks and tackles for a loss.
Indianapolis Colts – Rnd 4, Pick 3
Seeing most of his rookie season snaps (52%) available on the Saints defense as a replacement nickel/cornerback, Gardner-Johnson made a strong impression in 2019. Recording multiple playmaking plays like defending passes and adding an interception while showing good form tackling.
His 2019 performance is leaving a lot of IDP owners wanting more, unfortunately for 2020, that is going to be tough to get. At least as a safety, because the Saints recently signed long-time and former Saint veteran Malcolm Jenkins. And not to mention they still have returning starter Marcus Williams and also signed on and off starting talent D.J. Swearinger. All making it highly unlikely that Gardner-Johnson sees more than the third safety snaps. And don’t forget, he performed well as a nickel/cornerback, so we may see a designated position change going forward. And although a corner playing safety is an IDP boost, a designated safety playing cornerback isn’t a constant option 90% of the time in fantasy football.
Detriot Lions – Rnd 3, Pick 18
Harris did “ok” with his six starts and 58% of the snaps available, but he didn’t lite up any IDP stat sheets in the process his rookie season. And his overall coverage skills did stand out as the third safety in three safety sets. Owning a 53% completion rate (13 of 23) when targeted by opposing quarterbacks. And notably, he was likely the reason the Lions felt they had the opportunity to make an in-season trade week six. Sending their starting strong safety Quandre Diggs to the Seattle Seahawks.
The Lions haven’t sat idle over the offseason, trading for long-time and mediocre Patriot free safety Duron Harmon. Who could challenge Harris for playing time but doesn’t pose a huge overall threat. Leaving Harris to prove his way into one of the starting safety jobs with third-year stud Tracy Walker. And we will mention, they also do have former Viking’s Jayron Kearse and Miles Killebrew on the roster as well, but neither has cracked and stayed on any starting unit thus far.
This currently only leaves two other scenarios, they might still have former contributor and part-time starter free agent Tavon Wilson on speed dial. And he has stated he is open to returning to the Lions. Or they draft high again on at safety in the 2020 NFL draft.
Kansas City Chiefs – Rnd 2, Pick 31
Thornhill saw a full-time role complement of snaps (89%) and games started (16) as a rookie. And in the process recorded borderline DB2 amount of combined tackles (58), with nearly a 3/1 solo to assisted tackles ratio. Although he had a high missed tackle percentage (19.4%), he was outstanding in coverage, only allowing 46% of the targets that came his way. And intercepted three attempts adding five passes defended in the process.
Barring the Chiefs adding a high-profile safety in the upcoming draft, Thornhill will enter 2020 as one of the starting safeties. And based on his rookie season, he will offer DB2 status again with the hope that he cleans up the missed tackles. Potentially reaching a borderline DB1 performance if he can. In the past, the Chiefs do run a lot of three safety sets, bringing in veteran Daniel Sorensen 50% of the time to play the in-the-box safety position. And as long as they do, it’ll be tough for Thornhill to reach a solid DB1 option status consistently. Because so far, they use his coverage skills in those three safety sets while Sorensen and Tyrann Mathieu are schemed more so to support the run.
Los Angeles Rams – Rnd 2, Pick 29
The best performing IDP rookie safety in 2019, Rapp entered the season as the third safety behind longtime veteran Eric Weddle, and stud John Johnson. But moved into the strong safety position week six after Johnson went down in week five with an injury that sent him to the injured reserves. And he took full of vantage as he played out of his natural position as a free safety. Rapp hit 100 combined tackles in 10 starts, complementing his effort with just allowing a 61% completion rate when targeted and an outstanding 3% missed tackle rate.
Eric Weddle helped clear the air for IDP owners heading into 2020, he has retired, removing any doubt that Rapp will remain a starter. And the anticipation at this point is he’ll play his natural position at free safety with Johnson resuming the strong safety role. We are likely looking at one of the best safety tandems for the next few years with these two players. And although he’ll play deeper in the field, Rapp will still be a DB1 option going forward. And currently might be the most secure second-year safety option out there for IDP owners.
Los Angeles Chargers – Rnd 2, Pick 28
This high-profile safety from the 2019 draft class never had a real chance at producing for IDP owners his rookie season. He suffered a hamstring injury before the pre-season and never fully recovered, landing on the injured reserves in October. Not to mention that the Chargers secondary was already stacked with universal talent heading into 2019.
Now heading into 2020, Adderley’s status isn’t as cut and dry as what IDP owners that drafted him would like to see. Although if he is healthy he certainly is expected to compete for a starting gig. And it will be tough, as we mentioned the Chargers are stacked in the secondary. With defensive backs like Derwin James, Desmond King, Casey Heyward, Rayshawn Jenkins, and newly signed Chris Harris on the roster, Adderley is not a lock to start. And Adderley’s best option is to outplay last year’s starting free safety Rayshawn Jenkins, and although his odds are strong he will, it won’t be handed to him. Not to mention, if he does win the free safety position with all that talent around him, his ceiling will be a DB2, if IDP owners are lucky.
Seattle Seahawks – Rnd 2, Pick 15
Marquise Blair was another high-profile rookie safety that just didn’t have a paved way to relevancy. He suffered a back injury in August that hampered his development and just seemed to struggle to win over the Seahawks coaching staff. And struggled enough that on top of other injuries and poor performances, the Seahawks traded for Quandre Diggs early on in the season. By seasons end, Blair saw fourteen contests with just three starts. The entire situation and the back issue was dishearting, as PFF graded his rookie season out at a strong 78.5, leaving IDP owners wanting more.
Currently, Blair still has an uphill battle heading into 2020, if he can get back to being 100% healthy. And although his odds are great considering, the Seahawks still have plenty of completion on the roster for him. He’ll need to beat out an assortment of players, including Quandre Diggs, Bradley McDougald, Tedric Thompson, and Delano Hill. If he does, and he remains healthy, he’ll offer his IDP owners borderline DB1 status, anticipating that he’ll lock down tier-one level performances.
Jets deal Jamal Adams and 4th-round pick in 2022
Seattle, in exchange for Bradley McDougald (safety), 1st-round pick in 2021, 3rd-round pick in 2021, and 1st-round pick in 2022, source tells ESPN.
Deal is pending physicals.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 25, 2020
Blair Update: July 27th
So what does this blockbuster trade between the Jets and Seahawks do for Blair and his opportunity? Nothing positive on paper and actually makes it tougher for him to 110% take over a full-time gig among the two starting safety positions. Jamal Adams is a lockdown to start at the strong safety position leaving just the free safety position up for grabs. And this is Blair’s natural fit in this defensive scheme. But again, it’s just one less spot he can compete for at this point.
Before this trade, it was a wide-open scenario that Blair could outperform the talent on the roster we listed back in April. And that is definitely not the case now. His main competition, for a starting gig at free safety, is Quandre Diggs. And the Seahawks traded for him last year in a deal with the Lions. And Diggs isn’t a pushover at the safety position, this former cornerback turned safety, indeed has a high level of talent. Granted, the Seahawks only invested a fifth-round pick in Diggs and have a rookie second-rounder invested in Blair. But in NFL terms, those values are about even in the value of a known veteran versus drafting a rookie.
Should Blair owners be any more worried about playing time for Blair in 2020 now? Well, it certainly isn’t going to get any easier after Adams joined the squad. And there are certainly reasons to temper the expectations that Blair’s odds got any better. So if you ask this IDP writer as long as Diggs and Adams are healthy, Blair looks like the third safety for 2020. And unless the Seahawks want to pay Diggs his five million a season for the next couple of years to play part-time, Blair owners may be waiting until 2022 for his IDP window to open all the way. But who knows for sure, weirder things have happened and maybe the Seahawks trade away Diggs at some point too. It seems to be a theme lately after letting studs Earl Thomas go and moving on from Kam Chancellor after he retired in 2018.
(Oakland) Las Vegas Raiders – Rnd 1, Pick 27
Abram landed on injured reserve with a torn rotator cuff after starting and playing the first game of 2019. Leaving very little to nothing to work with in terms of his abilities, or what to expect IDP wise. And left his IDP owners who spent high in fantasy drafts to acquire the first-round pick just as high and dry as the Raiders were.
The good news, he is expected to regain the strong safety role heading into 2020. And after reportedly having a success full surgery on the cuff, IDP owners can expect solid DB2 status off the top. But they should end up owning a potential DB1 after the season gets underway based on the opportunities of his designated position. He earned the job last year, and his draft status suggests the same when he returns, hopefully with no lingering effects from the injury.
Green Bay Packers – Rnd 1, Pick 21
As the first overall safety off the board in the 2019 draft, Savage didn’t live up to the preseason hype that many “gurus” and IDP owners expected. And this is not even counting the ankle injury that kept him from playing the entire season. In the end, he played fourteen contests, starting all fourteen, and playing 83% of the snaps available. And although he had a great completion rate (56%) as a free safety, when targeted, his total combined tackles were lacking. His base tackle production for IDP score boxes barely could be considered DB2 status. And it is arguable that averaging just four tackles a contest, and his two interceptions and only five passes defended when he was playing was worth the effort to keep him on IDP rosters at all.
The only good news, Savage will return as a starter for those holding out to see if he can turn the corner and produce as expected. But there is an unspoken catch that “gurus” failed to address, or IDP owners for that matter. The traditional free safety position in most defensive schemes do not produce by opportunity. And history has proven this time and time again.
It’s not his talent, it’s likely the scheming of the defense. And certainly something this time around the “gurus’ and his potential IDP owners will need to consider in 2020. If you’re going here, the best approach is to hope that at least in a full 16 game season he can produce as a DB2. And more as a depth player or bye week play on our rosters. All while hoping that history doesn’t repeat itself in the process.
second year safety
Author’s Second Year Safety Picks
To some up this Second Year Safety article, I’m more than happy to rank my personal top draft targets. At least those second year safety selections I consider worth making for good IDP production in 2020.
- Taylor Rapp – The exception to the free safeties, his role will produce and is a lock to start.
- Khari Willis – Already proven after upsetting Geathers and plays in the box well at strong safety.
- Johnathon Abrams – Falls here at three for me knowing he will be the starting SS, but with no sample size to base the production on.
- Juan Thornhill – Falls here as based on a secure DBs outlook, with possible dynasty DB1 upside.
- Will Harris – My second year safety I think will end up surprising a lot of IDP owners going forward.
That’s it for me currently heading into 2020, the rest need to earn it first. Thanks for checking the article and these last few rankings out, stay safe.
second year safety
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