The Bills already have an elite Safety duo in Jordan Poyer Jordan Poyer (6-0, 191, PFF=68.4, agility 74%ile) and Micah Hyde (6-0, 197, PFF=72.8, agility 80%ile). In Free Agency, the front office added Maurice Alexander, a backup WILB for Matt Milano, in Free Agency, and he could be a serviceable safety and special teams ace.
Jaquan Johnson was a +60 value per DraftTek when the Bills snatched him in RD6 of the 2019 NFL Draft. He was our 7th-ranked safety, and his work ethic, intellect, and game performance helped him lead the Miami Hurricanes in solo tackles, assists, forced fumbles in both 2017 and 2018, and more of any stat than RD1 pick Derwin James. He’s also expected to be a standout special teams player in Year One. So why do we need safeties at all in the 2020 Draft?
It’s a new thing called “proactive thinking”, something we didn’t always see in the Whaley Era. Alexander is age 28. Jaquan Johnson’s Combine was among the most disappointing we witnessed, and may not be anything but a box safety. Rafael Bush is 32, and may not make the final roster with upstart Siran Neal (age 24) back in the limelight. Dean Marlowe ties hard, but isn’t a starter.
Strong Safety Micah Hyde is on year 3 of a 5-year $6M-per contract, and will be 31 when his contract is up in March 2021. Free Safety Jordan Poyer is a UFA in March of 2020 and will be 29. Everything we know about Brandon Beane suggests that both Poyer and Hyde will have competition in place before they meet with the GM about any new contract.
Who’s who in the 2020 NFL Draft? Which are the best fits for the Buffalo Bills?
Grant Delpit, LSU
134 tackles, 17 passes defensed (26 games)
5 sacks, 6 INT, 1 FF in career
I expect the 6’3″ Delpit to be the first safety off teams’ draft boards, and quite possibly earlier than the Bills’ pick (which I expect will be #32). Delpit’s an outstanding athlete who lays the lavender with textbook tackles and ball-popping, fumble-forcing shots. The Bills will like his team-first spirit, his toughness, and hard-working attitude. Tre White will like the team he’s from.
Fit For Bills: A+
Xavier McKinney, Alabama
80 tackles, 10 passes defensed (19 games)
3 sacks, 2 INT, 2 FF in career
While I see Delpit in that Micah Hyde role, McKinney’s more the Jordan Poyer of the group. Recently dubbed Matt Miller’s Best Free Safety, McKinney is another classic example of a wrap-up tackler. He’s a gregarious teammate and an able blitzer, but he also combines vision, awareness, and football smarts to get the work done in coverage. He’s right on the RD1-RD2 cusp.
Fit For Bills: A
Khaleke Hudson, Michigan
124 tackles, 11 passes defensed (31 games)
8.5 sacks, 2 INT, 2 FF in career
When the word gets out about “kuh-LEEK” (and they pronouce his name right), Hudson’s draftability will soar, likely into the RD1 stratosphere. He’s a well-built, well-grounded guy who could play a LB-S role in the bigs. Often playing up in the box like the Bills like to do, Hudson shares the NCAA single-game TFL record with a head-shaking eight. In one game. Sure, Hudson profited from those around him; Michigan’s secondary limited opposing offenses to the fewest YAC in 2018. However, add the fact that Hudson’s a team player and has the most games played on this list, and you have to consider him on the Bills’ short list. Still not convinced? Watch his vert.
Fit For Bills: A+
Alohi Gilman, Notre Dame
170 tackles, 10 passes defensed (27 games)
0 sacks, 2 INT, 2 FF in career
I like the hard-nosed captain of the Irish defense, despite the fact he’s from Hawaii. Gilman transferred to Notre Dame from Navy so he had to sit out a year. McBeane will adore the work ethic of this fiery locker room go-to guy (listen to this speech; you’ll be ready to do that house chore you’ve been putting off). An injury keeps him here…for now. His highlights were like Doritos. I couldn’t munch just one. Gilman’s ceiling is Day Two, right where Safety becomes a priority for the Bills. Remember the Bills scouts saw more Notre Dame games than any other school.
Fit For Bills: A–
J.R. Reed, Georgia
145 tackles, 7 passes defensed (29 games)
2.5 sacks, 4 INT, 1 FF in career
Does the name sound familiar? J.R. (Jake Rashaan) Reed’s father is Jake Reed, a WR with 12 years’ service with the Vikes and Saints, not to mention 450 receptions, 6,999 yards, and 36 TDs. His uncle is Dale Carter, a 1992 RD1#20 draft pick by the Chiefs and a four-time Pro Bowl selection who played 14 seasons. The younger Jake logged a personal-best 11 tackles vs. Auburn in 2017 and started 15 games in 2018, including the SEC Championship game, the Rose Bowl and the National Championship. He’s started at safety in 29 straight games, and experience seems to matter to the Bills’ front office. Reed’s come up big in big games, including 9 stops + a red-zone INT vs Alabama; the Sugar Bowl vs. Texas (8 tackles); at Missouri (8 tackles); and LSU (9 stops). He knows how to “Reed” an offense, too. Watch #20 here, the opportunistic safety at the bottom of your screen. Reincarnation of Micah Hyde? Start him on special teams so he can do this. He’s a Day-Two value.
Fit For Bills: A+
Greg Eisworth, Iowa State
87 tackles, 5 passes defensed (12 games)
1 sack, 1 INT, 2 FF in career
Would the Bills replace Micah Hyde with a Jekyll-and-Hyde type athlete? Eisworth is this cool-and-collected fellow off the field, exuding humility and a happy-go-lucky demeanor. Something happens when he hits the white-striped turf, though. Work ethic? That’s Eisworth. Athleticism? Yup. Football IQ? In spades. Leadership? Well, he was a QB and played basketball in HS. Drawbacks? Only 1 INT last year, and last year was his only season. He’s a junior in 2019, and he needs more seasoning.
Fit For Bills: B–
Brandon Jones, Texas
110 tackles, 3 passes defensed (32 games)
0 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF in career
Jones does his job, pure and simple. Whatever his job is. He was used in a plethora of ways last season, including line of scrimmage edge-setter, blitzer, box safety, and deep. He patrols up in the box well, he doesn’t give away the outside, and his click-and-close is fast. He’s excellent at the catch point, too. Jones has superior size compared to some of the other Bills’ fits, which also comes in handy against the run –something the Bills pride themselves in doing. Hyde’s listed weight is 197, Poyer’s is 191, and Brandon Jones is 205. Jones has the experience that Beane likes. He’s a fourth-year defensive back who has played in 34 career games with 23 starts entering 2019. I still think the Bills’ scouting strength and preference is in the SEC/ACC, so we’ll gig him a tad for that, but the Combine will be a boon for this former track star. He’ll go very early Day Two, maybe after Delpit and Hudson.
Fit For Bills: A
K’Von Wallace, Clemson
84 tackles, 5 passes defensed (30 games)
0 sacks, 3 INT, 2 FF in career
A safety with experience who plays in the ACC? Sounds like a scouting visit to Clemson is in order this year. Surprisingly, no credentialed Bills scouts went to Clemson games in 2018. Showing some serious speed to foil a TD on the second play here, K’Von Wallace shows INT-return aplomb, some excellent catch-point vert, and the strength, physicality and athleticism to be a balanced defender against the run and the pass. He’s an excellent run defender, but also has the ability to stay with guys in zone coverage.That’s a match for a Bills safety. We could have two Wallaces back there.
Fit For Bills: A+
Jeremiah Dinson, Auburn
127 tackles, 7 passes defensed (33 games)
2 sacks, 2 INT, 1 FF in career
Dinson might be most famous for being on the wrong end of a penalty-inducing hit in the Texas A&M game his freshman year, but at least it shows grit and toughness. He attacked his knee-surgery rehab and was out for the entire 2016 campaign. In 2017, Dinson returned to action, and is now the “cerebral leader” of Auburn’s secondary. If I had to take him down a peg or two, it’s been his performance in the “show-me” games in 2018: 0 solos, 1 assist vs Mississippi; 0 solos, 1 assist vs Alabama; and 1 solo vs Georgia. Still, Beane is known for late-round gems.
Fit For Bills: B+
Editor’s babble: Like corners, you can never have enough good safeties. This looks like a very interesting group to keep an eye on this fall. Thanks to Dean Kindig for his awesome contributions to our blog. You can find Dean on Twitter @TCBILLS_Astro.