The last time New England spent a draft pick on a safety, it didn’t go so well for the Patriots.
The Patriots selected safety Jordan Richards in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft, and after starting just seven games in three seasons, he was traded to the Atlanta Falcons for a conditional seventh-round pick. This is the first time since Bill Belichick took over as Patriots head coach in 2000 that New England has gone four years without picking a safety.
They’re due, especially since starters Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung, both 31 years old, are getting up there in age. Behind McCourty and Chung, the Patriots have backups Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner, Terrence Brooks, Obi Melifonwu and A.J. Howard at safety.
Since cornerbacks Duke Dawson, Jonathan Jones and Jason McCourty can also fill in at safety, it’s not necessary to pick a player at this position, but it would be smart.
Leading up to the draft, which runs from April 25-27, we’ll go position by position and draft a player who fits the Patriots in each round. We tackled quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, the offensive line, linebackers and cornerbacks last week and defensive tackles Monday. Now we’ll look at safeties.
Picks: No. 32
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Florida
Gardner-Johnson has the athleticism and versatility to play deep safety or inside the box as a slot defender. At 5-foot-11, 206 pounds, he ran a 4.48-second 40-yard dash with a 7.03-second three-cone drill. Over the last three seasons, he allowed a 42.5 passer rating, letting up two touchdowns to nine interceptions, per Pro Football Focus.
Picks: Nos. 56, 64
Taylor Rapp, Washington
Let’s first address the elephant in the room: Rapp ran a 4.78-second 40-yard dash. He aced his agility drills at 6-feet, 207 pounds, running a 6.82-second three-cone drill and 3.99-second short shuttle. His lack of speed doesn’t show up in his coverage ability. He let up just eight catches on 18 targets for 53 yards with two interceptions as a junior in 2018. He’ll be best used as a hybrid box defender in the NFL.
Picks: Nos. 73, 97, 101
Amani Hooker, Iowa
Hooker played a role very similar to Patrick Chung’s in 2018 as an in-the-box defender. He ran a 4.48-second 40-yard dash with a 6.81-second three-cone drill and 4.10-second short shuttle.
Picks: No. 134
Will Harris, Boston College
Harris is another fantastic athlete. He ran a 4.41-second 40-yard dash with a 6.91-second 3-cone drill and 4.12-second short shuttle at 6-foot-1, 207 pounds. He could be an ideal option to cover tight ends in the NFL.
Sheldrick Redwine, Miami
Redwine is known as a strong run defender. He also let up just a 52.7 passer rating in 2018 and has speed that could translate to free safety in the NFL. He ran a 4.44-second 40-yard dash.
Picks: No. 205
Saquan Hampton, Rutgers
It’s been too long since the Patriots drafted a defensive back out of Rutgers. Hampton projects as a nickel or dime defender. He ran a 4.48-second 40-yard dash with a 6.93-second three-cone and 4.25-second short shuttle at 6-foot-1, 206 pounds.
Picks: Nos. 243, 246, 252
Jake Gervase, Iowa
Gervase tested extremely well at Iowa’s pro day, running a 6.84-second three-cone and 4.17-second short shuttle at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds. He let up seven catches on 21 targets for 72 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions in 2018 as a senior.
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