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2020 NFL Combine preview: Safeties the Detroit Lions should watch

The Detroit Lions look secure at safety with recent investments for both spots, but depth and scheme requirements may necessitate a deeper look into this class.

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With heavy investments in each of the past two seasons, the Detroit Lions wanted to add speed to a secondary that lacked it on the back end. After Glover Quin’s play fell off a cliff and he ultimately retired, the team leaned on safeties Quandre Diggs and Tavon Wilson while they developed Tracy Walker. When Walker developed as expected, the team traded a struggling Quandre Diggs and let the back end fall upon the shoulders of veteran Tavon Wilson and rookie Will Harris. Harris didn’t work out as well as Walker did as a rookie, but the team likely expected that since they gave so much time to Tavon Wilson. It’s not likely the Lions spend a high pick on a safety, but if Wilson isn’t brought back, they will certainly be looking to add some talent.

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Note: All RAS links will be updated during and after the Combine with official and tentative metrics. This will continue throughout the draft season.

Antoine Winfield Jr., Minnesota

Antoine Winfield Jr. RAS

ESPN High School Recruiting Scouting ReportWhat's On Draft | The Draft Network | DraftWire | LionsWire | Pro Football Network | This player is a prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft. All metrics that have been recorded are unofficial if the metric is highlighted in yellow.

On tape, Winfield certainly brings back memories of his father, who played at a high level for more than a decade in the NFL. Not the largest player, and one I don’t expect to measure all that well, Winfield brings it with every hit he makes and was a true play-maker for the Gophers. Injuries are a huge deal, regardless of how good his tape is, and if he manages to exceed expectations during drills at the Combine, his medicals will require very careful consideration.

Ashtyn Davis, California

Ashtyn Davis RAS

Scouting ReportWhat's On Draft | The Draft Network | The Score Crow | This player is a prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft. All metrics that have been recorded are unofficial if the metric is highlighted in yellow. Once the NFL Draft has concluded, player scores will be finalized and the prospect card will be...

A rangy prospect who can play deep in a defense, I think the Detroit Lions staff will like Davis’ profile if he measures as I expect. Similar to Tracy Walker in a lot of ways, Davis flows from sideline to sideline really well and is able to cover a ton of ground in a very short amount of time. Also like Walker, his run support skills leave much to be desired, but there’s plenty of room to grow there and we all saw how a little polish turned someone like Walker into a quality starter in less than a single NFL season.

Grant Delpit, Louisiana State

Grant Delpit RAS

ESPN High School Recruiting Scouting ReportWhat's On Draft | The Draft Network | With the First Pick | Tankathon | Sports Media Pass | Blogging The Boys | Pro Football Network | This player is a prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft. All metrics that have been recorded are unofficial if the metric is highlighted...

Delpit received some intense first-round hype early in the draft process and was an early favorite to be mocked to the Lions starting way back when Quandre Diggs was traded away. His draft stock died a pretty slow death as time wore on as more people dove into his tape and found the pretty evident wrinkles early on. A safety that can get physical, Delpit missed way too many tackles for comfort, and worse he would miss easy ones for seemingly no reason. His positive traits, notably athleticism, and ability to lay the wood give some hope that you can develop the weaker areas into a starting caliber player. The upside is still very much there with Delpit, but the floor is decidedly lower than most guessed to start.

Brandon Jones, Texas

Brandon Jones RAS

ESPN High School Recruiting Scouting ReportWhat's On Draft | LonghornsWire | The Draft Network | Pro Football Network | NFL Draft Geek | This player is a prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft. All metrics that have been recorded are unofficial if the metric is highlighted in yellow.

A true strong safety in that he’s out to make every ball carrier pay for daring to step onto his field and carrying his ball, Jones is a bit of a straight line guy (so higher explosion drills, poorer agility scores) on tape. He reminds me a bit of James Ihedigbo in that short stretch in 2014 where the Lions defense looked unstoppable. I’m worried Jones won’t showcase the speed that this staff seems to covet on their back end, but if he does, he should be one of the top guys at this position on their board.

Xavier McKinney, Alabama

Xavier McKinney RAS

ESPN High School Recruiting Scouting ReportWhat's On Draft | The Draft Network | DraftWire | With the First Pick | Tankathon | The Score Crow | NFL Draft Lounge | This player is a prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft. All metrics that have been recorded are unofficial if the metric is highlighted in yellow....

My S1 in this class and one of the better athletes on tape, I think the Lions staff is just going to love McKinney. I believe he fills the safety role that many think Isaiah Simmons could, but lacks questions about having a defined role. McKinney would slide easily into the role that Tavon Wilson vacated and along with Will Harris would allow the team to mix up their alignments easily on every snap, using the versatility of the back end of their defense to confuse signal callers. Unfortunately, McKinney has few flaws and is likely gone before the Lions are on the clock in the second round.

The Others

Alohi Gilman, Notre Dame (RAS)

Sadly left my Navy program for Notre Dame, Gilman doesn’t look like a great athlete on tape, but has all the cerebral aspects you want from a back end player.

Antoine Brooks Jr., Maryland (RAS)

More explosive than fast, Brooks is a pretty smart player on the field, so I’m excited to see how he does at the Combine.

Brian Cole II, Mississippi State (RAS)

Seems like a much better athlete than football player at this stage and will probably need some development before he can contribute full time.

Chris Miller, Baylor (RAS)

A somewhat reckless hitter, Miller is a bit smaller than you’d like from someone with that level of physicality.

Daniel Thomas, Auburn (RAS)

A decent late round option, Thomas didn’t show that “SEC Speed” you expect, but it may just be a processing thing and there’s plenty of other tools to work with there.

Darnay Holmes, UCLA (RAS)

A wildly inconsistent player, Holmes displays some really ‘wow’ feats of athleticism at times, but struggles with nearly all of the basics. Needs a lot of work, but upside is sky high.

Essang Bassey, Wake Forest (RAS)

Undersized both physically and in style of play, Bassey has a nose for the football, but it’s hard to project his weaknesses into an NFL system.

Geno Stone, Iowa (RAS)

Shorter, but pretty thickly built, Stone has been working specifically on improving his speed from the moment he declared, making his 40 a bigger drill than it is for most players.

J.R. Reed, Georgia (RAS)

Box safety who struggles the further from the line of scrimmage he moves, Reed is one of the best form tacklers in this draft class at any position.

Jalen Elliott, Notre Dame (RAS)

It’s rare to see such a big hitter struggle with being a physical player in coverage as much as Elliott does.

Jared Mayden, Alabama (RAS)

Versatile defensive back who can play—primarily in zone—at nearly any position. Athletically limited player on tape, the testing will be a big deal for his draft prospects.

Jaylinn Hawkins, California (RAS)

Despite his listed size, Hawkins isn’t as thickly built as you want for a box safety with speed concerns.

Jaylon Johnson, Utah (RAS)

Lengthy, athletic player who flails a bit the further a pass is downfield, but is a bit of a developmental prospect with some pretty good upside.

Jeremy Chinn, Southern Illinois (RAS)

Great size and physical measurables, Chinn has the ball skills you usually expect from smaller nickels, but not tall, lengthy safeties.

Jordan Fuller, Ohio State (RAS)

Rangy athlete with some issues with physicality, Fuller developed well from year to year which suggest he’s a coachable prospect.

Josh Metellus, Michigan (RAS)

Nickel safety type who can line up at multiple spots in some situations, athletic testing is key as he looks to be lacking in several areas on tape.

Josiah Scott, Michigan State (RAS)

Extremely undersized for the position, Scott didn’t live up to his breakout billing in 2019 but may have some value if he can showcase ball skills and athleticism at the Combine.

Julian Blackmon, Utah (RAS)

Tall and lengthy, Blackmon is a raw prospect who is going to need some development.

K’Von Wallace, Clemson (RAS)

A smaller box safety, I’m not sure Wallace is athletically gifted enough to overcome his size.

Kamren Curl, Arkansas (RAS)

A versatile player who can play nearly any secondary position, Curly is a late-round prospect that might be worth investing in if he can show well at the Combine.

Kyle Dugger, Lenoir-Rhyne (RAS)

Small school prospect expected to see his stock skyrocket at the Combine, he’s surely one to watch.

Michael Ojemudia, Iowa (RAS)

Zone player with some athletic limitations, has a chance to set some of those concerns at ease with a strong Combine showing.

Nevelle Clarke, Central Florida (RAS)

Gambled that going back to school would help his stock, Clarke struggled in his final year so teams will be looking at both 2018 and 2019 to decide who he is as a player.

Rodney Clemons, Southern Methodist (RAS)

Had a productive 2019, so a strong showing at the Combine would do wonders for his draft stock.

Stanford Samuels, Florida State (RAS)

Ball hawking safety with some concerns about true NFL athletic traits, the Combine is the perfet place to put those concerns to rest.

Tanner Muse, Clemson (RAS)

Limited in speed on tape, Muse is a pretty handsy, physical safety who isn’t afraid to level a receiver if need be.

Terrell Burgess, Utah (RAS)

Gradually improved each year for the Utes before taking over full time in 2019, Brugess has extensive special teams experience and is likely going to make a roster based on that.