The Detroit Lions should be in the market for safeties and this group has several plug-and-play starters in this draft class. It’s entirely possible that the Lions could look to address this position early, and then again late, as they look to rebuild the position.
If you missed any of our previous NFL Combine reviews, be sure to check out:
- 8 quarterback standouts
- 10 running back standouts
- 15 wide receiver standouts
- 8 tight end standouts
- 7 offensive linemen standouts
- 8 interior defensive line standouts
- 12 edge rusher standouts
- 8 linebacker standouts
- 12 Cornerback standouts
As often happens, there tend to be a few cases of overreaction to workouts at the Combine. To be clear, there are absolutely ways for players to move up and down draft boards based on their performances in Indianapolis but rarely do we see big shifts at the top of the draft based on a workout.
Is Kyle Hamilton still in the mix at No. 2?
Kyle Hamilton (Notre Dame, 6-foot-4, 220) entered the Combine firmly in the mix for the Lions at pick No. 2 in the draft. Then he ran a 4.59 40-yard dash—an average time, but still solid for a safety his size—coupled with average agility scores, and people immediately started downgrading him.
For the casual Combine viewer, it’s understandable to have that reaction, as the NFL Network prioritizes the 40-yard dash as part of its viewing package. But for seasoned analysts to get drawn into that trap is a bit surprising, as there were a lot of positives to be ascertained from Hamilton’s workouts.
Not only did he test near the top in explosion measurements, he was fluid and smooth in drills, making every obstacle look easy. He covered ground in his backpedal and moving laterally, tracked and closed on the football, and often secured the catch not only with his hands, including well outside of his frame.
Would I have liked to have seen a better 40-yard dash? For sure. And he will get another chance to improve on his time at Notre Dame’s pro day. But even if he opts to stick with his Combine scores, there was nothing on Sunday that was a red flag for me.
Did Lewis Cine jump Hamilton for the top safety spot?
Lewis Cine (Georgia, 6-foot-2 1⁄4, 199) ran an impressive 4.37 40-yard dash and several people started speculating how high his stock could rise.
Heard from multiple teams that Georgia’s Lewis Cine blew them away in interviews. Is he first safety off the board now after running 4.37 and jumping 11-1? There were some teams that had first round grades on him before doing all that.— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) March 6, 2022
We knew Cine was fast, and yes he exceed expectations, but this would be a pretty unexpected rise to see him jump up to the top safety spot. Yes, analysts—even the best ones—don’t always have a read on every player's stock for every team, but generally, they are connected enough to see if a player is getting first-round speculation. Among top draft analysts like Dane Brugler (The Athletic), Daniel Jeremiah (NFL), Lance Zierlein (NFL), and the folks over at the Draft Network, none of them had Cine in their top-50, yet all of them had Hamilton in the top-five. It would be unprecedented to see a player almost universally rated that high fall, while at the same time seeing another rise that significantly and become the top option.
Did Cine raise his stock? Certainly.
Did Cine pass Hamilton? That’s a hard no for me.
Alright, let’s take a look at the rest of the safeties that stood out at the 2022 NFL Combine.
- Dax Hill (Michigan, 6-foot-0 1⁄4, 191) remains the second-best safety on my Lions' big board and like Cine, he ran a sub-4.4 40-yard dash (4.38 seconds). He was fluid in drills, moved quickly laterally, showed corner-level backpedal, and consistently high-pointed the ball, showing off his ball skills. He did try guessing the coach's directions in drills early, but he settled in and started trusting his skill set.
- Jalen Pitre (Baylor, 5-foot-11, 198) didn’t run the 40-yard dash and when he took the field it took him a few drills to find a rhythm. He improved throughout the day and showed off his explosiveness, especially when moving forward.
- Nick Cross (Maryland, 6-foot-0, 212) was the biggest surprise of the day for me. He ran fast (4.34, 40 y/d), confirming his play speed on film, but he was extremely fluid in his movements with easy transitions and natural hands. If the Lions don’t address safety in the first two rounds, keep an eye on Cross.
- Juanyeh Thomas (Georgia Tech, 6-foot-0 1⁄2, 212) was my sleeper pick coming into the Combine, and after running a 4.55 40-yard dash, he could remain under the radar. He had nice flow in his movements, trusted his body to get to where it needed to be, and showed off a hard step change-of-direction skill that was new to me.
- Tycen Anderson (Toledo, 6-foot-2, 209) was a starter on the Lions’ coached Senior Bowl roster, and he looked even better at the Combine. I had previously profiled him as a defensive back capable of matching up with tight ends, switching between the box (as a Robber) and the slot (as a nickel), but I may have not given him enough credit, as he looked like he could expand his game even further. His 4.36 40-yard dash didn't hurt either.
- Percy Butler (Louisiana, 6-foot-0, 194) is another safety that I may have sold short. He also ran a 4.36 40-yard dash and was able to maintain that speed in drills. Lots of fluid movement, understood when to put his head down and run, and when to turn and locate the ball, then high-pointed it for good measure. It was a very smooth day for Butler, who may be another sleeper to keep an eye on.