This isn't an extremely deep class of rookie safeties, but Notre Dame's Kyle Hamilton is probably the best individual prospect at the position in some time with his blend of size, speed, athleticism and instincts.
NFL defenses really value versatility in the safety position. Can a guy play a deep half, but also cover, play the dime and maybe even fill in at nickel? The more versatile a safety is the more valuable he is, and that's where this class has a lot of upside.
Top 5 safeties to watch at the Combine:
1. Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame, 6-4, 220
Hamilton has a rare combination of height, length and athleticism for the safety position. He's got great instincts in the passing game and unbelievable range with his speed and long strides. Coaches are going to love his versatility. He can play the deep half of the field, but also cover tight ends and slot receivers. He'll also come up and stick backs in the hole, and can be an intimidator over the middle. He's the total package and the best safety prospect to come along in some time.
2. Dax Hill, Michigan, 6-0, 192
Hill is also a terrific athlete, though he doesn't possess the frame and length Hamilton does. Hill does have speed and position versatility, however. He looks comfortable playing up in the box, but is also one of the better cover safeties in this class. He could play both safety and nickel corner at the next level.
View photos of the defensive back prospects who were invited to the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine.
3. Lewis Cine, Georgia, 6-1, 200
Cine is an aggressive and physical safety, who likes to play downhill. He plays bigger than his size would indicate and earned a reputation as a big hitter and enforcer for Georgia's talented defense last season. He'll improve as a cover man, but he fits right away in a split safety defense where he can play down more.
4. Jaquan Brisker, Penn State, 6-1, 200
Brisker played through a shoulder injury in 2021. He's an athletic safety with versatility to play in a lot of different spots for a creative defensive mind. He can cover tight ends and play the slot, and he has decent ball skills. He'll be able to help a team right away as a Day 2 pick.
5. Bryan Cook, Cincinnati, 6-1, 210
Like Cine, Cook is a physical safety with an enforcer's mentality. He's really strong coming up and playing the run, and will excel early on when teams ask him to come up and play in the box. It will be an important week in Indianapolis for him to prove what kind of speed he's got and how much teams can put on his plate from a coverage standpoint.
Combine sleeper to watch: Verone McKinley III, Oregon, 5-11, 194
Talk about instincts and ball skills. McKinley tied for the NCAA lead with six interceptions last season, and finished his Ducks career with 11 picks. He excels at reading the quarterback's eyes and finding the football. He's also a willing hitter. He's not going to have the measurables like some of the other players at the position, but his production speaks for itself.
Lions need at the position: High
Will Harris and Brady Breeze are the only safeties currently under contract for the Lions for the 2022 season, though Jalen Elliott and JuJu Hughes are exclusive rights free agents. Still, both of Detroit's starters at safety to end the season – Tracy Walker and Dean Marlowe – are unrestricted free agents. Walker was Detroit's most dependable safety last year. It will be interesting to see what the market is for Walker because this is a pretty deep safety class in free agency.
The Lions will likely address the position in both free agency and the draft, even if they attempt to re-sign Walker. The need to improve the talent level and depth at safety is one of Detroit's biggest needs this offseason along with wide receiver.
Key stat: The 28 completions opponents had on pass attempts that traveled at least 21 yards in the air against Detroit's defense were the second most in the NFL this past year behind only the New York Jets (30). Opponents had a 96.5 passer rating on those deep throws with five touchdowns. .