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2024 NFL Draft preview: 5 safeties that could interest Lions

The Detroit Lions return starting safeties Kerby Joseph and Ifeatu Melifonwu next season. Joseph is coming off his second straight four-interception season, while Melifonwu finally got a chance to start at the end of last year after making the switch from cornerback to safety and really shined in that spot. That's a young duo Detroit has to be excited about.

The depth at safety, or lack thereof, isn't something that's been talked about a lot this offseason. Second-year nickel cornerback Brian Branch is being cross-trained at safety, but he's clearly the top nickel on this team and moving him to safety in a pinch would lessen the talent at nickel.

"Certainly, Branch has flexibility to be able to play the safety position we believe here in time," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said this offseason at the Annual League Meetings. "We already feel very confident about the nickel, and he'll only get better and better.

"It's how fast do we get him there? Because what you don't want to do is, 'Alright, he can play nickel and safety, but it takes away from his nickel play.' How good he is as a nickel or how good he can become. So, it's finding that fine balance between the two."

They still need to add competition at the safety spot.

"But look, we're still going to look for safety help. It's not over either," Campbell said. "We know we need to bring in some competition in that room. Our eyes are there as well."

View photos of the top safety prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Safety class draft strength: This isn't a great class of safeties. That's not to say there aren't players who can help teams right away, but there isn't a Kyle Hamilton is this draft. In fact, not one safety made NFL media analyst Daniel Jeremiah's most recent list of the Top 50 players available in the draft.

There are defensive backs in this class with versatility to play both cornerback and safety, like Iowa's Cooper DeJean, but in terms of true safeties this isn't a highly ranked class.

Lions safety depth chart: Joseph, Melifonwu, Brandon Joseph

Lions safety draft priority: High. As Campbell stated at the league meetings, Detroit needs more depth. Melifonwu took a big step last year playing in all 17 regular-season games and the three playoff games after injuries were a big part of his story his first two years in the league. Joseph missed a couple games last year due to injury.

As it stands right now with the NFL Draft a little more than a week away, safety might be the spot with the least depth on the entire roster.

Five safeties who could fit the Lions:

1. Tyler Nubin, Minnesota

6-1, 205. 4.59 40-yard dash (1.65 10-yard split)

A really instinctive player in the back end with a history of ball production. Over the last three seasons starting for the Gophers, Nubin racked up 12 interceptions and defended 21 passes. His 13 career interceptions are the most in Minnesota school history. He's a field general with good instincts and ball skills. He'll be a Day 2 pick but could be an immediate starter for a lot of teams.

2. Jaden Hicks, Washington State

6-2, 215. 4.5 40-yard dash (1.58 10-yard split)

Stout, physical safety who really excels playing up in the box and against the run. Was a really good blitzer at Washington State with 2.5 sacks last season. A former cornerback, he's got the skills to cover tight ends and running backs, but his strength is playing in the box. His play style will make him a beast on special teams Day 1 in the NFL.

3. Javon Bullard, Georgia

5-10, 198. 4.47 40-yard dash (1.51 10-yard split)

A big-hitting safety with range and speed, Bullard played both safety and nickel in Kirby Smart's defense. He didn't allow a touchdown in his coverage area all last season, per Pro Football Focus. He doesn't have elite size, but he makes up for it with toughness and speed. He's got the potential to be a position-versatile player on defense.

4. Kamren Kinchens, Miami

5-11, 202. 4.6 40-yard dash (1.53 10-yard split)

Kinchens has a nose for the football. He compiled 11 interceptions and 22 passes defended over the last two seasons. He joined Ed Reed and Sean Taylor as the only Hurricanes in the last 25 years to record double-digit interceptions, per The Athletic. He doesn't have elite traits, but neither did former Lions Pro Bowl safety Glover Quin, and Kinchens reminds me a lot of him.

View photos of NFL prospect Cooper DeJean.

5. Calen Bullock, USC

6-2, 188. 4.48 40-yard dash (1.56 10-yard split)

Defended 19 passes and picked off seven passes over the last two seasons as a full-time starter for the Trojans. Watching him in pass coverage he looks like a receiver. Tracks the ball well with terrific hands. He's got a lean frame and will need to add muscle if he's going to play the run like teams want from the position in the NFL. He's got the versatility because of his cover skills to play free safety or nickel.

Sleeper: Dadrion Taylor-Demerson, Texas Tech

5-10, 197. 4.41 40-yard dash (1.54 10-yard split)

The fastest safety in the class, Taylor-Demerson's speed definitely stands out. It allows him to be a really rangy player in the backend of the defense. He recorded 208 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 23 passes defended and 10 interceptions over 38 games and 32 starts the last three seasons. He's got a lot of upside as he's still learning the position after switching from running back in college.

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