The 11 best safeties in the 2023 NFL Draft, ranked

The safety class this year is not what it has been in years past. While the 2023 NFL Draft class does possess a high-end talent at the top who will likely go in the first round, there is not a significant amount of depth to it in the first three rounds. Last year, four safeties were selected within the top 37 picks of the draft. This year, we may see as few as three being selected on the first two days combined. Despite that, there are plenty of draftable Day 3 safeties who will be good depth pieces and special teamers. So, without any more delay let’s see how our voters ranked this year’s safety class starting at 11.

11. Brandon Hill, Pittsburgh

Hill is a safety who is going to be able to help more in the passing game than the running game as he is solid in coverage. Despite his smaller frame, Hill is a safety who packs a punch and can deliver some big hits. Hill projects as a late Day 3 pick but he has met with a few teams including the Houston Texas, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys.

10. Brandon Joseph, Notre Dame

Joseph only played a season for the Fighting Irish as he transferred in from Northwestern where he was a team captain. Joseph has a nose for the football as over his last three seasons he has 10 interceptions and a forced fumble. Ball production like that alone will help spark interest in him, however, his poor combine numbers including a 4.62 40-yard dash will certainly hurt his stock.

9. Daniel Scott, California

Scott is considerably older than most NFL Draft prospects at age 24 and was a sixth-year senior last year for the Golden Bears. Whilst drafting a player of that age can be off-putting for some teams, it does come with some perks as he was a captain at Cal and is an extremely mature player. At the minimum, Scott is going to be an important special teams piece which teams are always looking for on the final day of the draft.

8. Chris Smith, Georgia

Chris Smith was the starting safety for the back-to-back National Champion Georgia Bulldogs, which helps give him some instant credibility. Smith’s measurables do not jump off the chart as 5’11, 192 pounds, nor did his combine numbers as he ran a 4.62 40-yard dash. Despite that, Smith is going to be drafted at some point on Day 3, but he does project as more of a special teamer and depth safety as opposed to a starter.

7. Jartavius Martin, Illinois

Martin was one of the more influential players for one of the best defenses in college football last season. He is a someone who brings a lot of versatility as he has the ability to play inside as a corner or line up as a safety. Martin has the ball hawking acumen that you look for in a safety as he totaled 7 career picks for the Fighting Illini, 3 of which came last season. In addition to that he was also able to rack up 222 career total tackles.

6. JL Skinner, Boise State

Skinner is a big-bodied safety who is going to be able to make the majority of his impact in or near the box. Unfortunately, Skinner was unable to test at his Pro Day or the NFL Combine as he was coming off surgery for a torn pec, but he will be ready for the start of the NFL season. Skinner has met with multiple teams in the pre-draft cycle including the Seattle Seahawks, New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers.

5. Jammie Robinson, Florida State

Robinson had a poor combine which has hurt his draft stock a bit. The former Florida State Seminal ran a 4.59 40-yard dash with a 1.58 10-yard split, neither of which are great numbers. Despite his struggles though there is still belief in Robinson around NFL circles as one AFC area scout put it “I’ve heard the argument that you can’t play him at safety and he’s not a true nickel. That’s overthinking it. You find a place for him because he can ball.”

4. Jordan Battle, Alabama

A player we will cover later in the list garnered enough attention last season to make Battle, a former four-star recruit, underrated. Last season, he was an AP third-team All-American and he’s appeared in 52 games over four seasons for the Crimson Tide. While Battle doesn’t have the ceiling that the remaining three players on the list have, he will still be a contributor as a run defense thanks to his IQ, physicality, and abilities as a tackler.

3. Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M

Johnson is a very versatile safety who can line up both in the box to support in the run game or play a deep half in the passing game. Johnson, however, is not the type of safety you’re going to ask to be a ballhawk, as in 25 career games for Texas A&M he has one interception. Despite that, Johnson projects as a player who is going to be a solid contributor at the NFL level.

2. Sydney Brown, Illinois

The fifth-year senior is coming off of a dominant season in which he intercepted six balls and defended another seven. Brown is a smaller safety as he measured in at a hair under 5’10, but his testing numbers were more than strong. He ran an official 4.47 40-yard dash with a 1.51 10-yard split and 40.5-inch vertical jump.

1. Brian Branch, Alabama

The consensus number one safety in this year’s class, Branch was used as the “star” defender in Nick Saban’s defense. He also lined up in the slot, as a deep half, and a single high safety. He’s an extremely smart player who makes a significant impact in both the running and passing game. The do-it-all defender is expected to be selected at some point in the back half of the first round and will be able to make a significant impact in his rookie season.