Cleveland Browns: Loaded safety class can help improve the secondary
First Round Prospects
1. Malik Hooker, Free Safety, Ohio State
The Ohio State safety announced his decision to leave school early for the draft earlier this week. Hooker had a fantastic sophomore year for the Buckeyes, recording seven interceptions to lead the team, which also was good enough for third in the nation in total interceptions.
Hooker has received praise from scouts and draft analysts drawing comparisons to the great Ed Reed. Former NFL scout and current draft analyst for NFL Network Daniel Jeremiah supported the praise given to Hooker.
What makes Hooker great is his elite ball skills to track passes like a center fielder. Hooker displayed his range and natural playmaking ability on his interception off of Deshaun Watson in the playoff game on New Year’s Eve.
Hooker possess a rare blend of speed, instincts, and ball skills to quickly make him a top playmaking safety at the next level. Hooker is already in the top 10 on many draft analysts big boards and will certainly be a target for the Browns at No. 12 overall if they want to add an interception machine to the back-end of the secondary.
2. Jamal Adams, Strong Safety, LSU
Adams is another elite player regarded as another top-10 prospect. Adams is a different type of Hooker however. Hooker is known as a ball-hawking playmaker, where Adams does a bit of everything.
Adams is an elite athlete and took on a lot of responsibilities within the LSU defense. His strength comes in his versatility.
Adams has elite ability to fly all over the field and make tackles. He is a proven run stopper who has great instincts against the run. In the pass game, Adams has shown rare ability to not only cover running backs and tight ends but receivers as well. LSU lined Adams up in the slot and was asked to cover faster receivers from the slot.
The versatility of Adams will give an NFL team one of the safest prospects in the draft. Adams might not produce the interception totals of Malik Hooker but that won’t be his job.
Adams will give an NFL team strong support against the run and solid coverage against any position in the pass game. Few safeties have the motor to fly around the field like Adams and he has drawn lofty comparisons because of this. Bleacher Report’s lead draft writer Matt Miller compared the LSU prospect to one of the most complete safeties the game has seen.
In my view, Adams is a do-it-all prospect. Although the term “ballhawk” won’t be given to him as he only recorded one interception this season, Adams has the athletic ability to do whatever is asked of him at the next level.
Adams has few weaknesses and will be able to give an NFL franchise a safety that can play near the line of scrimmage or drop back and cover multiple positions against the pass. The versatility of Adams will be appealing to the Browns with the No. 12 overall pick. The decision between Hooker and Adams will likely come down to preference of what skill set they covet out of their safeties.
3. Jabrill Peppers- Strong Safety/Outside Backer, Michigan
Peppers has received a lot of media hype and it has confused fans to what type of player Peppers is. The Heisman finalist is in no doubt a first-round prospect but people don’t realize Peppers’ strengths and weaknesses.
Peppers was asked to be a “jack of all trades” player at Michigan. In the NFL he projects best at a strong safety position, as he is too small to play linebacker. Peppers is still raw a prospect because Michigan heavily used him as a linebacker. He has undeniable athletic ability which NFL teams will covet, but teams will need to acclimate him to the position as to see if he’s a better fit at safety or outside linebacker.
Peppers could be a target for the Browns with the No. 12 pick. However, Hooker and Adams are more pro-ready prospects and will be able to contribute right away. It is unknown how Peppers will be able to transition to an NFL safety position based on how Michigan used him. There is no question Peppers’ athletic ability alone makes him a top prospect. But for the Browns’ sake, the team should look for more seasoned prospects instead of taking a player that may need a year or two of development.
In my view, I can see Peppers being used at the next level similar to how Shaq Thompson is used with the Panthers and how Deone Bucannon is used with the Cardinals. Both players are hybrid players in the fact they were college safeties and have transitioned to hybrid players at the next level. The Cardinals use Bucannon in a role they call the “money backer”. This term used by the Cardinals means Bucannon plays in the box as a linebacker but in given situations plays more like a traditional safety. Peppers can develop into a similar role as he has the athletic ability to line up in multiple spots.