SAF7: Ji’Ayir Brown (Penn State)
Ji’Ayir Brown recorded some of the best counting stats in the entire safety group. He intercepted ten passes in two seasons as a starter and posted five sacks in 2022, highlighting the versatility Brown brings to the table.
He split time evenly in the box and back deep as a free safety, which makes the projection easier for scouts. Brown may not be the most explosive guy in the world — or the strongest — but his tenacious attitude and confident approach will keep him on a roster for a long time.
Though willing, Brown is an extremely sloppy tackler that fails to finish plays. He hits hard, but rather than falling to the ground, the ball carriers seem to bounce off him and continue moving forward. The lack of ideal size plays a part, but refinement as a tackler could help exponentially.
NFL Draft Grade: Late Day 2
SAF6: Jartavius “Quan” Martin (Illinois)
Quan Martin is the first Illinois defensive back to earn a spot in these rankings. Admittedly, I was busy watching Devon Witherspoon and Sydney Brown at first, but if you watch the Fighting Illini long enough, Martin will catch your eye.
He is the definition of “polished”, having spent the last five seasons in Champaign as a steady force for the secondary. Martin set career-highs across the board in PFF grades for the following stats: run defense, tackling, and pass rush. He fell one point shy of eclipsing his best mark in coverage, as well.
Martin spent most of his time as the nickelback for the Illinois defense, a spot he should thrive in at the next level. Thanks to his coverage ability from the slot and his thumper mentality in run support, Martin looks like a positionally versatile piece to any secondary.
At the NFL Combine, he blew the crowd away with a mind-blowing vertical leap (44 inches) and 10-yard split (1.44), both of which rank in the 99th percentile of ALL defensive backs listed in the RAS database. To simplify, Martin is extremely explosive and has a great chance to be a better pro than he was a college player.
NFL Draft Grade: Mid-Day 2
SAF5: Jordan Battle (Alabama)
Jordan Battle owns experience that many in the class simply do not. He played in 50+ games with the Crimson Tide, blending his brilliant mind and elite speed profile into one of the best safeties in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Battle’s experience is important because he spent time in the box and as a deep safety. While I prefer him closer to the line of scrimmage, Battle more than held his own in coverage downfield, showcased by his six career interceptions.
As impactful as Battle is, he is not without shortcomings. Chief among them is a high missed tackle rate. Battle frequently arrives on time, and more times than not brings the ball carrier down, but when he whiffs, it always leads to a large gain. This is more about Battle being overeager and over-pursuing rather than poor form.
There are a couple of other areas I could nitpick, but all things being equal, Battle is as safe of a prospect as there is in this year’s safety group. He is a lock on day two.
NFL Draft Grade: Mid-Day 2