SAF2: Kelee Ringo (Georgia)
Kelee Ringo is quite polarizing in the NFL Draft community. Everyone agrees on how great of a pure athlete Ringo is, as his testing numbers and tape indicate. However, the disconnect comes when discussing Ringo’s projection to the NFL.
I am one of the few that graded Ringo as a safety rather than a cornerback. The reason? Ringo’s potential at safety is All-Pro, while I view him as an above-average-at-best corner. As athletic as Ringo is, there are several snaps where his hips are stiffer than the fry you dropped in the couch three weeks ago.
Aside from his clunky movements in coverage, Ringo checks nearly every other box. He is a hard hitter, thriving on coming downhill and punishing anyone in his way. The Georgia star is a physical freak of nature and is capable of staying with speedy slot receivers and bigger tight ends, alike.
His change of direction will be an issue when put in man coverage, but this would be quickly remedied with a move to safety. Ringo can serve as an elite slot defender and box safety on Sundays, with the athleticism and range to moonlight as a boundary corner from time to time. As a corner, I like Ringo. As a safety, I love him.
NFL Draft Grade: Fringe Day 1
SAF1: Brian Branch (Alabama)
Brian Branch is a versatile defensive back. He played primarily in the slot for Alabama, logging 1,182 snaps from inside during his career. In the slot, Branch has an unrivaled football IQ, using it to diagnose plays before they unfold.
He is an explosive athlete on tape, but his workout at the NFL Combine fell short of what many expected. In any event, Branch is the type of player you trust the tape on. He is always on his toes and shows impressive ball skills at the catch point.
Perhaps the most exciting part of Branch’s game is the way he attacks running lanes. He comes downhill with a full head of steam and regularly lays out ball carriers. Branch exhibits teach tape tackling form, consistently wrapping up and bringing down his intended target.
Branch also boasts the ability to play deep as a free safety, and his underrated range allows this. If it was up to me, Branch would be a slot defender full-time. He could blossom into one of the best nickel defenders in the entire NFL if his defensive coordinator sticks to the script. The Alabama playmaker deserves his lofty day-one status.
NFL Draft Grade: Mid-to-Late Day 1
NFL Draft Honorable Mentions:
Quindell Johnson (Memphis)
DeMarcco Hellams (Alabama)
Trey Dean III (Florida)
Rashad Torrence II (Florida)
Chamarri Conner (Virginia Tech)
Brandon Hill (Pittsburgh)
Jason Taylor II (Oklahoma State)
Ronnie Hickman (Ohio State)
Kaevon Merriweather (Iowa)
Gervarrius Owens (Houston)