As your New Orleans Saints prepare for the 2023 NFL Draft, we take a look at the top 10 ranked players at various positions. The 2023 NFL Draft big board rankings are reflective of Bucky Brooks' top five 2023 NFL Draft prospects by position 3.0 and ESPN's NFL Draft "Best Available" list.
Here are the top 10 ranked draft prospects at safety:
2023 NFL Draft prospects - Safety | No. 1 Brian Branch | Alabama
Brian Branch enters the draft as the No. 1 safety prospect on NFL.com and ESPN. His Combine numbers may not have jumped off the page, but his consistent productivity at Alabama makes him a safe selection. He produced 58 solo tackles and two interceptions last season. He has all the traits to become a quality starter within the next couple of years, but he has everything necessary to see the field consistently in his rookie season as well. A personnel executive for an AFC team said this about Branch, "Smart and competitive and way stronger than you expect. He could come in and become a top player quickly."
Height: 6 feet
Weight: 190 pounds
NFL.com Draft Grade: 6.49
NFL.com overview: "Plug-and-play defensive back with every ingredient necessary to become a high-performing starter early in his career. Branch has primarily handled nickel coverage at Alabama but has the range and instincts for single-high or split safety looks. He's quick, fast and strong with the ability to match up with shifty slots, bigger possession receivers and pass-catching tight ends."
2023 NFL Draft prospects - Safety | No. 2 Antonio Johnson | Texas A&M
Antonio Johnson is the second-highest safety prospect on NFL.com and the sixth highest prospect on ESPN's Best Available. Johnson has an eye for punching the ball out, and he proved that with three forced fumbles last season at Texas A&M. Johnson's speed doesn't fly off the screen as he ran a 4.52 at the NFL Combine. However, that speed is enough to keep up with tight ends and average-speed wideouts. His preferred play style is nose-diving to the ball on the line of scrimmage. He should eventually become a positive starter, but he may take a little bit to get to that point.
Height: 6 feet 2
Weight: 198 pounds
NFL.com Draft Grade: 6.34
NFL.com Overview: "Big, athletic safety with versatility to line up over the slot or inside the box for additional run support. Johnson has a strong passion for sticking his nose into whatever is going on near the line of scrimmage. He's constantly flowing downhill to meet the play as close to the line of scrimmage as possible, but he needs to regulate his pace and angles to prevent overflowing and poor tackle balance."
2023 NFL Draft prospects - Safety | No. 3 Jordan Battle | Alabama
Jordan Battle should be an instant upgrade for a safety-needy team in the draft. He is the third highest rated safety on NFL.com and the fifth highest on ESPN. His 4.55 40-yard dash time won't wow scouts, but he has enough speed to help in coverage or man up with a tight end. He has a prospect grade of 6.18 on NFL.com, which means "Good Backup With The Potential To Develop Into Starter."
Height: 6 feet 1
Weight: 209 pounds
NFL.com Draft Grade: 6.18
NFL.com Overview: "Battle offers the size, speed and pedigree to become a starter early in his NFL career. Film study shows a certain sageness to his game. He is usually where he needs to be on the field and helps his defense move on to the next play. He's athletic enough for man coverage and is field-aware as a split safety. He's not a thumper in run support and will miss tackles when he's slow to find his positioning, but he typically finishes plays that are in front of him. Battle has the physical and mental makeup to upgrade a defense in need of steady safety play."
2023 NFL Draft prospects - Safety | No. 4 Sydney Brown | Illinois
Sydney Brown is the fourth highest rated safety on NFL.com and the second best on ESPN. The most eye-catching part of his 2022 stats are his six interceptions, but his 40 tackles are also impressive. The Ontario native could begin his rookie year shadowing a veteran safety, but he also could come in for certain lineups consistently.
Height: 5 feet 10
Weight: 211 pounds
NFL.com Draft Grade: 6.14
NFL.com Overview: "...Brown has straight-line speed and is very effective mapping his transit to the ball-carrier near the line of scrimmage. However, his missed tackles are concerning considering the position he plays. He competes hard in man coverage, using everything at his disposal to prevent tight ends from making plays, but above average pass-catchers could be too much for him to handle as a pro. Brown will need to prove he can win in the box and shine on special teams to stick around in the league."
2023 NFL Draft prospects - Safety | No. 5 Ji'Ayir Brown | Penn State
Ji'Ayir Brown's draft stock can best be summarized by what an area scout for an AFC team had to say about the former Nittany Lion - ""High-energy guy. Loves to make plays and loves ball. Great for the building." Brown is the third best prospect on ESPN's Best Available and fifth best according to Bucky Brooks of NFL.com. High energy and high character are words that come to the forefront when scouting him, and his production mimics that energy. He had 56 solo tackles, two forced fumbles, and four interceptions last season.
Height: 5 feet 11
Weight: 203 pounds
NFL.com Draft Grade: 6.30
NFL.com Overview: "Versatile defensive back who has shown the ability to line up over the slot, play as a down safety and patrol the outfield as a Cover 1 safety ready to read and range. The lack of speed and explosiveness Brown showed at the NFL Scouting Combine won't help his draft stock, but he's a fiery run defender and plays with undeniable coverage instincts. He has an excellent motor that fuels him throughout the game, as well. He needs to play with a little more discipline or veteran quarterbacks and play-callers will bait him into mistakes. Brown's versatility and football character could help him eventually become an NFL starter."
2023 NFL Draft prospects - Safety | No. 6 Jartavius Martin | Illinois
Jartavius "Quan" Martin is a prospect that can be played at either the cornerback or safety position due to his size and versatility. ESPN ranks him as the fourth best safety prospect, which is the position he will likely see a good bit of during his career. His 4.46 40-yard dash time should help him keep up with average-speed receivers as well as tight ends in coverage. He should also be well equipped in helping corners in zone coverages or with over-the -top safety help. NFL.com has his draft grade as a 6.22, but with the right coaching he should be able to break that mold of "average starter". Look for Martin's name to be called late Day 2 or early Day 3.
Height: 5 feet 11
Weight: 194 pounds
NFL.com Draft Grade: 6.22
NFL.com Overview: "A buttery smooth hip swivel allows him to glide and transition effectively from his pedal, but he has just average route recognition to stay connected to clever route runners. Martin's speed and explosiveness at the NFL Scouting Combine was eye-catching, but he needs to play consistently to that speed on the field. A team will need to decide where to play him, but he has the potential to become an early contributor and a starter further down the road."
2023 NFL Draft prospects - Safety | No. 7 JL Skinner | Boise State
JL Skinner is one of the biggest safeties entering the draft at 6 feet 4 and 209 pounds. His size helps him tremendously in run coverages, and he has the capabilities to cover and take down big-bodied tight ends in the open field. His game could use a little adjusting in certain areas, specifically on his coverages in vertical routes. However, if a quarterback makes a bad throw, Skinner can make them pay as evident of his four interceptions last season at Boise State. Skinner is projected to be drafted in rounds 3 or 4, but he could be taken a little higher.
Height: 6 feet 4
Weight: 209 pounds
NFL.com Draft Grade: 6.25
NFL.com Overview: "Interchangeable safety with above average run support talent and the versatility for multiple coverages. Skinner plays with good awareness to routes with eyes for short zone and the instincts to play over the top. He can line up over pass-catching tight ends and has the ball skills to make quarterbacks pay for off-target throws. He has good feet but hips that can be a little sticky when flipping to run with vertical routes. His agility and range help him as a tackle collector in the open field. Skinner should become an above average starter within a couple of seasons."
2023 NFL Draft prospects - Safety | No. 8 Daniel Scott | California
Daniel Scott is entering the draft as a redshirt senior with six years of college experience. On the flip side, though, he will be turning 25 during the 2023-24 NFL season, which is a bit older than most scouts may be willing to draft a player. He showed tremendous productivity in his final season at Cal, though, and many of those numbers are hard to ignore. He was able to generate five total turnovers with two forced fumbles and three interceptions. He thrives on special teams and may be relegated to that role at least for a couple of seasons. He is a projected Day 3 pick, but will likely need to earn his spot to avoid jumping from practice squad to practice squad.
Height: 6 feet 1
Weight: 208 pounds
NFL.com Draft Grade: 5.87
NFL.com Overview: "A team captain with size, tools and six seasons of collegiate experience, Scott will turn 25 during the 2023 season. His age could hurt his chances with some teams, but his athleticism and four-phase special teams background will help him with others. He's more confident and capable as a field-reading center fielder than he is sifting through bunch formations and matching in man coverage. He was a teammate to four Cal defensive backs who were drafted in recent years, and he could be next up thanks to his football character and special teams talent."
2023 NFL Draft prospects - Safety | No. 9 Christopher Smith | Georgia
Christopher Smith enters the draft a bit undersized, but his 2022 numbers speak for themselves. He likely won't be much more than an average player, but teams could be willing to take the risk due to his abilities in coverage - a hot commodity in today's game. He is projected to go in round 4 or 5, but he could rise or fall depending on how many teams are willing to take a chance on him. If he is able to build up some muscle, he can be a positive piece of the secondary, but if not he may only be used in select situations and on special teams.
Height: 5 feet 11
Weight: 192 pounds
NFL.com Draft Grade: 5.95
NFL.com Overview: "Undersized free safety with decent athletic ability and toughness to bolster roster depth. Smith has man-cover talent and range to play over the top, but he was often more effective attacking downhill on routes underneath and stopping plays. He's willing in run support but tackling big backs could be an issue. Despite his limited size, his reliability in coverage is a big advantage against today's offensive attacks."
2023 NFL Draft prospects - Safety | No. 10 Anthony Johnson Jr. | Iowa State
Anthony Johnson Jr. began as a cornerback, but worked on his build and game until he developed into a safety. In his final season at Iowa State, he generated three turnovers (one forced fumble and two interceptions), and was able to bring down 41 players by himself. He is currently projected to go in Round 5, but of course that could fluctuate depending on how teams view him. If they see enough potential, don't be surprised if there is a team willing to take a swing earlier in the draft. He could begin his career as a backup but develop into a starter with the right pieces around him.
Height: 6 feet
Weight: 205 pounds
NFL.com Draft Grade: 6.18
NFL.com Overview: "Cornerback turned safety with good athletic traits for the safety position and rare physicality from a former cornerback. Johnson has grown into a safety's frame but is versatile enough to play near the line of scrimmage or line up over the slot. He moves fluidly with good play speed but is still processing angles and coverage responsibilities at his new position. He will come downhill and hit anything near the line of scrimmage with everything he's got, but he needs to learn to control his aggression to become a more consistent tackler. Johnson's traits, versatility and toughness give him a chance to become a starting safety or nickel safety.."