Darkhorse Breakouts: Safety
Safeties with an outside chance to break into the top 24? The Big 3 is glad you asked. Here are our selections.
This article is adapted from this episode of The Big 3 IDP Podcast.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Miami Dolphins (Bobby)
Minkah Fitzpatrick, a first round selection for the Miami Dolphins in 2018, is a Swiss Army knife. He can do it all: free safety, strong safety, nickel corner. His versatility is actually a detriment to his IDP value because he gets stuck playing a lot of corner.
That said, things are looking up for Fitzpatrick. Kiko Alonso was traded to the Saints. The team cut T.J. McDonald at the end of August. What still needs to happen is the team solidifies CB opposite Xavien Howard. Can Eric Rowe be that guy? Maybe. I think Brian Flores would love to see Fitzpatrick fill that Patrick Chung role with Bobby McCain pitching in at CB and Reshad Jones (who won't be moved because of his massive contract) filling the other safety role. We'll see if that role develops for Fitzpatrick this year.
If it does, I think he ends up in the top 24 this season with a stat line like 85 solos, 5 tackles for loss, 8 passes defensed, 1 sack, and 1 interception.
Ronnie Harrison, Jacksonville Jaguars (Josh)
Ronnie Harrison finished 74th among safeties last year in our league. He played in 14 games, had 1 interception, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 24 solos, 8 assists, 1 QB hit, and 3 passes defensed. That's partly why you see a 74th place finish—not a whole lot of stats.
But there's a good reason for the lack of stats: Harrison’s playing time was all over the place last season. In the first 11 games, he had twice as many games (4) where he played single-digit percentage of the snaps than games (2) where he played more than 50% of the snaps. Then, in week 13 (against my beloved Colts), he played 100% of the snaps. Same thing the next week. Then, in week 15 against the Redskins, he sustained a knee bruise and was placed on IR. After Harrison’s breakout against the Colts, Barry Church—who’d started every game up to that point—was a healthy scratch. The next week, he was cut.
The Jaguars believe in Harrison, who they took in the 3rd round as the 7th safety off the board in 2017. In the two games he logged 100% of the snaps, he recorded 8 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 interception. Guess how many DBs they took in the 2019 draft? Zero!
Follow the moves: the Jaguars cut Church after seeing what they had in Harrison, and despite him ending the season on IR, they didn’t draft anyone to compete with him.
Any decrease in defensive snaps with an improved Jags offense will be offset by Harrison playing 100% of the snaps from game 1 as the unquestioned starter. This is an elite defense that is set to rebound in 2019, and Harrison is a big reason why. Give me a top 24 finish!
Terrell Edmunds, Pittsburgh Steelers (Adam)
Here are the vitals on Edmunds: he's going into his second season and is 22 years old. He's 6'0" and 217 pounds, which is a great safety body. He ran a 4.47 in the 40-yard dash, which is 83rd percentile. He had a speed score in the 90th percentile and a burst score in the 97th percentile percentile. His closest comp on Player Profiler is Eric Reid.
The Steelers took him at #28 overall in the 2018 draft and he played right away, logging 967 snaps, which was 93% of the total snaps. Now, he didn't stuff the stat sheet in the way you'd like to see for IDP. He had 78 total tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss, 1 interception, and 4 pass deflections. Those numbers don't blow you away, but again, he was a rookie.
He's continuing to learn and get better, and I think he's a special player. With Pittsburgh playing a Cover 2, he's going to play deep a lot, which isn't ideal for tackle opportunity, but I still think he can take it another level just because he's special. He's the type of player who will be around the ball and who will make plays and come through when it matters. Along with Devin Bush, Edmunds will step into a leadership role with that team and rightfully so, as he's an important piece to their defense moving forward. All that said, I like Edmunds a sleeper pick to finish top 24 this season at the safety position.