The 2024 NFL Draft is still far in the distance, but as we mull through these dog days of the football calendar, what better time than now to look ahead at next year’s NFL Draft landscape?
Coming off a historically weak draft class from top to bottom, the 2024 class is sure to provide much better depth, while also boasting multiple elite prospects at the top. The quarterback class this past year was strong overall, but the 2024 class could potentially beat it. Caleb Williams and Drake Maye are the consensus QB1 and QB2, with Michael Penix, Jr., J.J. McCarthy, Quinn Ewers, and several others in the first-round conversation as well.
Receiver is another position expected to be stronger next year, with a potentially generational talent, Marvin Harrison, Jr., leading the pack. Interior defensive line looks surprisingly juicy on paper, while the safety class should also be set for a bounce-back year. No safeties were selected in Round 1 of the 2023 draft.
Today, we are going to finish the series by breaking down that safety position. Safety is something the Steelers could definitely look at early on, as Keanu Neal is nothing more than a stopgap replacement for Terrell Edmunds. Could the Steelers go this direction in Round 1? We will take a look at the top prospects in the class and determine which ones, if any, make sense for the Steelers.
Potential first-round prospects
Javon Bullard | Georgia
Georgia has put out a few prospects at safety in recent years, but none have turned out to be true gems in the NFL. Bullard may change that trend. Bullard had his own mini breakout in the slaughter of TCU in the national championship game, intercepting 2 passes and recovering 1 fumble. Outside of that game, though, Bullard has not been one to rack up the stat sheet, and he will need to create more splash plays in 2023. Nonetheless, he has the speed, instincts, and burst to be a dominant force in Georgia’s secondary.
Calen Bullock | USC
At 6’3”, 190 pounds, Bullock possesses exceptional length but fails to diagnose plays pre-snap. His frame is also noticeably thin, and he will need to add a quality 10-15 pounds to withstand the NFL game and be a consistent tackler at the next level. He fails on occasion to take smart tackling angles, but he has the instincts to play with his back to the ball and run with a receiver down the field in the event the corner bails. He will enter 2023 looking to build on a strong sophomore season which included 5 interceptions.
Andrew Mubuka | Clemson
Mubuka projects as a free safety, but he provides the versatility necessary to excel in the slot as well. Despite being only 185 pounds, he holds his own as a tackler in the open field, taking smart angles approaching ball-carriers with a physical mindset. In coverage, he does pay for his aggressiveness at times, getting beat on double moves and being forced to grab hold of receivers, often leading to penalties. However, that is the only major concern in his game at this point. With another year of development, Mubuka will certainly be selected in Round 1.
Kamren Kinchens | Miami
Kinchens is a ball-hawk at the free safety position. Recording 6 interceptions in 2022, Kinchens possesses the natural instincts and awareness needed to break on balls quickly. His read-and-react skills are just as good when playing in the box against the run, but he is not the most consistent tackler, prioritizing big hits rather than making everyday tackles. With more consistency from game to game in 2023, Kinchens has the talent to be the first safety off the board.
James Williams | Miami
The 40 time will have great importance when it comes to Williams, as someone with his size will be highly coveted if he can prove his athleticism. At 6’5”, 215 pounds, Williams could add weight and play linebacker if he wanted to, but the current issue in his game, just like others on this list, is consistency. Whether it be in coverage or as a tackler, we have to see more consistency in just about every aspect of his game. Nonetheless, the talent is difficult to ignore, especially when you combine it with the physical, downhill style of football he likes to play.
Fringe first-round prospects
Rod Moore — Michigan
Cole Bishop — Utah
Prospects for the Steelers
I still believe the Steelers need a strong safety, and if they are unable to secure one in free agency, they almost have to look this way at some point in the draft. Of the potential first-rounders, James Williams stands out to me as the most likely fit for what the Steelers need, as the majority of the early-round prospects are more in the mold of safety/nickel hybrids. Rod Moore is another elite talent that could be in play if he declares early, but I see him as a better fit at free safety as well. As it pertains to late Day 2 prospects that could rise, keep an eye on Minnesota’s Tyler Nubin, Missouri’s Jaylon Carlies, and Washington State’s Jaden Hicks. All three provide unique skill sets the Steelers may find intriguing in the middle rounds.
Which safeties are you eyeing in the 2024 NFL Draft? Be sure to light up the comment section below with your thoughts on this and all things Pittsburgh Steelers!
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