2021 NFL Draft Odds: Safety

Odds, trends and analysis

The NFL Draft takes place April 29–May 1, 2021 and will return to some form of familiarity. Last year’s draft happened two months into the COVID-19 pandemic and was relegated to Zoom– removing all in-person aspects like fans, hugs, and the like. Thankfully, the 2021 draft will return fans and in-person drafting when it takes place in Cleveland, Ohio. The Greater Cleveland Sports Console is taking protocols from Super Bowl LV in Tampa and the NBA Playoff Bubble in Orlando to hold a safe draft that’s as close to normal as they can get.

With the central focus shifted off the virus, it’s time to take a look at this year’s draft pool. We’re here to give you positional rundowns, including who the favorites are to be drafted where and what players are generating league buzz.

NFL draft odds: First safety drafted

The first safety wasn’t taken in the 2020 NFL Draft until pick 36 in the second round (Xavier McKinney, New York Giants). This year, it’s expected that no safeties come off the board in the first round, either. The highest-ranked players at the safety position include Oregon’s Jevon Holland and TCU’s Trevon Moehrig-Woodard. Moehrig-Woodard is sparsely mocked to be picked in the late first round by teams like Cleveland, but the overwhelming consensus seems to be leaning away from any of them going Day 1.

Holland is the highest-ranked safety by a few sources like CBS Sports and the Draft Network, however, Moehrig-Woodard has been rumored to be the top safety on many NFL teams’ boards. It’s a position that has lots of volatility in draft stock.

First Safety Drafted

Game
04/29/2021
(Eastern Time)
(EST)
Trevon Moehrig-Woodard
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-400
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-400
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-400
Jevon Holland
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+250
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+350
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+400
Richie Grant
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+1200
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+550
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+550
Andre Cisco
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+4000
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+5000
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+4000
Caden Sterns
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+4000
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+4000
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+4000
Hamsah Nasirildeen
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+5000
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+6600
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+6600

How to bet on first safety drafted

One of the most common NFL Draft prop wagers are those that involve betting on which player will be the first drafted at each position. To find these wagers in an online sportsbook, click the NFL tab to navigate toward the 2021 Draft section. Once there, click on “First Pick by Position” to view the odds.

NFL Draft: 2021 safety profiles

Trevon Moehrig-Woodard, TCU: Moehrig plays the free safety position and was a dynamic, rangy centerfielder for TCU. He recorded seven career interceptions during his college career, but also wasn’t afraid to stick his nose in a tackle. His best trait as a player can also be his worst and that’s his aggressiveness. Moehrig has been scouted as remarkably instinctive, but teams could scheme him out of position with double moves and play action. While he’s likely best used in schemes that lean on single-high safety looks (Washington, Baltimore, Dallas), he was used frequently in two-high shells at TCU.

Mock drafts have Moehrig as the favorite to be the first safety taken off the board thanks to his range and ability to close gaps quickly. He also has an incredible football IQ, being one of the highest-praised leaders and tacticians in this year’s draft class regardless of position. He’ll continue to play free safety in the NFL, setting him apart from the many box-safeties that fall in the 2021 class.

Jevon Holland, Oregon: Holland is the other highly-touted safety in the 2021 draft class, also being praised for his versatility and football IQ. Schematically, he could fit in anywhere, which is a highly-coveted feature about him. Unlike Moehrig, Holland excels defending the slot, which is helpful in today’s NFL where 11 personnel is being used more than ever. Holland is on the larger side for a safety (6′ 1″, 200 pounds), meaning he’s capable of guarding athletic tight ends that could line up in the slot like Travis Kelce and Darren Waller.

Holland opted out of Oregon’s 2020 season in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which could ultimately sway teams to lean away from him as the top safety. Another dimension to his game is when the ball is in his hands; Holland has great vision and is a fluid runner, making him extremely dangerous after interceptions. As he’s often described, Holland is just flat out a professional starting safety. Wherever he goes in the draft, you can expect to see him starting on Sundays in 2021.

Hamsah Nasirildeen, Florida State: There’s a common trait among the draft’s top safeties and that’s versatility. Nasirildeen is exceptional against the run, delivering punishing hits thanks to his freaky size (6′ 3″, 213 pounds). He can be utilized in the box, near the line of scrimmage, or as a true safety in a two-high look, but Nasirildeen is at his best as a positionless utility player that’s allowed to use his instinct and athleticism to make plays.

If that player description sounds familiar, that’s because it’s extremely reminiscent of Jamal Adams. Nasirildeen is two inches taller, but weighs about the same and has a similar 40-yard dash time to Adams, making him a perfect comparison. Teams that utilize free-range defensive players like New England could make excellent use of Nasirildeen, who will likely go in the late second or third round. However, don’t be surprised if a team like the Patriots pulled the trigger on “their guy” slightly earlier than that.

Richie Grant, UCF: Richie Grant has been a household name at UCF for the last four years. In Orlando, he picked off 10 passes and added another 17 more defended in three true years of being a starter. Grant was able to create turnovers at UCF due to a combination of intuition and IQ; often, Grant’s instinct moved him a certain way, then his IQ would tell him to react, causing him to get the jump on quarterbacks time and time again.

Of all the safeties in this class, Grant has the most cornerback-like tendencies, being able to mirror routes of opposing receivers and identify the route tree. Although his size is average at best, he’s truly a guy that’s capable of being sat back by myself in a one-high look and making play after play. It’s also worth mentioning that Grant led UCF with 108 tackles in 2018.

Tyree Gillespie, Missouri: You’ll have to scroll to find Gillespie’s name on many draft boards, but he’s worth mentioning moving forward. Gillespie is truly a box safety, though his tape against Alabama will show you he’s capable of holding down the middle of the field when the scheme calls for it. Gillespie is immensely talented physically, with the speed to be able to cover large amounts of the field and to jam the run even from a deep set combined with the size and strength to stop guys like Najee Harris cold on the goalline.

His potential is on full display in Missouri’s game against Florida where, while in coverage, Gillespie held Pitts (one of this year’s most dynamic pass catchers) to one catch for eight yards. Gillespie’s number was called on to defend Jaylen Waddle time and time again against Alabama, Pitts against Florida, and any other dynamic playmaker in the Tigers’ other games. He’s capable of playing anywhere from the line of scrimmage to 15 yards in the defensive backfield. He’s a complete player, though his name is being overlooked often this year.

NFL Draft safety history

Here’s a list of the first safety taken in each NFL Draft going back to 2010.

YearTeamPlayerCollege Pick (No. overall)
2020New York GiantsXavier McKinneyAlabama36
2019LA RamsTaylor RappWashington61
2018MiamiMinkah FitzpatrickAlabama11
2017NY JetsJamal AdamsLSU6
2016OaklandKarl JosephOhio State14
2015NY GiantsLandon CollinsAlabama33
2014NY JetsCalvin PryorLouisville18
2013New OrleansKenny VaccaroTexas15
2012New EnglandTavon WilsonIllinois48
2011DenverRahim MooreUCLA45
2010Kansas CityEric BerryTennesseee5

NFL draft strategy and trends

As mentioned, no safeties went in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft and it’s expected that trend extends another year. Many teams are in need of safeties– namely Cleveland, Minnesota, and Washington– but the position is typically seen as expendable. The 2021 class is particularly deep, which actually hurts the draft stock of its top players. Day 2 teams that could pull the trigger on the first safety of the class could include Jacksonville (33), San Francisco (43), or Dallas (44).

Some high-profile college players like Georgia’s Richard LeCounte III and Texas’ Caden Stearns have slipped down the draft rankings, but could be options as project players or a late-round shot.

Of the teams that need safety help, none are in dire need and will likely look toward more pressing needs in Round 1. Cleveland and Minnesota are looking toward edge rushers, Dallas is rumored to be ready to pick a cornerback, and Jacksonville and San Francisco are in the quarterback market. Day 2 will be the day the safeties come flying off the board, with 10 being graded in the second or third rounds.

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