Bucs’ Best Draft Fits By Position: Safety


The Bucs are in pretty good shape when it comes to the safety position. But that doesn’t mean they should leave all options on the table when it comes to the draft.

Antoine Winfield Jr. made an instant-impact as a second-round pick last year, helping the Buccaneers hold the Kansas City Chiefs to nine points in the Super Bowl. Jordan Whitehead and Mike Edwards also played significant snaps at safety in 2020, but General Manager Jason Licht could look to draft a versatile safety who could potentially replace a guy like Whitehead, who is going into a contract year. 

Could the Buccaneers look to bolster their safety group through the draft again in 2021? Which safeties would add value to an already young and talented group? 

1. Trevon Moehrig, TCU Horned Frogs
Projected Selection: Round 1

Trevon Moehrig is the consensus No. 1 safety among draft boards for the 2021 Draft, yet could still be available for the Buccaneers at pick 32. The former TCU safety is becoming a popular mock draft pick to the Bucs, a pick I gave high marks to when grading the fit and value of Bucs first round mocks. Moehrig has the versatility to play in deep coverage as well as closer to the line of scrimmage. Pairing he and Winfield Jr. would allow Todd Bowles to interchange them in multiple formations without drop-off in ability.  

The Buccaneers quickly found themselves without both starting safeties against the Packers in the NFC Championship game. But as we all know, the Bucs persevered and advanced to the Super Bowl. However, it was still a scary sight to see the team play against Aaron Rodgers without half of their starting secondary.

The value of depth in the defensive backfield cannot be understated, particularly in the playoffs when guys are worn down from a long season. 

2. Elijah Molden, Washington Huskies
Projected Selection: Rounds 2-3

Elijah Molden played primarily as a slot cornerback during his collegiate career. In the NFL, he’s likely to play safety. His frame and tenacity are the same as Winfield’s. Molden plays much bigger than his 5-foot-10 frame shows. Looking at Molden as a safety is somewhat of a projection, but a fairly safe projection based on his skills. 

Tackling has never been an issue for Molden despite his size. His physicality also shows up when pressing at the line of scrimmage and at the catch point in coverage. Bruce Arians and Todd Bowles will see a carbon copy of Tyrann Mathieu when scouting Molden’s tape. 

Molden’s positional versatility would benefit the Bucs in a big way for 2021. He would likely see solid playing time, even without injuries to starters, when the Buccaneers face pass-happy offenses who like to utilize three and four wide sets. 

3. Hamsah Nasirildeen, Florida State Seminoles
Projected Selection: Rounds 3-4

Hamsah Nasirildeen was only able to play two games in 2020 for Florida State after tearing his ACL toward the end of the 2019 season. His physical stature is unlike any other safety in this draft class, at 6’4” 215 lbs he looks closer to a linebacker than a defensive back. 

Nasirildeen’s size helps him as a tackler, he is not afraid of contact when crashing into the box on run downs. NFL teams may ask him to add a few pounds and play as a coverage linebacker, but he can succeed as a safety with the right scheme and coaching development. 

He has experience in college as a deep safety, slot safety, and box safety. The Buccaneers may draft him with the intent of making him a positionless defender, working all over the field depending on the situation. Lavonte David typically lines up against receiving tight ends. Nasirildeen would add another option as a tight end-neutralizer.

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4. James Wiggins, Cincinnati Bearcats
Projected Selection: Rounds 4-5

James Wiggins was the defensive star for Cincinnati in 2018 before an ACL tear took away his 2019 season. 2020 didn’t showcase the dominant player we saw in 2018, but he was still a solid player and great leader for the Bearcats.

Wiggins played a full season in 2020 and racked up decent numbers. His Pro Day should also ease concerns from NFL teams. I mean, the dude ran a 4.4 at 209-pounds.  

He has a great football IQ and showed quick reactions in coverage and in run support. Wiggins can hold his own in coverage on short to intermediate routes while being a reliable tackler at the next level. Special teams and the occasional defensive snaps would likely be his outlook for the Bucs in 2021.

5. Talanoa Hufanga, USC Trojans
Projected Selection: Rounds 5-6

Talanoa Hufanga started for USC as a freshman in 2018 and improved each of his three seasons as a Trojan. He began his career as a thumper in the box, but ended up a true, versatile safety who can be relied upon in coverage. 

Hufanga is a heat-seeking missile to the ball on run plays. Safeties who love to get in the box and hit tend to miss tackles because they fail to break down, but that was almost never an issue for Hufanga. He is one of the more sure tacklers at safety in this draft. 

Blitzing was also successful for him in college, notching six sacks in sixteen games over the last two seasons. Hufanga’s floor is an elite special teams player, but don’t be surprised if he ends up as a starting safety in the future. The Buccaneers would be getting a great depth piece who can potentially take the place of Jordan Whitehead in a year. 

Honorable Mentions: 

-Jevon Holland, Oregon Ducks
Projected Selection: Rounds 2-3

-Jamar Johnson, Indiana Hoosiers
Projected Selection: Rounds 2-3

-Shaun Wade, Ohio State Buckeyes
Projected Selection: Rounds 4-5