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Patriots 2022 NFL Draft targets: 11 safeties that might be on New England’s radar

Related: Patriots draft targets: 16 cornerbacks that might be on New England’s radar

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 04 Big 12 Championship Game - Oklahoma State v Baylor Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Few positions on the New England Patriots’ current roster are as deep as the safety spot. Led by recently re-signed veteran Devin McCourty, the group combines experience, starter-level playmaking ability and versatility — making for an intriguing mix in a secondary that faces serious questions at the cornerback position.

In total, the Patriots’ safety depth chart looks as follows at the moment:

  • Devin McCourty: 34 | Signed through 2022
  • Adrian Phillips: 30 | Signed through 2024
  • Kyle Dugger: 26 | Signed through 2023
  • Jabrill Peppers: 26 | Signed through 2022
  • Joshuah Bledsoe: 23 | Signed through 2024
  • Cody Davis: 32 | Signed through 2022

McCourty remains the group’s leader and one of the best safeties in the NFL. However, his age is a concern: there is no guarantee he will return after his current contract expires next offseason. While the depth alongside him is very strong — safety/linebacker hybrids Adrian Phillips, Kyle Dugger and Jabrill Peppers are immensely talented — the Patriots do not have a player of McCourty’s skillset currently on their roster.

As a result of that, they might be looking towards the draft to bolster the position. They might even decide to do so as early as the first round.

(Just for clarity’s sake: players are listed alphabetically within their respective groups)

Trade-up targets

N/A: Unless in the highly unlikely case Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton drops out of the top 10, there is no reason for the Patriots to trade up in the first round to pick a safety. The second tier of players at the position should be available in the late first round.

Targets at No. 21

Daxton Hill, Michigan: Hill offers a tremendous blend of versatility, smarts and athleticism, and appears well-suited to take over Devin McCourty’s spot as the primary deep-field defender in New England’s single-high coverage looks. Despite being the second-ranked player at the position behind Hamilton, he might even be available after a trade down into the high 20s. | Full draft profile

Day 2 targets

Jaquan Brisker, Penn State: Why not go after all the box safeties to further muddy the waters and help make up for a lack of established talent at off-the-ball linebacker? Brisker would be a candidate in this case, and give the Patriots another physical player capable of blurring the boundaries between safety and linebacker.

Lewis Cine, Georgia: A core member of the Bulldogs’ championship-level defense, Cine offers an intriguing mix of size and range at the deep safety spot. Growing up in Everett, joining the Patriots would be a homecoming for the 22-year-old who is widely regarded as either the third or fourth player at the position.

Bryan Cook, Cincinnati: A former cornerback who offers good size at 6-foot-0, 206 pounds, Cook could fill multiple roles in New England’s secondary. He might start his career as a box safety before transitioning into a more diverse role.

Nick Cross, Maryland: Just like Bryan Cook, Nick Cross might also fall out of Day 2 but offers some good baseline athleticism and impressive range. He needs to get more consistent across the board, but his potential as a do-it-all defensive back is high.

Jalen Pitre, Baylor: Pitre started his college career as a linebacker but moved to the secondary in 2020. Despite starting just 23 games as a “star” safety, he established himself as one of the top players in the country and a likely second-round pick due to his versatility and physicality when attacking downhill.

Day 3 targets/Free agency targets

Tycen Anderson, Toledo: New England is deep in the box safety department, but needs to improve the depth at the free safety spot. Enter Tycen Anderson. A former cornerback, he has some good athleticism and a natural feel for coverage.

Kerby Joseph, Illinois: Like Anderson, Joseph also has experience playing as a deep-field defender. He needs to get more consistent, but has the ball skills — he spent half his junior season at wide receiver — and athletic foundation to carve out a role.

Tristin McCollum, Sam Houston State: McCollum projects as a late-round pick or rookie free agent. Like his twin brother, all-world athlete and mid-round cornerback prospect Zyon McCollum, he offers an intriguing if not quite as explosive skillset.

Brenden Schooler, Texas: Talking about good athletes: Brenden Schooler. A six-year senior with considerable experience, he has the speed and size to make an immediate impact on special teams.

JT Woods, Baylor: Woods is a big-time playmaker — he had six interceptions in 2021 and returned a fumble 97 yards for a touchdown — who has the versatility to line up all over the secondary. He is a work in progress but would be a nice depth addition to most defenses.

The Patriots drafting a safety this year is a very real possibility, and they might even invest their first pick in the position. If so, Daxton Hill is definitively a player to keep an eye on: New England needs to start thinking about life after Devin McCourty, and he is the top candidate in this year’s draft to replace the long-time team captain and three-time Super Bowl champ.

But even if they decide to go in another direction or miss out on Hill, there are plenty of suitable prospects at the safety spot for the team to go after.