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5 safety prospects for Chiefs fans to watch at the NFL Combine

Kansas City could be looking for safeties in the 2023 Draft

2023 CFP National Championship - TCU v Georgia Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The NFL Scouting Combine is here. Defensive backs will be on the field on Friday, beginning at 2 p.m. Arrowhead Time on NFL Network. Here is more information about how to watch through the weekend.

Here are five safety prospects that could become Kansas City Chiefs this April.

1. Christopher Smith | Georgia | 5’11” | 195 lbs

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

In high school, Smith was a four-star recruit ranked among the country’s top 30 cornerbacks, getting early limited playing time in Georgia’s dominant defense. His role increased in 2020 — and he was named a team captain.

A very versatile player, Smith would profile quite well in defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s secondary. He lined up all over the defense for the Bulldogs — including at free safety, in the box and as a nickel corner in the slot. Both scouts and teammates praise Smith’s leadership and football IQ; he has an excellent feel for the game.

Should Juan Thornhill leave in free agency, Smith could certainly plug into his role in 2023. His lack of size, however, could be an issue; at the next level, he probably cannot play within the tackle box. This — along with his play speed — have sometimes led to missed tackles as well. Expect to see Smith taken on Day 2 of the draft.

2. Sydney Brown | Illinois | 5’11” | 200 lbs

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

As a former three-star recruit from Florida, Brown was also a state track finalist. He was a key piece in Illinois’ physical, aggressive defense in 2022, projecting to the NFL as a true three-down safety.

Brown has played predominantly in the box, where his athleticism and stature (the dude is ripped) make him incredibly explosive. Still, over his development with the Illini, he has shown some versatility playing in the slot and the deeper parts of the field.

While playing in the box (and against tight ends and running backs), Brown could easily have a Year 1 impact — but since he has some limitations with fluidity (and his lack of size can make him struggle against bigger receivers in man coverage), his deeper coverage skills will have to develop over time.

Brown’s twin brother Chase — a running back — is also a highly-ranked prospect in this draft.

3. Jay Ward | LSU | 6’1” | 185 lbs

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

As a recent convert from cornerback, Ward has taken some time to find the field with the Tigers. But over three seasons under three defensive coordinators, Ward’s leadership and physical presence have also been among the constants for a defense undergoing drastic changes. Ward brings a certain violence to run support — and also has a knack for ruining screen plays. Playing predominantly as a free safety, he’s grabbed some interceptions simply from reading the opposing quarterback’s eyes.

Lacking some size, Ward has shown a slight tendency to struggle in man coverage. Injuries have plagued his LSU career — partially because of his aggressiveness as a tackler. That’s something he’ll have to figure out at the next level. Due to these injury concerns (and a lack of consistency), we should expect him to be chosen on Day 3.

4. Kaevon Merriweather | Iowa | 6’0” | 211 lbs

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

A multi-sport athlete, Merriweather received multiple offers to play basketball and football. He offers traits similar to Kansas City safety Bryan Cook. As a two-year starter at Iowa, he was a consistent producer in the box. With a solid football IQ (and athletic profile), he is often near the ball — but poor pursuit angles (and tackling) sometimes lead to missed opportunities. Even as an explosive athlete, his range is limited — making him vulnerable to big plays and speedy receivers.

Still, Merriweather has the competitiveness and agility to be a solid run defender — and a strong special teams player. In coverage, he is likely to be a reserve player; he would probably need to be used mostly in zone schemes.

5. Daniel Scott | California | 6’2” | 215 lbs

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

At the Combine, Scott confirmed that he has already met with the Chiefs. He checks several boxes that Kansas City loves. As a former three-star recruit, he’s played wide receiver and safety — and has also had an impact as a returner. Scott profiles as a centerfield safety who can cover from sideline to sideline. He possesses the fluidity to make him an asset in the back end — but against the run, he would probably be a liability: he had 36 missed tackles in 2022.

Scott just hasn’t shown the ability to play downhill (or get off blocks consistently enough) to stop the run at the next level. Without additional development, he would be limited to playing as a pure free safety — and there may not be much left to develop in this 25-year-old player. The Chiefs would likely see him as depth — and a core special teamer with returner potential.

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