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Which Safety Prospects Could Be on Bolts Draft Radar?


Welcome to the 10th (and final) part of our 2024 draft preview series, which will be a position-by-position look at key prospects and where the Chargers roster stands ahead of the NFL Draft. This series will include a look at which prospects could be options for the Chargers later this month.

We chatted with Dane Brugler of The Athletic to break down the safeties in the 2024 draft class. Brugler, one of the most well-respected draft analysts in the country, can be found on Twitter @dpbrugler for his analysis.

Chargers Status at Safety

Derwin James, Jr., Alohi Gilman, AJ Finley, JT Woods

The Bolts will return their primary starting safeties from a season ago.

James remains a centerpiece to the Bolts as both a player and a leader and is expected to play a key role in Chargers Defensive Coordinator Jesse Minter's scheme.

"I'm excited just to sort of try to try to unleash Derwin," Minter said earlier this offseason. "No. 1, put him in positions to best utilize his skills and — he can do a lot of stuff — but I also think there's a fine line.

"Like, 'Let's try to maximize Derwin and allow him to do the things that he's really, really good at as much as possible.' Sometimes you can get a guy like that and you can almost do too much with him and move him around too much," Minter added.

Gilman was a free agent but returned to the Chargers this offseason on a multi-year deal.

Chargers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh raved about his football acumen earlier this offseason.

"Long been a fan of Alohi from his Notre Dame days and Navy days," Harbaugh said. "Just getting the chance to be around him and the interactions I've had, he's just who I thought he was."

Woods was a 2022 third-round pick who has played just 91 defensive snaps in his first two seasons.

Finley joined the Bolts as an undrafted free agent in 2023 and showed promise on special teams.

Is Safety a position of need?

The Bolts are set at the starting spots with James and Gilman, but Brugler believes adding more depth to this position group could be the play in the middle of the draft.

Brugler noted that finding athletic and versatile players should be always be a priority in the secondary.

"You're always looking for depth of that position, especially versatile guys," Brugler said. "A lot of teams, obviously nickel is their base and you're going to play a lot of dime looks and have five defensive backs, six defensive backs on the field.

"When you do that, you want guys that you can trust in coverage and guys you can want to be able to trust stopping the run," Brugler continued. "I think the whole free safety/strong safety distinction is archaic because you want interchangeable guys.

"If you're the Chargers, you're looking for interchangeable safeties that can provide you immediate depth," Brugler added. "If they're shopping for that position, it could be the third or fourth-round range."

Key draft questions

1. Who is a mid-round prospect that you like?

"Malik Mustapha from Wake Forest. He's 5-foot-10 and 205 pounds so a little but undersized bit this guy will come down and hit you. He is a missile. He's a passionate guy and you love the way he plays, his play style. You love his range. He's going to stand out immediately on special teams and I think he'll get on the field as a rookie on defense. There's just so much about his game that coaches will love."

2. How about another safety who could be on the Bolts radar?

"Dadrion Taylor-Demerson from Texas Tech. Really good athlete. He has closing speed that is off the charts. He can play more of a single-high look but can also be close to the line of scrimmage as more of a nickel. You can do a lot of things with him. He's very aggressive and sometimes that backfires, but if you're looking for that explosive, split-field range then he has it."

3. Who will be the first safety taken? And when will they be drafted?

"I think teams value positional value for safety, it's just finding the guys at the top. It's kind of like running back. Every team needs them and you'll pay good money for a good safety. But it's a crowded group of guys that are similar. There's a lot of 'Bs' and not a lot of 'As.' We don't have a true first-round safety in this class. Where that first safety comes off the board, it's a good question. I think it will be somewhere in the second round. Every team has a different safety at the top. Some teams like Jaden Hicks and he's my top safety. Other teams prefer Javon Bullard or Tyler Nubin or Cole Bishop. It's just a matter of which guy you prefer and the answer to that is different from team to team."

Expert Rankings

NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah has no safeties in his latest overall Top 50 list, and ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr., also has none in his Top 25.

Brugler has seven safeties in his most recent **Top 10**0 list, with the highest coming in at No. 39 (Jaden Hicks of Washington State).

Meanwhile, Pro Football Focus has five safeties in the top 100 on their Big Board Rankings, with a highest of No. 31 (Tyler Nubin of Minnesota).

Potential Chargers options

Note: Heights and weights are from each player's profile on (linked for each player's name).


School: Minnesota | Year: Senior | Ht: 6-foot-1 | Wt: 199 pounds

2023 stats: 12 games; 53 total tackles (34 solo); 1.0 sack, one tackle for loss, five interceptions, four passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery

Quick fact: Nubin, a 2023 First-Team All-American, played in 55 career games and is Minnesota's all-time leader in interceptions with 13.


School: Washington State | Year: Redshirt Sophomore | Ht: 6-foot-2 | Wt: 211 pounds

2023 stats: 12 games; 79 total tackles (49 solo); 2.5 sacks, six tackles for loss, two interceptions, (one returned for a touchdown); four passes defensed and one forced fumble

Quick fact: Hicks was an Honorable Mention All-Pac-12 selection in 2023 and also had a blocked field goal.


School: Miami | Year: Junior | Ht: 5-foot-11 | Wt: 203 pounds

2023 stats: 10 games; 59 total tackles (40 solo); 1.0 sack, 2.5 tackles for loss, five interceptions (one returned for a touchdown); five passes defensed and one fumble recovery

Quick fact: A two-time First-Team All-ACC selection, Kinchens became first player since Sean Taylor to record double-digit interceptions with the Hurricanes.


School: Georgia | Year: Junior | Ht: 5-foot-10½ | Wt: 198 pounds

2023 stats: 12 games; 56 total tackles (39 solo); one tackle for loss, two interceptions and five passes defensed

Quick fact: Bullard was named the Defensive MVP in the CFP National Championship win against TCU after nabbing a pair of interceptions.


School: USC | Year: Junior | Ht: 6-foot-2 | Wt: 188 pounds

2023 stats: 12 games; 63 total tackles (42 solo); two interceptions (one returned for touchdown) and seven passes defensed

Quick fact: Bullock led the Trojans in interceptions in his final two seasons and had a pick-6 in both 2022 and 2023.


School: Utah | Year: Junior | Ht: 6-foot-2 | Wt: 206 pounds

2023 stats: 11 games; 60 total tackles (35 solo); 3.0 sacks, 6.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, four passes defensed, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries

Quick fact: A Second Team All-Pac-12 honoree in 2023, Bishop had 14 passes defensed and 7.5 sacks in his college career.

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