Washington football’s star safety is heading to the NFL, so who’s the next man up at free safety?
Taylor Rapp has been a staple of Washington’s stellar defense over the last three seasons. He was so good during his freshman year that he forced Budda Baker down to play in the nickel. The 2016 Freshman All-American led the team with four interceptions during his first season at UW. Since then, Rapp has shown off all the incredible traits that should get him drafted near the end of the first or beginning of the second round.
Rapp is an elite safety prospect, and while some believe he’ll play strong safety at the next level, his range and excellent ball skills should translate well to an NFL team in need of a free safety, and his ceiling could be similar to Earl Thomas. He’s also excellent at coming downhill and hitting in the run game. Every great defense has a great safety who can do it all, and Rapp is the best guy to do that in this class.
Three teams that could use a guy like Rapp are the New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks. The Raiders could definitely get younger at the position, and with three picks in the first round, two of them coming in the late 20’s, Rapp could help improve a defense that vastly needs an influx of talent. The Seahawks are losing Earl Thomas, so why not draft a hometown hero who excels at the same position? The Patriots desperately need safety help, with the rapid aging of Devin McCourty and poor play of Duron Harmon, and they’re used to picking towards the end of the first round, Rapp would be a steal for New England.
Big Shoes to Fill
2016 Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year and Freshman All American. 2017-18 All Pac-12 First Team. 2018 First Team All-American. We saw it in the Rose Bowl, Dwayne Haskins consistently attacked the open hole in the middle of the field, which is normally patrolled by Rapp. Brandon McKinney did an ok job as the replacement, given he only had one week of practice under his belt with the first teamers, but it’s hard to replace a guy like Rapp who does it all, and is incredibly athletic.
There are tons of options for who will start next season as Rapp’s replacement. The obvious choice would be McKinney, who took Rapp’s place during the Rose Bowl. McKinney was a four-star recruit out of Orange Lutheran in Orange, California before enrolling at UW, and because of the stars in front of him, he’s never really gotten a chance to prove himself on the field.
However, I’d put my money somewhere else. Freshman Julius Irvin out of Servite in Anaheim, California has first-round potential according to his teammates. The four-star recruit has played sparingly on special teams during his true freshman year, but could see a big influx of playing time as a redshirt freshman in 2019. Both safety spots are open, and he’ll definitely get an opportunity at one of them, but he seems to be the best man for the job to take over for Rapp.
A dark horse for the job would be incoming freshman Cam Williams, the three-star safety out of Bakersfield, California, has super long arms and has potential to be an immediate impact player. We’ll see what he can do when he arrives for summer camp, but with two safety positions up for grabs, Williams definitely has potential to grab one of them.