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Michigan Football: Ranking the top five safeties of the Jim Harbaugh era

Michigan has quietly produced several NFL talents at safety.

Army v Michigan Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

The safety position is undoubtedly one of the least-heralded positions on the football field. Casual fans generally only know who the safeties are if they get beat in the open field. That said, safety is also one of the most important positions in football. Great safeties can hide mistakes around the defense and effectively put pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Michigan may not be known as a safety factory, but Jim Harbaugh has quietly sent more than a few to the NFL, three of which are still on NFL rosters today.

Honorable Mentions: Dymonte Thomas (2013-2016), Brad Hawkins (2017-Present)

5. Tyree Kinnel (2015-2018)

Four-star recruit — No. 189 overall, No. 11 S in 2015 class

Kinnel was the picture of consistency during his time in Ann Arbor. What he lacked in pure speed he made up for in agility and awareness. Kinnel was named a team captain in 2018 and was selected as honorable mention All-Big Ten in 2017 and 2018. Following his time at Michigan, Kinnel signed as an undrafted free agent with the Cincinnati Bengals but was part of the final roster cuts. Since then, he has bounced around professional football. Avid football fans may have noticed him as a staple with the DC Defenders as part of the short-lived XFL.

4. Daxton Hill (2019-Present)

Five-star recruit — No. 14 overall, No. 1 S in 2019 class

Undoubtedly one of Harbaugh’s biggest recruiting wins, Hill has been as good as advertised so far at Michigan. He has flashed blazing speed and impressive instincts. In a shortened, six-game season in 2020, Hill recorded 45 tackles, four pass deflections and an interception, along with a fake punt reception. Only a rising junior, I expect Hill to continue to climb the ranks with the potential to be an all-time great if he decides to stick around all four years.

3. Delano Hill (2013-2016)

Four-star recruit — No. 303 overall, No. 26 S in 2013 class

When Harbaugh arrived in 2015, he inherited a stacked safety room with Kinnel, Delano Hill, Jarrod Wilson, Dymonte Thomas, Jabrill Peppers and Jeremy Clark. This gave Harbaugh the flexibility to shift around some of their positions. I fully expected Hill to get lost in the shuffle, but he never did. In his senior season, he tallied 50 tackles, three pass deflections, one forced fumble and three interceptions (one of which being a pick-six). Even more surprisingly, Hill has produced a solid NFL career with the Seattle Seahawks and now the Carolina Panthers, despite battling back injuries.

2. Jarrod Wilson (2012-2015)

Four-star recruit — No. 241 overall, No. 14 S in 2012 class

As the old adage goes, “safeties are supposed to be boring.” If that’s the case, Wilson was the most boring of the bunch. He was routinely in the right place at the right time and never seemed to get burned. Wilson gifted Harbaugh with the ultimate luxury of inheriting an established, veteran safety on who he could rely. Wilson just completed his fifth season with the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he has continued to be his boring, exceptional self.

1. Josh Metellus (2016-2019)

Three-star recruit — No. 739 overall, No. 48 S in 2016 class

Metellus danced his way around the secondary and all the way up to No. 1 on my list. Statistically, he blows the rest of the list out of the water with 188 career tackles, 13 pass deflections and five interceptions. Not only that, but he provided a thumping presence behind one of the greatest Michigan defenses in recent memory. A sixth-round draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings, Metellus just completed his rookie year where he appeared in 15 games and collected nine tackles and a fumble recovery.