61. Minnesota S Antoine Winfield Jr
5-foot-9, 203 pounds
Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.85 — starter potential
The lowdown: One of the more fascinating developments in the Big Ten was the breakout season for the Gophers and also for their big-play safety, Winfield. Entering last season, he was best known as the injury-prone son of the Minnesota Vikings cornerback, but the younger Winfield made a name for himself with a seven-interception, 88-tackle, three-sack season that earned him first-team all-Big Ten and AP All-America mention.
And best yet: He played all 13 games. Winfield earned a starting role as a freshman, notching an 82-yard pick-six in his fourth college game. His sophomore and junior seasons both ended in major injuries — a hamstring in 2017 and a foot in 2018. (Strangely, both occurred in games against Maryland.)
That has raised questions about whether his durability will be an issue in the NFL. Other factors that compound that worry are that Winfield doesn’t possess ideal size and that he — like his father — are hard-nosed, aggressive tacklers in space. That last part is a strength for Winfield as a player, but it’s something that’s mentioned alongside his injury worries.
Still, Winfield inherited great genes from his father, an extremely smart player who lasted 15 years in the NFL, played nearly 200 games in the league.
Where the younger Winfield excels is with his timing and route recognition. He looks like Torii Hunter shagging flies with ease in center field, tracking down balls and short-circuiting a lot of good passing games this past season. Winfield also times his arrival at the ball extremely well (one career penalty, which happened his freshman year) and times his blitzes well, too. His 40 time at the NFL combine (4.45) was much higher than the mid-4.5s some scouts were expecting.
Although he spent plenty of time in the box for the Gophers, Winfield projects to more of a middle-field safety in the NFL. Those NFL-ready instincts will serve him well in an early starting role, even if he might come just short of All-Pro potential. His size, injury history and lack of ideal range were enough to keep him just out of our top 50 prospects.
By the numbers: In 1,051 defensive snaps prior to 2019 at Minnesota, Winfield logged two interceptions. Last season, he had seven — including the game-clinching picks against Fresno State and Penn State.
Interesting fact: Winfield, who turns 22 in August, was actually a fourth-year sophomore when he declared early for the draft, which is extremely rare. He was granted two medical redshirts following his 2017 and 2018 campaigns.
Draft range: Top-60 pick