His name obviously grabs the attention of Ohio sports fans, but Antoine Winfield Jr.’s play on the field is even more compelling. He is a playmaker who can fill a number of roles within a defensive scheme.
Antoine Winfield Jr.
Pros: Objectively, Winfield is a stud. He is excellent in deep field coverage and a true ball hawk who had seven interceptions in 2019.
He is more than that though. He can rock down and match up with receivers in the slot or play the run from the box. He is very physical and a good tackler.
Obviously his name sticks out to Ohio State fans. His father was not only a Buckeye, but a 14-year NFL veteran with the Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings. People talk about “NFL bloodlines,” but the real positive here is that he grew up around the NFL game. He saw the work that his father put in to compete at that level for so long and, as a result, he knows what it takes to be a pro.
Cons: The two common complaints about Winfield seem to be his speed and his height.
His 4.45 40 at the NFL combine disproved those who saw his speed as an issue, but there is no getting around that fact that he is a 5-9 safety. This could be a problem for him when he is matched up in coverage with tight ends and big slots. In all honesty, just about every receiver he sees is going to have a height advantage on him. It will be the responsibility of his defensive coordinator to keep him out of situations where he can’t win.
Red Flags: There is a good reason why Winfield was not at the top of draft boards heading into the season. 2019 was the first full season he has played since his freshman year with the Gophers. In 2017 he had a left hamstring injury in fall camp. He fought through it and played in a few games, but eventually re-aggregated the injury and was shut down for the season. In 2018 he tore a ligament in his left foot which required surgery and ended his season abruptly.
His injury history is obviously a concern, but it is promising that he was healthy throughout 2019, playing in 12 games
NFL Comp: Patrick Chung
Bengals Fit: Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo seems to like versatile players, and Winfield is just that. He can play in the box, in the slot, or in a deep field zone effectively.
The issue here is that the safety room is pretty crowded right now. Vonn Bell was signed to be an upgrade over Shawn Williams at strong safety, and Brandon Wilson is coming back on a one-year deal as well. Winfield’s versatility gives him an edge over other true safeties in this class to be picked by Cincinnati, and pairing Jessie Bates III with another ball hawk for the long-term would be huge for a defense in need of generating more turnovers.
Draftability: Winfield is unlikely to get drafted in Round 1, so he could be an option for the Bengals at some point on Day 2.
Summary: Winfield is a versatile, turnover machine. He can fit into a defense in a number of ways, but covering a tight end down the seam is probably not one of them.
He is considered a free safety, but plays very effectively when rocked down. In this draft class, his versatility is second only to Xavier McKinney at the safety position.