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Minnesota Safety Antoine Winfield Jr. Comes Up Big as Draft Evaluators Watch

Antoine Winfield Jr.

During Antoine Winfield’s 14 years in the NFL, the cornerback accumulated 1,054 tackles, 27 interceptions, 14 forced fumbles, 11 fumble recoveries and five defensive touchdowns.

And while compiling three Pro Bowl appearances and two second-team All-Pro selections, no one seemed to care about Winfield’s size at 5-foot-9, 180 pounds. After all, Winfield was still a first-round pick in 1999.

Fast-forward 20 years: Should draft evaluators be concerned about Antoine Winfield Jr.’s perceived lack of ideal measurables?

The younger Winfield was a big reason why unbeaten Minnesota handed Penn State its first loss of the season over the weekend. Minnesota moved up to No. 7 in the latest top-25 rankings, while Penn State dropped to No. 9.

Winfield was all over the place during Saturday’s win, picking up a team-leading 11 tackles and 9 solo tackles to go along with two drive-killing interceptions. Winfield now moves up to No. 2 in the nation with 7 INTs.

However, Winfield checks in at 5-foot-10, 205 pounds – bigger than his dad, but smaller than what some NFL evaluators are looking for in a safety. He’s also dealt with hamstring and foot injuries that cut his seasons short in 2017 and 2018.

But when he’s on the field, his presence is immediately felt. Gophers coach P.J. Fleck called him “the best player on defense” and “one of the best athletes in college football,” according to Megan Ryan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

And his big game against BC has only cemented his status as one of the top safeties in college. Pro Football Focus credited Winfield with no receptions in his coverage area.

“Winfield has now put his name on the map with a dominant performance that not only solidifies him as the highest-graded safety but also a potential early draft pick in April,” PFF notes in its Week 11 Eckrich Team of the Week report.

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