by: Daniel House
Photo: Ben Blair
Minnesota safety Antoine Winfield Jr. has declared for the 2020 NFL Draft, according to a statement on his Instagram account. Winfield will forgo his final two seasons of eligibility and begin preparing for the pre-draft process. He led the Gophers with 88 tackles and seven interceptions in 2019.
His versatility and playmaking ability changed the entire defensive scheme. Winfield could cover the deep half or come into the box and help against the run. There were also many instances where defensive coordinator Joe Rossi used a safety blitz to get pressure on the quarterback. His athleticism, awareness and route recognition skills were on display every time he walked onto the field.
In the NFL, Winfield has the versatility to play multiple positions, including safety and nickel cornerback. A team will be landing a player with above average instincts, coverage skills and film study habits. Right now, he projects as a mid-round pick, but could shoot up boards during the draft process.
In 2019, Winfield became Minnesota's first unanimous All-American since center Greg Eslinger in 2005. Only seven players have earned unanimous All-American honors in Gopher football history. Winfield was the third Minnesota player to achieve this status in the past 57 years (Bobby Bell - 1962 and Eslinger - 2005).
Winfield will follow in the footsteps of his father, Antoine Winfield Sr., who carved out a 14-year NFL career with the Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills. Winfield Sr. became one of the best nickel cornerbacks to ever wear an NFL uniform. When I spoke with the father-son duo in 2018, Winfield Jr. said reaching the NFL was one of his ultimate dreams.
"My goal is to play in the National Football League and my goal there is to win a Super Bowl," Winfield Jr. said in August of 2018.
Now, one of the top defensive backs in program history will have the chance to live his dream.
Here's a feature I wrote with Winfield Jr. and his father prior to the 2018 season: https://bit.ly/38VOdeR
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Tag(s): Gopher Football