NFL teams are desperate to find good starting Safeties. The 2014 draft has some talented prospects that teams will be highly interested in.
To me, there are 2 prospects that stand out…Calvin Pryor and Lamarcus Joyner.
Pryor lists at 6-2, 210. He might be heavier than that. He has an excellent combination of size, speed and strength. He’s very impressive when he attacks downhill. Pryor can deliver impact hits. He jumps off the screen when you watch the game tape. Really impressive physically.
He’s not a polished player. There are some plays where he takes a bad angle. There are some sloppy tackle attempts. Teams with a strong coaching staff will see a gifted prospect that can be developed into a star Safety. I can imagine that some teams won’t value Pryor as much.
Joyner will be a polarizing player. He is 5-8, 190. That size will cause some teams to really downgrade him. And I think that is reasonable. Do you want someone that size matched up with Calvin Johnson or Jimmy Graham in space?
Joyner plays much bigger than he is. To me, he jumps out when watching the tape. Joyner is a big-time hitter. He knows how to explode into runners and receivers. He delivers clean hits, which is all the more valuable in today’s NFL. Joyner offers versatility because he can play the slot. He’s got CB experience.
The natural comparison for Joyner is the Honey Badger, who just had an outstanding rookie season. Both guys lack ideal size, but can be impact players and in unusual ways. Both are very good at playing in the box. Both can rush the passer and play the run. Both have good man cover skills.
Honey Badger had serious character issues. Joyner was a key player on a dominant defense that just won the national title. I’m betting teams will love him as they meet with him and do their background checks.
I see Pryor as a 1st round pick. Joyner could go 2nd or 3rd round.
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Two other guys who get a lot of talk are Ha-Ha Clinton Dix and Jimmie Ward. Dix could be a real good deep Safety. He is a good tackler and has good range and ball skills. There really isn’t anything compelling about him, but he could still be a 1st round pick. There will be some teams that like him better than Pryor.
Ward, who played at Northern Illinois, is 5-10, 191. He had a good showing at the Senior Bowl. I’ve seen some people mention him as a high pick and I just don’t get it. I see a solid prospect, but not a special player. He does have excellent cover skills. I could see some teams actually looking at him as a corner.
While Ward is the same weight as Joyner, he’s not nearly as physical of a player. Ward told me down in Mobile that he hoped to bulk up to 200 pounds. That’s a smart goal, but I still don’t see him as a player I would take early as a Safety. Teams wanting someone to play the slot could value him as early as the 2nd round.
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Deone Bucannon gets a lot of talk because of his size (6-1, 216), but he’s more inconsistent than you want. He’ll miss some tackles. He looks stiff when facing athletic guys in space. There is plenty to like with him, but I think Bucannon could slide more than some fans think.
A big Safety from the Pac-12 that I feel is under the radar is Dion Bailey from USC. He is 6-2, 218. Former LB. He has some downhill explosion. Bailey is a good athlete. He’s got terrific hands. He was a stud DB in high school and redshirted in 2010, but practiced as a S. Bailey moved to LB for 2011 and 2012. This year he went back to S and played really well. He had 5 INTs and broke up 6 passes. Bailey had 6.5 TFLs. He tied for the team lead in solo tackles. I think Bailey has a lot of potential.
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One small school guy that has really grown on me is Isaiah Newsome of Louisiana-Monroe. They list him at 5-11, 200. He can hit, cover and tackle.
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One player I’ve been asked a lot about is Allen Darby, the Arizona State star. Darby played well in the Shrine Game, but didn’t impress me all that much when I checked out his game tape.
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There are plenty of other Safeties to talk about. I need to watch more tape and do more research on them before writing about the players.