This article was written before the draft, but now that each of these players are on a team, which safety brings the most to the table? Find out here, from our guest writer Justin Walters from Sports Ruckus.
The value of the safety position has risen in the last few years with the evolution of the spread offense in the NFL. Teams have looked for players who are comfortable in centerfield, can make plays in the run game, and also have the ability to run with slot receivers as well as matchup with today’s new age athletic tight ends. None of the guys in this class possess the entire package. Our top guy has the best blend of the skills that teams are looking for. The rest of the safeties on our list each have a quality or two that will allow them to contribute on the pro level.
Hasean (HaHa) Clinton-Dix – Alabama 6’ 1 3/8” – 208 lbs – 4.58 – HaHa is no joke when it comes to safety play. Not only does he have the best name in the draft, he is the undisputed top safety in this draft. Clinton-Dix is a natural centerfielder with great range and awareness, who is always around the football. He is a solid tackler and does a decent job covering slot receivers. Clinton-Dix has a smooth backpedal to go with top notch footwork and quickness. He is above average at everything but great at nothing which some may view as a weakness. If you watch Alabama game tapes he seems to be everywhere that the ball is. Because of his awareness, knowledge of the game, and versatility Clinton-Dix should be a starter from day one for whichever team is fortunate enough to end up with him. I expect him to be a pro bowler one day soon.
Deone Bucannon – Washington St. 6’ 1” – 211lbs – 4.49 – This dude is a classic 90’s safety who attacks ballcarriers with bad intentions. He is a physically intimidating in the box safety, who looks like a body builder at the safety position. Bucannon has good hands and is solid in coverage despite being a little stiff in the hips and getting too high in his backpedal. He is an explosive hitter with above average speed for the position. He has a tendency to overrun plays because of his aggressiveness. Deone could come in and start for some teams, as long as they are asking him to play to his strengths, which are playing closer to the line of scrimmage or at worst a cover 2 safety. With his size and speed there is room for improvement. I look forward to seeing what kind of player he becomes.
Calvin Pryor – Louisville 5’ 11 1/8” – 207lbs – 4.58 – Calvin definitely looks the part, with prototype safety size. He is a good athlete who flies around looking to KO ballcarriers. He plays with a serious attitude and is fearless taking on lineman to get to the ballcarrier. Despite moving well he reacts a little late when playing deep. He has the ability to play deep but he is most comfortable and at his best in the box helping out in the run game, as he is not a natural centerfielder. Calvin struggles in man coverage because he gets high in his pedal and needs work with his change of direction. Calvin Pryor has potential to be a very good NFL safety because he already is a punishing tackler with all of the physical tools to improve in coverage.
Lamarcus Joyner – Florida State 5’ 8” – 184 lbs – 4.55 – An extremely versatile playmaker who despite his size has the ability to come up and contribute in run support as well as matchup with slot receivers. Joyner is a good blitzer who also shows the burst to make plays all over the field and plays with reckless abandon which can be a good thing and bad thing. He shows awareness and definite playmaking skills but can be too aggressive at times while trying to make big plays. Whichever team chooses the diminutive gamer will first have to figure out where and how they want to use him. But they will be getting one of the better overall football players in this draft. I see a team using Joyner the way the Cardinals used Tyrann Mathieu last year as a safety as well as in the slot taking advantage of his toughness and playmaking ability.
Terrence Brooks – Florida St. 5’ 10 7/8” – 198 lbs – 4.42- One of the few safeties in this class that seems comfortable playing deep. Terrence has great speed, quickness, and agility to go with body control, good instincts and a nose for the ball. He shows the ability and willingness to come downhill to make tackles but sometimes takes bad angles due to his over aggressiveness. He attacks the ball in coverage despite not usually catching it cause of his bad hands. Terrence is somewhat new to the position so there is room for growth. He has shown the talent to at some point become a starting caliber NFL Safety. Some team will get a steal if they are able to get him on day 2 or 3 of the draft.
BEST OF THE REST
Jimmie Ward – Northern Illinois 5’ 11” – 193 lbs – 4.47 – The former Northern Illinois standout strong safety has the footwork, fluidity, change of direction, and man coverage ability of a cornerback, but unfortunately the size of one as well. He could end up as a slot CB unless he learns to play deep.
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