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Nowadays with the passing game being so big in the NFL, having a safety that can cover man to man at times and in zone is key to having an elite defense. This year’s class of safeties is more top heavy, I expect two at the most to get picked in the first two rounds of the draft. As always I will give you my top 5 and an additional 5 to look out for.
1. Mark Barron 6-1 211lbs Alabama
Strengths: The total package at safety. Clearly the best prospect at his position on the board. Has great size, speed and agility. Is a fearless hitter, will knock out defenders coming across middle or will take on a running back head on in the hole. Has the instincts you look for from a safety. Will do a great job matching up with tight ends in coverage due to his strength and size.
Weaknesses: Can struggle in man coverage against smaller and quick WR’s.
Grade: Top Ten pick
2. Harrison Smith 6-1 215lbs Notre Dame
Strengths: Big time hitter, great playing up in the box and stopping the run. Has good cover skills, does a nice job man to man on TE’s. Has played some strong side linebacker during his time in college as well. Can come right in and start at strong safety from day one. Has the instincts and experience to do so.
Weaknesses: Would like to see him make more plays on the ball than he did in his final season. Has okay agility, but not good enough to man up with slot receivers.
Grade: Late first round
3. Brandon Taylor 5-11 202lbs LSU
Strengths: One of my favorite players in this draft, he is going to be a real good pick for a team in possibly the early third round. He is a perfect fit for a team who runs a cover two or cover 3 based scheme. Makes up for what he lacks in quickness with smarts, pre-play reads, and great instincts. He brings the ruckus when he hits a ball carrier, very physical presence on the field.
Weaknesses: Lacks the elite speed to be kept back as a single high safety in the NFL. Is more effective in zone coverage than man to man. His hips and change of direction ability isn’t good enough to play a lot of man coverage.
Grade: Late Early third round
4. Antonio Allen 6-1 201lbs South Carolina
Strengths: Is at his best playing in the box near the line of scrimmage, played the rover position in the Gamecocks defense. Is a good blitzer, shows good timing and finds the open lane to get pressure on the QB. Is effective against the run, does a nice job making tackles one on one against ball carriers. I can see him playing Strong Safety in the NFL in the box or playing 1/2 of the field in a cover 2 scheme.
Weaknesses: Can be exposed in man coverage, is best suited in the zone. Lacks top level speed. Has been beat on two separate occasions on flea flickers, he got caught looking in the backfield.
Grade: 4th round
5. Markelle Martin 6-0 207lbs Oklahoma St.
Strengths: Will be a free safety at the next level, has the range and speed to play a one high role. Got his hands on plenty of balls during his final season, but dropped more than he caught (3 INT’s). Is a willing tackler, does a good job of wrapping up and bringing the ball carrier down.
Weaknesses: His man to man coverage skills need work. Needs to use better angles when pursuing the ball in the air.
Grade: 4th round
Next 5: George Iloka 6-4 225lbs Boise State, Charles Mitchell 5-11 202lbs Miss St., Brandon Hardin 6-3 222lbs Oregon St., Kelcie McCray 6-2 202lbs Arkansas St., Justin Bethel 5-11 200lbs Presbyterian
Next up: Top 5 Cornerbacks