Safeties visiting Valley Ranch

There is no question that one position at which the Dallas Cowboys want to upgrade their talent is free safety, and if free agent Gerald Sensabaugh leaves, the team likely will be looking for two safeties.

Most believe there isn't a safety in the 2010 draft who merits being chosen at the Cowboys' No. 9 spot in the first round; there are many who consider this year's safety class a weak one, and feel that no safety deserves to get picked anywhere in the first round. But if the list of players has confirmed to have visited Valley Ranch in recent days is any indication, it looks like the Cowboys very well could be eyeing a safety with their pick in the second round.

Dallas has welcomed three players this week who most consider the top three safety prospects in this year's draft: Aaron Williams of Texas, Rahim Moore of UCLA and Quinton Carter of Oklahoma.

• A 2010 captain who earned All-America honors, Moore, who measured 6-0 and weighed 202 pounds at the Combine, might be the best athlete among all safeties in the 2010 draft and is widely considered the top safety prospect in the class. A semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award (given annually to the nation's top defensive back), he clocked a 4.62 in the 40-yard dash, jumped 35 inches in the vertical jump and 9-7 in the broad jump, and ran a sizzling 3.96 in the 20-yard shuttle. Moore is faster than he is strong, having mustered just 11 reps on the 225-pound bench press, but the man makes plays.

In 37 career games over three seasons at UCLA, Moore had 186 tackles (including a career-high 77 in 2010 — the third-highest total on the Bruins' roster) broke up 15 passes and had 14 interceptions, including 10 in his sophomore campaign, thanks in part to long arms that allow him to play a little bigger than he is.

Moore is a cerebral player who understands offenses, reads routes well and has the burst to close quickly on a ball in mid-flight. Most assume he will add some bulk as he gets stronger in an NFL strength program, but while he sometimes struggles to shed blockers in run support, he is more than willing to take on big ball carriers.

• Carter, who measured 6-1 and 208 at the NFL Combine, played cornerback and safety for the Sooners. He played in 43 games at OU (he redshirted the 2007 season after playing in five games as a true freshman), piling up 222 tackles — including 88 and 96 in his junior and senior seasons, respectively — breaking up 13 passes and collecting eight interceptions, four in each of the last two seasons.

The 2010 first-team Associated Press All-America and All-Big 12 honoree (at safety) ran a 4.59 in the 40-yard dash at the Combine, jumped 34.5 inches in the vertical jump and 10-1 in the broad jump. He has good size and is a strong player, bench pressing 225 pounds 23 times.

Carter is one of those players coaches love, because of his attitude and work ethic. He is equally comfortable in man and zone defenses, is a non-stop competitor and loves to come forward in run support. He lacks elite top-end speed and leaping ability, but has long arms and excellent timing, which allows him to compete on deep passes. He also will contribute on multiple special teams.

• At the NFL Combine, Williams measured in at 6 feet and weighed 204 pounds. His broad jump of 10-7 was tied for the 13th-best among all players at the Combine. He ran a 4.56 in the 40-yard dash, measured 37.5 inches in the vertical jump and cranked out 18 repetitions in the bench press with the NFL-standard 225 pounds.

Williams played mostly cornerback at Texas, but projects as a safety in the NFL in part because he is a physical, sure tackler whose aggressive nature might be better suited to playing safety at the next level. At UT, he had 95 tackles in three years and four interceptions, although he failed to pick off a single pass during the Longhorns' 5-7 2010 season.

Williams is projected as a free safety in the NFL, where his speed and cover skills will allow him to patrol the back end of the defense, allowing a strong safety to creep forward in run support, or to pick up an extra receiver, tight end or even running back in pass coverage. Williams has quick feet and excellent closing speed, but is better running alongside a receiver and making a play on the ball in the air than he is chasing in traffic or following a receiver who changes directions. He also is an able special teams player. In 2010, he returned 11 punts for 86 yards (7.8 per) and can cover on kickoffs and punts.

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