It's not enough that a safety winds up being the best defensive prospect in the draft, but that's just what his happening this year with the University of Miami's Sean Taylor. In fact, if it weren't for the position he plays, Taylor probably would be a sure-fire top five pick. As it is, he's expected to be among the top 10 overall picks. Taylor is far and away the best prospect in a safety class that has some depth but little blue-chip talent. The only other safety given a chance to be taken in the first round is UCLA's Matt Ware, who actually is a combination safety/cornerback. Bob Sanders from Iowa has first-round ability, but the fact he's only 5 feet 8 will drop him to the second round at least. The other top prospects at safety include Sean Jones from Georgia, Stuart Schweigert from Purdue, Will Allen from Ohio State and Madieu Williams from Maryland. An interesting prospect is Brandon Everage from Oklahoma. He entered the season as one of the top prospects at safety, but had a sub-par senior season and also has some off-the-field issues hovering over him. But he does have talent and could become a steal if he slips too much in the draft.
The Dolphins situation
There were some interesting moves at this position in the offseason, and there might be more to come. The first was three-time Pro Bowl selection Brock Marion being released, a move that isn't as shocking as it first might appear. Marion is a decent player, but he's made the Pro Bowl on reputation a couple of times and didn't really have an overly impressive 2003 season. Then unrestricted free agent Arturo Freeman was re-signed, which was surprising considering he had lost his starting job once the Dolphins signed Sammy Knight last offseason. One would have thought Freeman would want to go elsewhere. Freeman was the next in line to replace Marion, but it was clear from the start the Dolphins weren't overly confident in Freeman and that's why they signed former Green Bay first-round pick Antuan Edwards in April. Freeman, Edwards and Knight are joined at safety by free agent acquisition Chris Akins, whose forte is special teams, Shawn Wooden and Yeremiah Bell.
What the Dolphins might do
The Dolphins have been looking to upgrade the safety position, and that's what the signing of Edwards was all about. Heading into the draft, he probably would figure to be the starting free safety alongside Sammy Knight. But the Dolphins wouldn't be opposed to adding a quality prospect at the position to provide more competition. How early in the draft that happens depends on who's available not only at safety, but also at the Dolphins' other positions of need.
Next up: The specialists.