2002 NFL Draft: Safety Update 1

The Giants have only done half a job in signing <b>Shaun Williams</b> to play SS, now the search is on for someone fast and athletic to pair with him...

The Giants have only done half a job in signing Shaun Williams to play SS, now the search is on for someone fast and athletic to pair with him and despite lip service from the coaching staff paid to Omar Stoutmire, they know in their hearts and minds that were he to be the opening day starter the Giants would be in trouble. After all, Stoutmire started in both Dallas and for the cross-town Jets yet was released in-season by both after being repeatedly pulled out of position by the QB's eyes, pump fakes or just simply making the wrong read and was burned to an absolute cinder so often they had to get him off the team as well as out of the line-up. He doesn't have the speed or range to get to the deep ball unless he gets a great jump on it and his open field tackling isn't great either.

Ed Reed (Miami, Fla) had a good game against Virginia Tech, making a pair of INT's (though one was at the end of the game, a wayward pass thrown behind WR Andre Davis and straight at him) and also making some big hits and an excellent one-on-one open field tackle on a breakaway run directly saving the TD. He did though miss one tackle where the huge TE just carried him and he fell off but other than that he played an aggressive game and showed his eye for the ball, stepping in front of a receiver to come under a crossing pattern to take the ball away for his first pick of the day. An SS in college, that slight lack of size, not his lack of great stopwatch speed, is why I see him better suited to the FS role in the pro ranks. I think he's a fine football player but think he'll last into the 20's, maybe even late 20's but feel that he will be a great pick and a much better player than many drafted in front if him. I'd love to have him but the Giants won't draft a Safety in the 1st round and he won't make it into the 2nd.

After his excellent performance at the Combine (clocked 4.5 at 208lb's and outperformed his peers in virtually every drill – hard to believe he's a former walk-on isn't it?), I decided to take another look at the cover skills of FS prospect Jonathon MacGraw (Kansas State) – I know he has the size, hits hard and blitzes well – but unfortunately the results proved inconclusive. Against Oklahoma he made an INT of an overthrown deep pass down the middle, had a huge hit on a WR over the middle in the intermediate area and was active against the run. However, the Wildcats defense frequently challenged the receivers at the line, put heavy pressure on the QB often using MacGraw as a blitzer (picked up every time by the OL – the Sooners learnt their lesson from last years game – but getting in the throwing lane by attempting to jump the OL's!) and rarely asked him to drop back straight into zone coverage, especially not downfield where I wanted to see him make plays. Primarily, he dropped back in short coverage but interestingly he played man-to-man not zone a lot of the time and he wasn't really thrown at (though the commentators said one time he may have blew a coverage to the short sideline in man coverage but to me it looked like the CB over there sat back like in zone and failed to react to the receiver coming in front of him). He charged up a bit out of control against the run, a couple of times overshooting the runner in the backfield and then having to track back to the ball after yards had been gained. Looking at his stats for his Senior season, it appears that he made his biggest contribution in the biggest games (picked off passes against Southern Cal, Colorado and Texas A&M as well as the Sooners and made a bunch of tackles against Nebraska), which also bodes well for his future. Not the finished product yet, I like his upside and feel that his athletic ability will allow him to play in pretty much every system though he will need more experience of deep coverage and it depends on his reading ability as to whether he can step in immediately. I think he'll definitely be gone by the mid-3rd round but a run on the position – and I think there will be one –in the 2nd round may take him off the board slightly earlier than he warrants. To be honest, I wouldn't mind seeing him in a Giants uniform.

I had hoped that the rangy Jermaine Phillips (Georgia) though playing SS in college could make the adjustment to FS in the pro ranks but having watched him play 3 times this season I saw the same mistakes every game and the Combine highlighted that he lacks the speed (4.66) to get away with them in the NFL. Against each of Florida, Tennessee and in the Music City Bowl game against Boston College he was guilty of either under-cutting a pass leading to a TD or taking a bad angle to a running play allowing the back to turn a 10 yard gain into either a huge run or a TD. People remember him catching BC's William Green from behind 66 yards up the field but they don't forget the reason he had to catch him was because he took a bad angle to the ball in open field (about 10 yards from the LOS), couldn't make an arm tackle and allowed him to break away in the first place! Exactly the same thing happened against the Vols Travis Stephens and he only caught up then because Stephens tripped! Mostly he has been used close to the LOS – though he played more centerfield against Tennessee –even showing up at LB behind a 5 man DL – and you don't see him miss tackles in ‘the box'. He does tend to attack ‘a spot' rather than the ball though, taking on blockers unnecessarily and giving the RB the chance to cut back and make a big play. Taking on blockers downfield rather than backing up and slowing up the RB on a screen pass turned a good gain into a long TD inside the 2 minute mark at the end of the Tennessee game – inexcusable. In coverage, he's primarily used just dropping underneath into the short zone and he showed the range to break underneath the out pattern, making plays on the sideline against both Florida and Tennessee (INT). He also showed the ability to step up and hammer anyone catching the ball in his zone over the middle. I think he'll be a good pro SS in a scheme where he's asked to keep receivers in front of him and then step up to make the play but we don't need an SS any more and I don't think he has the FS skills we will be looking for. He'll likely go in the 3rd round to another team.

I'm not sure why but for some reason I got Clevan ‘Tank' Williams and Coy Wire (both Stanford) mixed up and left them off the preview altogether thinking that Williams – the better prospect by far – not Wire, was the one being moved to LB in the NFL! Despite being 6'2" and 223lb's, it's not Williams moving! Good thing too as he really took his game at FS to another level this year, leading the Cardinal team in tackles, making 5 INT's and 9 PBU's, forcing 2 fumbles, nabbing 2 sacks and returning a fumble for a TD. A terrific athlete, he proved himself even faster than MacGraw, dazzling on-lookers with his 4.46 clocking at the Combine and pound for pound is one of the best athletes in the entire draft. I also like the fact that he had some of his biggest games against the best opponents, having a huge hand in his team overturning Oregon, picking off Joey Harrington over the deep middle and hitting him on a blitz that forced a pop up INT returned by a DL for a TD. He's used all over the field, both dropping back in deep zone and also attacking the LOS and has very good range. I'll take a look at him shortly to see if I think he fits the Giants but am pretty sure he could fit in any scheme. I can't imagine he'll have much trouble learning a new system either – he's from Stanford after all – so right now he's flying up the draft charts because of his play, athletic ability and intelligence and I'm sure he's a 2nd round pick, possibly even an earlier one than some of the better known players at his position. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he were taken in the top 50 and even appealed strongly to the Giants. He certainly fits our ideals of what to look for in a player.


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