The Jaguars are fortunate being that this 2007 class is chalk full of great prospects at the position. The Jaguars find themselves in need of safety with the loss of Deon Grant to the Seattle Seahawks and the recent string of injuries and age of Donovan Darius. They have a talented safety in Gerald Sensabaugh who can play either safety position on their roster, but after that it's mostly depth and special teams players. Let's run through some of the candidates that the Jaguars could target on the first day of the draft.
LaRon Landry, LSU-
Landry has been a playmaker at the safety position for LSU since his freshman year. He's averaged almost 80 tackles for his career as a Tiger. He has a nose for the ball and is a terrific athlete clocking in at 4.35 in the 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine. Landry is a big time player who can do just about everything from either safety position. He is good in coverage and very rangy. He's got the size to be stout against the run and lay the wood. He also posses the ability to blitz the quarterback and get the sack. While he will make plays against the pass, he has only average hands. This is really not that big of a deal, as he is a defensive back, but he will drop some interceptions. He also tends to be overly aggressive at times and will overrun some plays. Overall, Landry is almost a can't miss pick and will probably be gone by the time the Jaguars pick at 17. If he is there though, it would be a big time get for the Jaguars to play along with Sensabaugh and Darius in the defensive backfield. I would liken LaRon Landry to Adrian Wilson of the Arizona Cardinals.
Reggie Nelson, Florida-
Reggie Nelson earned himself the nickname "The Eraser" at his time at the University of Florida. He is a superb athlete who was originally slated to play cornerback his junior year at Florida because of their lack of depth. He is a very good athlete and has good speed for the free safety position, clocking in at 4.48 at the NFL Combine and 4.35 at his UF Pro-Day workout. He has very good instincts and knows how to make the big play. He is a ball hawk in the secondary who has a knack for interceptions. Despite his lack of size (5'11" 198lbs.) he plays much bigger than he really is. He was known for his big hits over the middle and on the sidelines against wide receivers. There are some questions about his ability to wrap up against bigger offensive players like running backs and tight ends, but with experience and coach he should learn how to tackle players bigger than him. A lot of scouts compare him to Oakland Raiders safety Michael Huff of last years draft and to Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed, who has similar size. Unlike LaRon Landry, Reggie Nelson is a pure free safety. He isn't big enough to play the traditional strong safety position, despite being very willing to come in the box and play the run.
Michael Griffin, Texas-
Michael Griffin is another in the long line of very good Texas defensive backs. He, like Reggie Nelson, is more of a pure free safety at the NFL level, measuring in at 5'11" and 200lbs. He has very good speed, as he ran a 4.45/40 at the NFL combine and is another playmaker. Like Landry, Griffin notched a lot of tackles in his career as a Longhorn, averaging 90+ tackles a year. Like Nelson, Griffin prefers to go for the big hit rather than wrap up the target and this will result in some big missed plays, or a huge play, such as a turnover. He is very good in coverage and is willing to play in the box, but due to his size he will get engulfed by fullbacks and other large blockers. Aside from being a very good safety, he is also a playmaker on special teams. He has exceptional kickoff return ability, and is very good at blocking kicks.
Brandon Meriweather, Miami(FL)-
Brandon Meriweather initially slipped in this draft because of some character concerns, like many former Miami Hurricanes. He's had some off the field issues involving firearms, and was one of the culprits in the infamous Miami-FIU brawl. Although, the situation of the brawl was blown way out of proportion somewhat, he was caught on tape stomping on a player, and it will likely hurt him come draft time. Despite all of this, he is another very good safety from the U. Despite his lack of size (5'10" 195lbs), he has the ability to play both safety positions as he rotated in college. He is a very reckless player with his body, which could lead to injuries, but he makes plays. He had a drop-off from his junior year, but that is more attributed to coaching issues, than his individual play. He's a very physical and reliable tackler who can also deliver the big hit. Overall, he is a tremendous athlete and some teams will consider playing him at cornerback in man coverage. He has football intelligence, and he's a hard worker, who also has a ton of experience playing against elite level competition in college.
Eric Weddle, Utah-
Weddle is an ideal free safety. He's got good size for the position (5'11" 205lbs) and is very rangy. He could easily be considered to also play nickel back on some teams who draft him for the future. He's considered an over-achiever, but he notched 18 total INT's in his career at Utah. Even though those INT's came against lesser competition, it shows he has ball hawking skills and good hands for a defensive back. Weddle is also a very smart kid, and a hard worker, and he's known to be a high character guy. He gives full effort all the time and is very coachable. He isn't overly fast for the safety or corner position, but his average speed with his good instincts should get him by at the next level. He is also a very good special teamer with the ability to return kicks, which will be valuable to many teams. He probably will not be an opening day, but will be very good depth that can grow into a solid starting safety.
Sabby Piscitelli, Oregon State-
Personally, I consider Sabby Piscitelli a Donovan Darius clone with coverage ability. Piscitelli is a true strong safety measuring in at 6'2" 224lbs. He has OLB size but has the athleticism of a safety. He is very stout against the run and can come up and play in the box with ease. He will struggle at times with coverage, but he won't give up too many big plays. Piscitelli can not only get his hands on the ball, but he has shown the ability to catch it. He is another very smart player with tons of experience, and also has good speed for a player his size (4.47 /40 yard dash). Some teams could potentially move him to the outside linebacker position if they'd like to go with a smaller, fast guy at that spot. He is very coachable, and in time could improve on his one glaring weakness, which is coverage the deep routes.
*Note: Some people will note I did not mention John Wendling of Wyoming or Aaron Rouse of Virginia Tech. Wendling I feel is slipping into the second day, and I view Rouse much like Darnell Bing, the former USC Trojan, who last year who was converted to outside linebacker. I think Rouse is too big for the safety position and NFL teams will be enamored so much with his athletic ability they will move him to linebacker.
Safeties in Numbers
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