The best safety in a weak class, Phillips is the only first-round talent among the group. He had a good season this past year, but he was more productive as a sophomore. Phillips finished his junior campaign with 82 tackles, six for a loss and two interceptions. He has good size and athleticism, but has to stay disciplined in coverage. Phillips should run well in Indy, but scouts will want to see how fluid he is in coverage.
Castille is a valuable defender who adds versatility to a secondary. He primarily played corner at Alabama and was a good cover corner, but his lack of speed will hurt him at the next level. He didn’t have a great week at the Senior Bowl and failed to show fluid transitioning in coverage. He’s a perfect nickel corner who can play physically inside, but he projects as a free safety in the NFL. Castille will have to run well and display smoother backpedaling in drills to improve his draft stock.
Michigan SS Jamar Adams prepares for action against Florida in the Citrus Bowl.
AP Photo/Reinhold Matay
3. Jamar Adams, SS, Michigan, 6-2, 209
Draft Projection: 2nd – 3rd Round
Adams is a hard hitter who’s always looking to make the big play. He’s aggressive and is always around the ball. He had a good senior season for the Wolverines and collected 92 tackles, 2.5 for a loss, a sack and three interceptions. Adams has good, not elite, speed. But he takes good angles in pursuit and is a strong tackler. He showed good instincts at the Senior Bowl and made a few big hits that received favorable praise. He’ll have to impress the scouts the same way in Indy as he did in Mobile.
The twin brother of 2007 first-round draft pick Michael Griffin, Marcus is an experienced defender who brings playmaking ability to the next level. Griffin has been very productive during his career at Texas and enjoyed a senior season where he had five interceptions. He participated in the Senior Bowl and showed good quickness and instincts and played well all week long. He’s consistent, and scouts will enjoy his personality in Indianapolis.
A vastly overlooked player in this year’s draft, mainly because of his injury history, Barrett wasn’t nearly as productive as a senior as he was as a junior. Barrett suffered through numerous injuries this past season and was never fully healthy. He has a lot of talent and a huge upside, but he has to stay healthy to truly realize his full potential. Teams will evaluate Barrett very carefully and determine if the reward is worth the risk.
Silva is the most underrated defensive back in the draft. He’s a consistent performer who doesn’t possess elite athleticism, but he’s a hard worker and a ballhawk in the secondary. Over the last two seasons at BC, Silva has collected 12 interceptions (eight this season). He also contributed to a team-high 125 tackles this past season. He showed great instincts and awareness at the East-West Shrine game and impressed scouts with his work ethic. If Silva runs well in the forty, look for him to be a high third-round pick.
7. *DaJuan Morgan, FS, NC State, 6-1, 205
Draft Projection: 3rd – 4th Round
It was a surprise to see Morgan’s name among the early entries in the draft, but after 97 tackles and three interceptions in his junior campaign, he felt that it was best to move on to the pros. He has good speed and instincts, but has to position himself better to make plays. His ability in drills will be the most crucial, and if he runs a mid-4.4 forty-time, that will definitely help his stock.
When LaRon Landry departed for the NFL, that clearance gave Steltz his opportunity to shine. Steltz didn’t disappoint, and in his first season as a starter he proved that he can be a quality player at the next level. He finished his senior season tied for the team lead in tackles with 101, and also contributed a sack and six interceptions. He was invited to the Senior Bowl, but was unable to participate due to a shoulder injury. Steltz is expected to work out at the Combine and show scouts what he can do on the field.
If Hefney were a few inches taller and a little bit bigger, he’d be a first or second round pick. But he’s a smaller safety — and by no means is he Bob Sanders — who’s a tweener at the NFL level. He has very good quickness and is deceptively strong, but struggles against bigger receivers who tower over him. He possesses really good technique and is fluid in coverage, but it’s his size that will concern scouts at the Combine.
Zbikowski received a lot of attention in Mobile, not for his good play, but for his thoughts on his boxing career. Zbikowski put the boxing talk to rest and is concentrating on football and looking forward to the next step. He had an outstanding career at Notre Dame and displayed great ability as a playmaker in the secondary and on special teams. He’s an experienced punt returner who has dynamic skills. But he will have to run well in Indy to improve his fourth-round draft grade.
13. Thomas DeCoud, FS, California, 6-2, 196
Draft Projection: 5th Round
20. Chris Horton, SS, UCLA, 6-1, 212
Draft Projection: 7th Round
22. Brian Bonner, SS, TCU, 5-11, 195
Draft Projection: 7th Round - FA
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.