NFL Draft Positional Needs: Defensive Back

The safety position was a sore spot for the New York Jets in 2011. Gang Green failed to land a starting free safety during the free agency period and might have to use an early round draft choice to fill the hole in the backend of their secondary.

As wide receivers continue to get bigger and faster, and college basketball players switch to playing tight end in the NFL, the leagues' defensive backs find themselves under more pressure than ever before. Games are now won and lost through the air, and often times games come down to either a great or poor play in the secondary.

Whether it's the corners matched up against a receiver or a safety on a tight end, the secondary plays a crucial role in any teams' success or lack thereof. We're at a point in the league's history when a team can't have too many good players in the secondary. This is one of the deepest cornerback classes in recent memory, and there will likely be many defensive backs drafted next week. Just which teams are looking to bolster their secondary?

NEED: SAFETY

Dallas Cowboys

Safeties currently on roster: Gerald Sensabaugh (8th year), Brodney Pool (8th year), Danny McCray (3rd year), Barry Church (3rd year), Mana Silva (2nd year), Justin Taplin Ross (2nd year)

The Cowboys have spent this offseason working to rebuild a secondary that struggled in 2011. The biggest improvement was signing cornerback Brandon Carr, who should prove to be a huge upgrade.

Dallas also added Brodney Pool to replace Abram Elam, who struggled at safety last year. Pool is better that Elam, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. Pool is better suited as a third safety and the Cowboys really should look to add a true starting caliber player there, such as Mark Barron.

Denver Broncos

Safeties currently on roster: Quinton Carter (2nd year), Mike Adams (9th year), David Bruton (4th year), Rahim Moore (2nd year)

Injuries and age may force one of Denver Broncos' most valued leaders into retirement. If Brian Dawkins does eventually decide to retire, they'll surely miss his leadership in the locker room and on the sideline. However, his play has greatly fallen off in the last season or two and even if he does decide to return, there's no guarantee he'd be a starter.

The Broncos could elect to plug Quinton Carter in his place, and considering the weak safety draft class that may end up being the decision they make. Denver still should look to add some depth at the very least, however.

New England Patriots

Safeties currently on roster: Patrick Chung (3rd year), Steve Gregory (7th year), Sergio Brown (3rd year), Ross Ventrone (3rd year), Josh Barrett (5th year)

A quick survey of the Patriots' roster reveals there is very little to get excited about when talking about their safeties. It's one of, if not the very weakest area of their roster and really needs to be addressed.

Adding Steve Gregory will be a big boost relatively speaking, but at best he's an average starter. Still, a replacement for Patrick Chung needs to be found sooner than later. He's got plenty of potential but he just can't seem to fulfill it. 2012 will likely be a make or break year for him.

New York Jets

Safeties currently on roster: LaRon Landry (6th year), Eric Smith (7th year), Tracy Wilson (2nd year), DeAngelo Smith (4th year)

Darrelle Revis may be the best cornerback in the league, but even that isn't enough to solve the Jets woes in the rest of the secondary. The problem lies at safety for New York. Jim Leonhard was adequate at safety last year, but a torn patellar tendon will leave him unavailable for at least the first part of the 2012 season.

The Jets signed LaRon Landry in an attempt to strengthen the position but it's doubtful that will be enough. Landry is a physical freak, but isn't good in coverage and at the most is a stop gap. An ideal scenario would have the Jets adding two safeties before the 2012 season kicks off, but they desperately need at least one.

St. Louis Rams

Safeties currently on roster: Quintin Mikell (10th year), Craig Dahl (5th year), Brian Jackson (3rd year)

Darian Stewart has been a nice story, going from an undrafted free agent to becoming a starter. Unfortunately, he was one of the worst strong safeties in the league last year and St. Louis doesn't appear interested in bringing him back.

A Jeff Fisher coached team will always have a priority placed on defense, and throughout his coaching career he's put a high value on having a solid pair of safeties. The Rams know they've got one piece of that puzzle in Quintin Mikell, and it's now time to find his partner.

Safeties currently on roster: Michael Griffin (6th year), Jordan Babineaux (9th year), Robert Johnson (3rd year), Al Afalava (4th year)

The Titans' strategy in addressing the safety position will depend in large part on how confident they are they'll be able to re-sign Michael Griffin in 2013. They've placed the franchise tag on him for 2012, but there hasn't been much talk in signing him to a long term contract prior to the 2012 season. It should be a priority for the team; although he's inconsistent he's still a top 15 safety in the league.

Regardless of what Griffin's status is, Tennessee still needs a safety to play alongside him. Jordan Babineaux provides very good depth at the position, but he shouldn't be relied upon as a starter. Mark Barron and Harrison Smith are both very real options for Tennessee in the first two rounds of the draft.


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