Scouting the Draft: Safeties

If the Packers are looking to add some depth, Day 3 of the draft is the likely spot they'll be searching. From the ballhawks to the big hitters, there's something for everyone.

Campbell photo by Bradley Leeb/USA TODAY

In Part 18 of our Green Bay Packers draft preview, we examine the safeties.

ROUNDS 4-7

Ibraheim Campbell, Northwestern (5-11, 208; 4.52): Campbell started 45 times in his career and was a three-time all-Big Ten selection. As a senior, he was a second-team choice; even though he missed four games, he tied for the Big Ten lead with four forced fumbles. He finished his career with 11 interceptions, including three as a senior.

“Despite his timed speed, Campbell might lack explosion coming out of his breaks, but he has the fluid stride and hand placement skills to mirror tight ends in the short area,” reads his scouting report. “He takes proper angles to shorten the field and stays in control closing on the ball (rare to see him over-pursue). He is quick to support vs. the run and has good closing acceleration that he uses in backside pursuit.”

Cody Prewitt, Mississippi (6-2, 208; 4.60): Prewitt was a two-time All-American. As a senior, he posted 64 tackles (four for losses) and three interceptions. He intercepted six passes as a junior, and the three-year starter grabbed 11 picks in his career with a 22.1 percent completion rate.

“Watch any film on Prewitt and instantly you will see that there is no harder hitter in the SEC than the Ole Miss safety,” reads his scouting report. “His acceleration allows him to give cushion, yet keep the plays in front of him. He makes quicker breaks on the ball in the zone than when playing the man, as he breaks on the ball in an instant when he reads the play.”

Noted Savage: “This two-time All-American is critiqued for his lack of short-area suddenness and burst, but he is a ‘ball magnet’ and that trait followed him from Ole Miss to the Reese’s Senior Bowl. Cody has height, long arms and a knack for making plays on the football.”

Clayton Geathers, Central Florida (6-2, 218; 4.55): Geathers started the final 52 games of his career. He finished his career earning first-team all-conference with 97 tackles, 6.5 tackles for losses, one forced fumble and one interception. Geathers’ career total of 383 tackles ranks third in UCF history, and his 226 solo tackles top the list of major-college defensive backs in this draft.

“Geathers is a tenacious hitter with a lot of ‘linebacker blood’ coursing through his veins. He hits with good authority and likes to get through blocking schemes to attack ball carriers. He is good slipping through blocks and does a nice job of containing the ball carrier in run force. He looks natural closing on the ball in front of him and is explosive stepping up to deliver his hits. He plays under control, yet is very aggressive and knows how to take proper angles to attack the runner.

Geathers comes from a famous football family that includes cousins Clifton and Kwame and uncles Robert and James “Jumpy” Geathers..

“The Geathers kid is a big, strong safety in the box,” Mayock said. “I think he'll play special teams. I think he'll knock your jock off. I still need to find out whether or not he can cover a deep pass and has ball skills, but I think he's a middle-round guy who will make a roster because of his toughness.”

Kurtis Drummond, Michigan State (6-1, 208; 4.65): Drummond started the final 34 games of his career at safety and is tied for seventh in school history with 12 career interceptions. As a senior, he won the Big Ten’s Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year with team-leading figures of 72 tackles, four interceptions and a conference co-leading 15 passes defensed. He also led the defensive backfield with five tackles for losses. However, he yielded four touchdown receptions.

“The senior has good shoulder thickness with the arm length and soft, natural hands to make the interception,” reads his scouting report. “He is not overly-muscled, but has a firm midsection and hips, along with minimal body fat. He reads and reacts quickly in run support excels at picking up schemes and reading the audible well to get the secondary in position. He plays with good field vision and has a knack for locating the ball working through trash.”

Durell Eskridge, Syracuse (6-3, 4.63): The towering safety started as a sophomore and junior before departing for the NFL. As a sophomore, he had 78 tackles, four tackles for losses and four interceptions. His production dropped a bit as a junior with 68 tackles, no TFLs and one pick.

“To me, Eskridge is a guy that's a big, raw safety, needs to be a more consistent tackler,” Mayock said. “He's got size. He's got to get stronger, he's got to be more confident in his tackling. He covers a lot of ground, but he's a cut tackler that misses too many tackles. I think he's a mid to late draft pick. He's going to make his living on special teams, which will buy him enough time to learn how to play safety.”

First, he has to stay on the field after missing time in the 2013 and 2014 offseasons.

“Eskridge has good leaping ability, but you would like to see him compete for the pass at its high point more often rather than trying to dislodge the receivers from their “rib cages” (seems more intend on knocking out his man rather than going for the ball),” reads his scouting report. “You can see he has the athletic ability to get his hands on some high throws. Still, you have to be impressed with the way he will lay out his body to make the play or torpedo a ball-carrier. The problem is, his recklessness has resulted in several upper-body injuries that have teams openly concerned about his long-term durability.”

Jordan Richards, Stanford (5-11, 211; 4.65): Richards was first-team all-conference and earned some All-America accolades, as well, with his 79 tackles, three interceptions and three forced fumbles. The three-year starter had three thefts in each of those seasons. He might be able to play the nickel position, as well. Richards was one of just 17 players to be named a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete, an honor that comes with an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship, and was a two-time Academic All-American.

“Richards has an athletic build with adequate height,” reads his scouting report. “He is fluid and smooth dropping back in pass coverage and shows impressive short area burst and make-up acceleration. He can turn and run vertically with just about any receiver he faces and is extremely quick in his backpedal. An aggressive and physical safety that is not afraid to lay his body on the line, he reads quarterback's eyes well and is able to get a good jump on the ball in flight.”

Anthony Jefferson, UCLA (6-1, 198; 4.72): The two-year starter played corner and safety. He was second-team all-conference with a senior season of one interception and nine passes defensed. He finished third on the team with 72 tackles. It was a good way to salvage a career that was doomed by a broken foot and injured back. The back injury, which cost him all of 2011, had him fearing his career might be over, though conversations with his roommate, running back Johnathan Franklin, gave him more of a positive outlook. His 40 time from the Combine probably will necessitate a full-time move to safety.

Anthony Harris, Virginia (6-1, 183; DNP): Harris gained national acclaim in 2013, when he led the nation with eight interceptions – the most by a Virginia defender since Ronde Barber had eight in 1994. He wasn’t quite as productive as a senior, though he still posted 108 tackles, two interceptions and 12 passes defensed to garner all-ACC third-team honors. With 289 tackles, he has shown good ability to be physical playing in the box, but his 30 passes defended display his ability to mix it up in coverage.

Harris underwent right shoulder surgery that prevented him from participating in agility tests at the Combine and at pro day. Most teams feel that the injury will greatly impact his draft stock, but outside of his recent procedure, Harris had proven quite durable during his Virginia career.

“Harris is a physical tackler with a knack for being in position to deliver the crunching hit, but will get rag-dolled when the offensive lineman latches on to him,” reads his scouting report. “He lacks the bulk you look for in a safety playing inside the box, but excels when given a free lane in backside pursuit, as he has the burst to close.”


CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL SCOUTING REPORTS from the NFL’s head scout, Dave-Te’ Thomas.


Gerod Holliman, Louisville (6-0, 218; 4.62): In his only season as a starter, Holliman won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back after recording a dizzying 14 interceptions, which tied a 46-year-old NCAA record. Of the 125 schools in FBS, only 23 of them had more interceptions than Holliman did by himself. Poor tackling and too much freelancing are reasons why he found himself on the second unit for four games.

“Holliman competes for the football and plays like he owns his deep zone. An excellent high-pointer, he transitions quickly and sharply out of his pedal breaking underneath despite rarely ever displaying proper technique. He drives hard on the underneath throw and if he does jump the route and separate the football, he will with a big a collision, but he appears very disinterested as a tackler.”

Chris Hackett, TCU (6-2, 195; 4.81): Playing center field in the Horned Frogs’ three-safety scheme, Hackett finished fourth in the nation with seven interceptions. And with that, it was off to the NFL. Hackett started all three seasons at TCU. He was a first-team all-Big 12 pick in 2014 after earning second-team honors in 2013. However, he had the bad 40 at the Combine and just a 27-inch vertical at pro day.

“He sees the plays develop and gets to the ball in a hurry, but while he is a good open-field tackler, he falls off those hits when he reverts to dipping his shoulder and leading with his head (causes him to bounce off and miss tackles),” reads his scouting report.

Ronald Martin, LSU (6-2, 220; 4.63): Martin’s a two-year starter who finished fourth on the team with 73 tackles as a senior. He added two interceptions and led the team with 11 passes defensed. Despite the production against the pass, he’s a downhill, in-the-box defender. Thomas pegged him as his “camp find” among the safeties — a designation for a player who will make a roster even if he goes undrafted.

Brian Suite, Utah State (6-3, 203; 4.51): Suite was a consistent performer. The three-year starter had between 73 and 77 tackles during each of those seasons. He had five interceptions and 11 total passes defensed in 2013 and two interceptions and 11 passes defensed as a senior. At pro day, he had a 37.5-inch vertical.

Dean Marlowe, James Madison (6-2, 203; 4.58): Marlowe was a four-time all-Colonial pick. As a senior, he had a career-high 96 tackles along with four interceptions. He started 47 of his 49 career games and finished with 326 career tackles (13.5 for losses) and 12 interceptions.

“Marlowe has the range to cover ground from sideline-to-sideline, demonstrating the second gear needed to recover and make up ground going deep,” reads his scouting report. “He uses his size well to combat receivers for the ball and has the natural hands and ball skills to adjust and maintain position tracking the ball in flight. He’s also become a punishing tackler who charges hard to close in run support and is not timid taking on blockers in the box.”

Erick Dargan, Oregon (5-11, 211; 4.72): Dargan led the Ducks with 95 tackles and the Pac-12 with seven interceptions. He also had five interceptions as a sophomore to finish his career with 13 thefts. Pro day didn’t go well, however, with his plodding 40 and a 29-inch vertical.

Kyshoen Jarrett, Virginia Tech (5-10, 200; 4.57): Jarrett was a three-year starter. As a senior, he led the team with 88 tackles while adding three interceptions and a forced fumble. Two of those thefts came in the Hokies’ upset win at Ohio State in September. His older brother is a triplegic (paralyzed in three limbs) with cerebral palsy, so Jarrett is grounded and mature. He’s primarily an in-the-box safety and blitzer.

Nick Perry, Alabama (6-1, 205; 4.67): Perry started four games in 2012 and missed most of 2013 with a shoulder injury. Given a medical redshirt, Perry had 80 tackles, two interceptions and eight passes defensed in 2014. He’s not explosive (32.5-inch vertical) or strong (seven reps on the bench).

Jermaine Whitehead, Auburn (5-11, 197; 4.59): In nine games as a senior, Whitehead posted 36 tackles and six interceptions. He was suspended for four early-season games due to an altercation with a coach and only started for half of the season.

FOUR WILD CARDS

Cedric Thompson, Minnesota (6-0, 211; 4.46): Thompson was a two-and-a-half-year starter. As a senior, he had 83 tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles and won Academic All-Big Ten honors. He had a monster pro day; along with the 40, he had a 40.5-inch vertical and 21 reps on the bench. If nothing else, he should be a special-teams weapon.

Akeem King, San Jose State (6-2, 215; 4.43): The physical numbers are great — along with the 40, he had a 37.5-inch vertical and 20 reps on the bench — but it only added up to one year in the starting lineup. That was as a senior, with 71 tackles, no interceptions and two passes defensed.

John Lowdermilk, Iowa (6-1, 210; 4.65): Lowdermilk, the son of former NFL offensive lineman Kirk Lowdermilk, was a two-year starter. As a senior, he piled up 103 tackles, three interceptions and two forced fumbles.

Tevin McDonald, Eastern Washington (5-11, 195; 4.63): McDonald was a third-team FCS All-American with 78 tackles and three interceptions. McDonald, the son of former All-Pro safety Tim McDonald and the brother of Rams safety T.J. McDonald, started at UCLA as a freshman and sophomore. However, he was suspended for the bowl game during his sophomore year, reportedly for a third failed drug test, and was kicked off the team. He embraced the second chance and the opportunity to follow in his family’s footsteps. Unlike Tim and T.J., two big, hard-hitting safeties, McDonald lacks the power in his game.

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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