NFL Draft: Scouting the Safeties

A very underrated class highlighted by tremendous versatility, the safety spot offers a lot of talent this weekend. Four of the top five players all have potential at safety or cornerback while solid prospects will be available through round four. Here are scouting reports on the top twelve cornerbacks.

Full Name: Michael Huff School: Texas Pos: S

Ht: 6-0 Wt: 204 40: 4.36 Year: 5Sr

Bio: Broke into the starting lineup as a freshman. Two-time All-Conference selection who won the Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back last year. Senior totals included 109/1/14 after junior numbers of 73/2/14.

Pos: Versatile defender effective at several spots in the secondary. Smart cover man who jams opponents at the line of scrimmage, loses nothing transitioning off the snap and runs anywhere on the field with wideouts. Stays with receivers laterally and does an outstanding job diagnosing the action. Displays a decisive move to the throw and takes good angles to the action. Plays with a nasty attitude as well as a good degree of intelligence.

Neg: Slowed by blocks and does a bit of grab-tackling.

Analysis: Considered a hard-working, self-motivated prospect by scouts, Huff has outstanding skill in coverage and run defense. An early first-round pick with the ability to impact a team at any number of spots in the defensive secondary.


Full Name: Jimmy Williams School: Virginia Tech Pos: S

Ht: 6-2.5 Wt: 213 40: 4.47 Year: 4Sr

Bio: Moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore. All-Conference cornerback the past two seasons totaling 44/1/6 as a senior after 60/5/14 the prior year. Sophomore totals included 114 tackles at free safety.

Pos: Imposing defensive back who physically beats down opponents. Fluid transitioning off the line and easily out-muscles opponents to defend the pass. Quick up the field defending the run and possesses a burst of closing speed. Displays solid footwork in all directions and above-average ball skills.

Neg: Prefers to side-shuffle almost immediately off the snap. Does not quickly break to the throw. Slow locating the ball when his back is to the action. Timing and anticipation need improvement.

Analysis: A forceful defender best facing the action, Williams' size, strength and marginal cornerback fundamentals all dictate a move to center field. Can make an immediate impact at safety in the NFL.


Full Name: Jason Allen School: Tennessee Pos: S

Ht: 6-1 Wt: 209 40: 4.43 Year: 4Sr

Bio: Three-year starter awarded All-Conference honors as a junior. Played in five games last year totaling 35 tackles before being sidelined with a hip injury. Junior totals were 123/2/7 when he led the conference in tackles.

Pos: Versatile defensive back who can be used at safety or cornerback. Displays outstanding footwork in all directions, is fluid transitioning to run with opponents and quickly breaks to the action. Instinctive, quickly locates the pass and positions himself to defend the throw. Physical and works hard for 60 minutes.

Neg: Lacks top-end speed and the ability to mirror defenders down the field. Does a bit of grab tackling.

Analysis: Productive the past three seasons, Allen has a polished game and offers starting possibilities at several positions. A first-round prospect until his injury last year, Allen is a quality player who will be a steal in round two.


Full Name: Donte Whitner School: Ohio State Pos: S

Ht: 5-10 Wt: 204 40: 4.41 Year: 3Jr

Bio: Two-year starter who posted 73/2/6 as a junior after 69/1/1 during his sophomore campaign.

Pos: Developing defensive back slowly turning into a complete player. Fast, explosive at the point and not afraid to mix it up. Supports the run and wraps up tackling. Displays a good sense of timing, recognizes patterns in zone coverage and possesses good hands for the pick. Solid footwork in all directions.

Neg: Indecisive and not overly efficient. Stands to improve his man-to-man cover skils.

Analysis: A consistent defender the past two seasons, Whitner has definite possibilities as a starting free safety in a two-deep zone or conventional system.


Full Name: Ko Simpson School: South Carolina Pos: S

Ht: 6-1 Wt: 209 40: 4.47 Year: 3So

Bio: All-Conference and All-American last year after 103/1/9. Freshman totals included 61/6/6 and named SEC Freshman of the Year. Graduated from high school in '03.

Pos: Large, forceful safety best in a zone system. Fires up the field, defeats blocks and strong at the point. Diagnoses the action, takes good angles to the play and displays suddenness to his game. Possesses a good break to the pass and works well with cornerbacks. Solid range in centerfield and displays good ball skills.

Neg: More of a loping runner who takes a while to get it going. Gets caught up the field and has tackles broken. Does not display a sense of timing.

Analysis: An imposing defender at free safety, Simpson offers terrific upside for the next level. Should be a productive starter in the NFL once he improves the details of his game.


Full Name: Daniel Bullocks School: Nebraska Pos: S

Ht: 6-0.5 Wt: 212 40: 4.41 Year: 5Sr

Bio: All-Conference selection the past three years. Senior totals included 83/1/10 after 58/5/9 as a junior.

Pos: Hard-working, take-charge leader flying up draft boards. Effectively quarterbacks the secondary, sees the action and has a burst of closing speed to the play. Explodes up the field in run defense and sacrifices his body to make the tackle. Active in zone coverage and displays a good sense of timing.

Neg: Struggles in man-to-man situations and does not display a decisive move to the ball. Not a technique tackler. Takes a lot of missteps and over-pursues the action.

Analysis: A consistent player at Nebraska, Bullocks turned in an outstanding performances at the Senior Bowl and the combine. Offers a good degree of upside and could be a first-team player in the NFL.


Full Name: Darnell Bing School: USC Pos: S

Ht: 6-2 Wt: 227 40: 4.58 Year: 3Jr

Bio: Three-year starter awarded varying degrees of All-Conference honors since his freshman campaign and also gained All-America notice last season. Posted 41/4/6 last year after 63/2/7 as a sophomore.

Pos: Forceful safety developing a complete game. Has a burst of closing speed, is fluid changing direction and is fast to the flanks. Shows a decisive move to the ball and flashes on the scene. Disciplined in centerfield and keeps the action in front of him.

Neg: Likes to go for the knockout blow and does not wrap up tackling. Late in transition and slow locating the ball in man coverage situations.

Analysis: Sporting outstanding size, Bing should be a very productive as either a traditional strong safety or in a two-deep system at the next level.


Full Name: Roman Harper School: Alabama Pos: S

Ht: 6-0 Wt: 198 40: 4.62 Year: 5Sr

Bio: Three-year starter and All-Conference selection as a senior after totals of 69/1/2. Junior numbers were 77/3/1 after career-best 114 tackles as a sophomore.

Pos: Effective zone safety best facing the action. Instinctive, diagnoses plays and takes good angles to the action. Works to get involved and wraps up tackling. Has a burst of closing speed and is outstanding in run defense.

Neg: Marginal ball skills and abilities in man coverage. Only average size/speed numbers.

Analysis: A steady defender the past three seasons, Harper has starting possibilities as a zone safety in a two-deep system.


Full Name: Danieal Manning School: Abilene Christian Pos: S

Ht: 5-10.5 Wt: 202 40: 4.48 Year: 3Jr

Bio: All-Conference and All-American selection as a junior after defensive totals of 49/3/4. Also averaged 12.8 yards on 19 returns with one touchdown and 26.8 yards on 13 kick returns with another score. Sophomore totals were 54/2/6 on defense with an average of 29.2 yards on 13 kick returns and one touchdown as well as a 22-yard average on 15 punt returns, with two more scores.

Pos: Athletic prospect with outstanding size/speed numbers. Fluid flipping his hips in transition, has a burst of closing speed and flashes on the scene. Quickly breaks to the throw, aggressive supporting the run and physical in all aspects of the game.

Neg: Not overly instinctive and struggles locating the ball or diagnosing the action. Wastes movement and needs a lot of mechanical work. Hesitant recognizing routes in zone coverage.

Analysis: A versatile defensive back who can be used at free safety or cornerback, Manning is a solid developmental prospect. The ability to break games open as a return specialist could help him sneak into the draft's first day.


Full Name: Pat Watkins School: Florida State Pos: S

Ht: 6-4.5 Wt: 222 40: 4.47 Year: 4Sr

Bio: Two-year starter with numbers of 77/3/5 as a senior after 56/4/10 the prior year.

Pos: Nice-sized athlete coming off a disappointing senior campaign. Explodes up the field defending running plays or screens and goes for the knockout blow. Displays good range to the sidelines, effective facing the action and flashes ball skills. Outstanding special-teamer effective on coverage units.

Neg: Struggles with his back to the ball, slow locating the pass and very indecisive.

Analysis: An athletic safety with the skills and range to play centerfield, Watkins graded out as a top 45 pick until last year. Has a bit of risk to his game yet offers starting potential for a team patient with him.


Full Name: Bernard Pollard School: Purdue Pos: S

Ht: 6-1.5 Wt: 225 40: 4.61 Year: 3Jr

Bio: Moved into the starting lineup as a freshman and awarded All-Conference honors ever since. Led the team in tackles last season, posting 92/3/3 after a career-high 96 tackles the prior year.

Pos: Strong, run-defending safety with marginal ball skills. Quick snuffing out the play, flashes on the scene and has a burst of closing speed. Strong, defeats blocks on his way to the action and takes good angles to the play. Flashes cover skills in zone.

Neg: Not effective in deep center field. Does not have a decisive move to the throw and slow getting to the spot laterally.

Analysis: Possessing outstanding size/speed numbers, Pollard is a traditional strong safety who may fit in as a weak-side linebacker in certain systems. Should flourish in a scheme that reduces his lateral area assignments.


Full Name: Greg Blue School: Georgia Pos: S

Ht: 6-2 Wt: 216 40: 4.66 Year: 5Sr

Bio: Two-year starter awarded All-Conference and All-American honors last season after career-best numbers of 88/2/5. Posted 80 tackles as a junior.

Pos: Explosive run-defending safety best between the hashes. Breaks down well, fast in all directions and flashes on the scene. Strong at the point, goes for the knockout blow and wraps up tackling. Fine athlete who makes a lot of difficult plays.

Neg: Marginal ball skills, not instinctive in coverage and late picking up assignments. Takes incorrect angles to the action. Performed poorly in the post-season and falling down draft boards.

Analysis: An intimidating force, Blue is a physical defender with solid size. Needs to improve the details of his game before he will ever be a consistent starter at the next level.


Complete Safety Rankings - Complete NFL Draft Rankings


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