Scouting The Top Safeties

The Vikings could look to draft a safety at any point after the first round. Find out what draft expert Tony Pauline thinks of the top prospects.

Name:  Mike Doss  School:  Ohio St  Year:   4Sr

Ht:  5-10  Wt:  190  40:  4.49  Pos:  S

Bio: Three-year starter named to varying All-America teams recently and an All-Conference selection since his sophomore campaign.  Finished his senior season with 107 tackles, 2 interceptions and 8 pass defenses.  Registered 87/4/10 as a junior, after 94/3/6 the prior season.  Productive special teams player who has blocked punts in the past.  Awarded Defensive Player of the Year in 2002 by the Big 10 Coaches Association.

Pos: Tough and durable defensive back effective defending the run or covering the pass.  Displays a good head for the ball, positions himself to make plays and keeps the action in front of him.  Quick breaking on the ball, has a burst of closing speed and recovers defending the deep throw.  Works well with his cornerbacks, plays heads up football and disciplined in center field.  Big hitter who intimidates opponents and plays sideline- to-sideline.  Excellent ball skills when focused.

Neg:  Plays back on his heels at times, somewhat indecisive and over pursues the action on occasion.  Had a few games the past two seasons when he looked terrible on the field.

Analysis:  Versatility is key, as he can be used at either safety spot and is a secondary prospect who can be left on the field for every defensive snap as well as special teams.  At the top end of his game, a productive play-making safety worthy of a first-round selection and a prospect who can immediately start at the next level.

Name:  Troy Polamalu  School:  USC      Year:  4Sr

Ht:  5-10  Wt:  210  40:  4.51  Pos:  S

Bio: Three-year starter.  Saw extensive action at safety and linebacker as a true freshman.  All-Conference selection last year posting 68 tackles, 1 interception and 4 pass defenses, also accumulating 12 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.  Suffered with an ankle sprain all last season.  Totaled 118 tackles with 3 interceptions as a junior, garnering All-America and All-Conference honors.  Posted 83 tackles and 2 interceptions as a true sophomore when he initially broke into the starting lineup.  Tremendous special teams player who has blocked punts in the past.  Recently ran a 4.35 during individual workouts.

Pos: Hard hitting, intimidating safety who likes to mix it up.  Flies around the football, displays a closing burst of speed on his way to the action and sacrifices his body to stop the ball carrier.  Plays sideline-to-sideline, tough and mentally alert on the field.  Works well with cornerbacks, improved his cover skills as a senior and does a solid job manning center field.  Fluid in his hips and displays a good back pedal as well as sound cover fundamentals if placed over the slot receiver.  Tough and plays with or through pain.

Neg:  Hesitant to react at times and does not always display a decisive move on the ball.  Lacks the great recovery speed and better off in a short field.

Analysis:  True leader of a defense whose development and productivity as a senior was stunted by injury.  Sized to play either safety position and has the mentality to be a killer on special teams.  Could be starting late into his rookie season.


Name:  Rashean Mathis  School:  Bethune-Cookman  Year:   5Sr

Ht:  6-1  Wt:  202  40:  4.44  Pos:  S

Bio: Four-year starter who made an immediate impact as a true freshman.  Winner of the Buck Buchanan Award, presented annually to the top defensive player in I-AA football.  Also garnered All-America and All-Conference honors.  Finished the season with 61.5 tackles, 14 interceptions and 5 pass defenses.  Set the single-season record for interceptions in I-AA as well as interception return yards.  Also averaged 6.6 yards on 22 punt returns.  First-team All-Conference selection as a junior, posting 44/4/7 while averaging 17.1 yards on 24 punt returns, 2 which were brought for scores. Second team All-American as a sophomore posting 44/11/8 and again leading Division I-AA in interceptions.

Pos: Fluid, athletic defensive back who can be used at a number of positions.  Technically sound; can pedal, turn then run and flashes on the scene.  Quick anticipating the action, reads the quarterbacks eyes and quickly picks up assignments.  Takes good angles to the action, displays an explosive break on the ball and top recovery speed.  Disciplined in center field and shows good wherewithal.  Outstanding ball skills, hands and a ball magnet when the pass is in the air. 

Neg: Tall, slender build, tackles opponents high and has difficulty bringing them down on initial contact.  Not always willing to throw his body around the field.

Analysis:  Combines both tremendous physical skills and a feel for coverage to get the job done.  Offers potential at cornerback but may be best in nickel situations as a rookie and a player who can develop into a complete and game impacting free safety.


Name:  Julian Battle  School:  Tennessee  Year:   4Sr

Ht:  6-2  Wt:  205  40:  4.55  Pos:  S

Bio: Las Angeles Valley Junior College transfer who made an immediate impact on the program the day he stepped on campus.  Started 13 games as a senior, winning All-Conference honors, totaling 72 tackles, 1 interception and 4 pass defenses.  Junior totals were 60/2/9 when he started every game. 

Pos: Big, strong defensive back that can line up at either corner or safety.  As a press corner he jams opponents off the snap of the ball, slowing their release, and displays adequate footwork with the ability to smoothly transition off the line.  Effectively runs laterally or downfield with opponents, quick picking up the pass in the air and out muscles receivers, defending up the throw.  Physical in all aspects of his game and immediately takes it up the field in run support.  Above average break on the pass and has a nice burst of closing speed.

Neg:  Lacks a sense of timing, bites on opponents moves and loses focus.  While he displays basic fundamentals, a little stiff in many areas.

Analysis:  Better off as a safety occasionally pulled up to play over the slot receiver.  Aggressive nature of his game, coupled with solid cover skills, could have him in a starting lineup by the end of his rookie campaign.


Name:  Ken Hamlin  School:  Arkansas  Year:   4Jr

Ht:  6-2.5  Wt:  209  40:  4.62  Pos:  S

Bio: Junior eligible who enters the draft after impacting the Arkansas program three consecutive seasons.  First team All-Conference selection in 2002 after leading the defense with 159 tackles, 4 interceptions and also defending 11 passes.  Originally an All-League choice the prior season after 118/3/10.  Totaled 104 tackles in 2000 and named to the Freshman All-SEC team.  Set tackling marks for defensive backs at Arkansas three years in a row, leading his conference in that category.  Had a pair of DWI convictions in a 14-month period.

Pos: Hard hitting, run-defending safety that flashes brilliance on occasion.  Breaks down well, hard hitting and very active against the run.  Good playing speed, has excellent range and a closing burst of speed.  Quickly breaks on the throw, takes good angles to the action and easily brings opponents down at the point of attack.

Neg:  Lackadaisical and tentative at times.  Commits to a move up the field and gets caught out of position.  Confused in center field, loses a sense of where he is and prone to blowing coverages.  Lacks ball skills and overall cover techniques.  Had a poor drill session at the combine and looked lost making plays in reverse.

Analysis:   To this point seems one dimensional and best making plays up the field in a straight line.  Must improve his focus and discipline when the ball is in the air, as well as his overall cover skills.  A lot of potential for the next level should he decide to use it.

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