Positional draft analysis: Safeties

A generally weak class, there are a couple that could go in the first round, but overall it is a class that features some one-dimensional safeties that will need to refine their games. We review the strengths and weaknesses of 11 of the top prospects.

VIKINGS SAFETIES – Harrison Smith, Robert Blanton, Andrew Sendejo, Taylor Mays, Antone Exum, Ahmad Dixon.

VIKINGS POSITION NEED – The Vikings have a Pro Bowl talent in Smith, and Blanton emerged as a decent starter opposite him. With Sendejo and Mays providing depth, there isn’t a pressing need to add another safety, although there can be an upgrade made of a player the Vikings covet remains on the board for them.

POSITION ANALYSIS – One of the weaker draft classes in recent years, Alabama’s Landon Collins may be the only safety that comes off the board in the first round. There is some depth, but many in the Class of 2015 are viewed as project players that will need to be schooled up in order to make the effective pros. Teams will likely be targeting safeties in the middle rounds, but, in the early going, they will be an endangered species.

Landon Collins, Alabama, 6-0, 228 – Third-year junior…A two-year starter with 172 tackles, 12 passes broken up, five interceptions, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in that span…Has very good footwork and change-of-direction skills…Good size and musculature for an NFL safety…Has very good ball skills and tracks down a ball in flight very well…Has very good read-and-react skills in the run game and comes strong every time…Bites a little too often on play action and can be a step late getting to his spot…Doesn’t have elite speed…Runs around blockers more than he takes them on…Did not lift at the Combine with a right shoulder injury, but ran a 4.53 40 with a 35-inch vertical jump and a 10-0 broad jump.
PROJECTION: In a typical draft, he likely wouldn’t be the top safety on the board, despite being a very good player. But in a down year like 2015, he stands alone atop the heap. As such, for teams in need of a safety, he may have more value than he typically would and it’s hard to imagine him making it out of the first round.

Damarious Randall, Arizona State, 5-11, 196 – Fourth-year junior…Spent two years at Mesa Community College before enrolling at ASU…Initially enrolled at Butler Community College to play baseball…Is the brother of Patrick Norris, who plays in the Kansas City Royals organization…An All-Pac 12 selection as a senior…In two seasons at ASU, he had 177 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, 12 passes defensed, six interceptions and four forced fumbles…A high-energy player who goes at full speed at all times…Extremely productive in his tackle numbers…Has cornerback skills in coverage…Plays with a mean streak…Is undersized for a safety at the NFL level…Is a willing tackler in the run game, but doesn’t have the strength and bulk to consistently be a big factor in run support…Is raw in terms of playing time against top competition and is still learning the game…Ran a 4.46 40 at the Combine with 14 reps of 225 pounds, a 38-inch vertical jump and a 10-0 broad jump.
PROJECTION: A talented but undersized safety who is screaming up draft boards, he’s gone from a mid-round selection to potentially getting consideration late in the first round of the draft. His measurable numbers don’t jump out that he is a Pro Bowl-type safety, but his intangibles are strong enough that a team is going to fall in love with him early on Day 2.

Derron Smith, Fresno State, 5-10, 200 – Fifth-year senior…A three-year starter who started the final 40 games of his college career, recording 259 tackles, 22 passes defensed, 14 interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in that span…Has excellent field vision to watch both the quarterback and receivers coming in his area…Impressive interception numbers and tackle production…Covers a wide area and has good leaping ability to contest passes as they come down…Small for an NFL safety and too often plays to his size…Didn’t consistently face top competition so winning battles was easier…Doesn’t have any elite traits in terms of speed or big hitting…Did not work out at the Combine while recovering from sports hernia surgery.
PROJECTION: A ball hawk in the middle of the field who doesn’t have any elite qualities, but he gets the job done. He may be devalued on draft day but has solid pro intangibles.

Jaquiski Tartt, Samford, 6-1½, 221 – Fifth-year senior…A three year starter who made starts in his final 33 games, recording 254 tackles, 20 passes broken up, six interceptions and two fumble recoveries…Has legitimate NFL size and long arms…Strong in run support and brings the big hits with him…Has range to provide help over the top to the sideline…Never faced elite competition…Doesn’t have great anticipation or the natural feel a lot of top college safeties have…Loses a step when ask to flip his hips in transition…Chose not to lift or do the vertical jump at the Combine, but ran a 4.53 40 with a 10-4 broad jump.
PROJECTION: Has the size that scouts look for in a strong safety, but his lack of top competition and his decision not to lift or jump at the Combine could hurt his stock. He has all the necessary intangibles to be a solid pro, but needs to be more consistent to make an impact at the next level.

Gerod Holliman, Louisville, 5-11¾, 218 – Third-year sophomore who was granted a medical redshirt three games into his freshman year…He started just 11 of 27 games over three seasons, recording 62 tackles, 14 interceptions and one forced fumble…Had a monster 2014 tying the all-time Division I record with 14 interceptions in a season…Won the 2014 Thorpe Award, given to the best defensive back in college football…Prides himself on being a lights-out hitter…His production can’t be denied coming off his 2014 season…Looks the part, both in man coverage and playing zone…Doesn’t have a great tackling technique and misses too many makeable tackles…Isn’t strong in run support and doesn’t always show a willingness to get in the middle of the fray…Takes a lot of bad angles and doesn’t show good technique…Did not run or jump at the Combine due to a hamstring injury, but did 17 reps of 225 pounds.
PROJECTION: Coming off the best interception season in almost a half-century, the buzz is high on Holliman, but he has some holes in his game that aren’t easily remedied, so he will likely last longer than his numbers would indicate he should.

Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss, 6-2, 208 – Fourth-year senior…Started 41 of 51 career games, finishing his Ole Miss career with 247 tackles, 13 passes defensed, 12 interceptions, five forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries…The first All-America safety from Ole Miss in more than 40 years…Has long arms and good range…A playmaker who comes away with the ball, whether with interceptions or forcing fumbles…Brings a lot in the way of run support…Doesn’t have great speed and takes too many risks that get him caught when he bites on play action or a pump fake…Never had to play man and, in the rare instances he did, he struggled…Needs to improve taking on receivers when he gets close to the line of scrimmage…Ran a 4.60 40 at the Combine with just 11 reps, a 35-inch vertical jump and a 10-5 broad jump.
PROJECTION: He played a little at linebacker last year because he doesn’t have the elite athleticism to be a top-notch NFL safety. But a four-year resume in the SEC will get him drafted in the middle rounds with a chance to make an impact in some capacity.

Eric Rowe, Utah, 6-0¾, 205 – Fourth-year senior…Started 45 of 47 career games, finishing his career with 261 tackles, 34 passes broken up, three interceptions and three fumble recoveries…A three-time All-Pac 12 selection – two at cornerback and at safety in 2014…Has solid NFL build with good power and long arms…Doesn’t lose anything when asked to flip his hips and transition into deep coverage…A physical tackler who brings it in run support…Has been able to get away with grabbing receivers downfield, which doesn’t fly in the NFL…Runs with long strides that take three or four steps to get up to top gear…Doesn’t have great hands or playmaking skills – just three picks and no forced fumbles in 47 games…Ran 4.45 40 at the Combine, with 19 reps of 225 yards, a 39-inch vertical jump and a 10-5 broad jump.
PROJECTION: A converted cornerback, he can come into a team with the versatility to play either position in a pinch, but isn’t a dynamic difference-maker so he will have to earn playing time. It won’t be handed to him.

Anthony Harris, Virginia, 6-0¾, 183 – Fourth-year senior…A three-year starter who started 35 games and had 275 tackles, 20 passes broken up, 11 interceptions and two forced fumbles in that span…Takes good angles and has excellent field awareness…Very strong in run support…Production is solid, especially his junior year…Doesn’t have a prototypical safety body – he’s much too thin and lacking musculature to be the typical NFL safety…May have to play in a zone system because he will have a hard time jamming at the line…Has a little too much wasted motion and missed steps…Did not work out at the Combine with a right shoulder injury.
PROJECTION: Harris is a solid player and a team leader who has experience against good competition. He may never hit 200 pounds because of his body type, which will turn off some teams. But the team that drafts him will get a durable player who is a ball hawk, but also potentially a liability in tackling.

Durell Eskridge, Syracuse, 6-3, 208 – Fourth-year junior…A two-year starter who had 146 tackles, nine passes broken up, five interceptions, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in that span…Had right hand surgery in May 2014 and had right shoulder surgery in January…Has prototypical size and plays big…A playmaker who finds his way to the ball…Has sideline range in coverage…Slow to read and react and misses on plays he should be there for…Tends to run around people rather than run over them too often…Once blockers get their hands on him, they tend to neutralize him…Didn’t lift at the Combine due to right shoulder surgery but ran a 4.63 40 with a 31-inch vertical jump and a 9-9 broad jump.
PROJECTION: He has the size to be an NFL safety, but his 40 time was troubling and will hurt his stock more than anything – even game film.

Kurtis Drummond, Michigan State, 6-0¾, 208 – Fifth-year senior…A two-year full-time starter who had 163 tackles, 22 passes broken up, eight interceptions with one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in that span…Is always heading toward the ball, whether in the pass game or the run game…Has good size and long arms and uses both well…Has very good field awareness and anticipation…Doesn’t have good recovery speed or straight-line speed…Misses too many tackles because he isn’t a glass-eater who looks for the kill shot…Got called for too many defensive holding penalties when facing double moves or deep routes…Didn’t lift at the Combine due to right shoulder surgery, but ran a 4.65 40 with a 39½-inch vertical jump and a 9-11 broad jump.
PROJECTION: His lack of speed will be cause for pause for some teams, but he needs to get more physical if he wants to be more the special teamer or role player. He has the measurables to be a potential starter at some point but needs a lot of refinement and change.

Adrian Amos, Penn State, 6-0½, 218 – Fourth-year senior…A three-year starter who had 136 tackles, 15 passes broken up and six interceptions in that span…Spent two season playing cornerback and his last two playing safety…Has good measurable intangibles in terms of height, length and weight…Has range to the sideline…Is explosive when he closes on the ball…Is more of a tackler than he is a playmaker because he just doesn’t intimidate like he should be capable of doing…Takes a cornerback attitude to the safety position when it comes to run support – not so much in the way of effort…Has a hitch in his hip flip and loses a half-step in transition…Chose not to lift at the Combine, but ran a 4.56 40 with a 35½-inch vertical jump and a 10-2 broad jump.
PROJECTION: A converted corner who has the size and strength to be an NFL safety, but needs to start playing and thinking like a safety before he’s going to be successful.

Detrick Bonner, Virginia Tech, 5-11¾, 207
Ibraheim Campbell, Northwestern, 5-11½, 208
Clayton Geathers, Central Florida, 6-1¾, 218
Chris Hackett, TCU, 6-0¼, 195
Anthony Jefferson, UCLA, 6-1, 198
Dean Marlowe, James Madison, 6-1½, 203
Tevin McDonald, Eastern Washington, 5-11½, 195
Jordan Richards, Stanford, 5-10¾, 211
James Sample, Louisville, 6-2¼, 209


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