Positional Analysis: Safeties

The Vikings appear to have their starters intact with Corey Chavous and Brian Russell (an exclusive rights free agent), and depth also looks decent with Willie Offord and Tyrone Carter. Still, the team could select one of these dozen safeties we analyze for more depth and special teams prowess.

VIKINGS' SAFETIES — Corey Chavous, Brian Russell, Willie Offord, Tyrone Carter.

VIKINGS' NEED — A year ago, this looked like much more of a concern. With Corey Chavous moving over to safety permanently and Brian Russell being an unknown commodity, the Vikings proceeded to lead the league most of the season in interceptions. With the signing of Tyrone Carter this year, the Vikings were content enough with the current safeties that they released special teams monster Jack Brewer. The only way this position gets addressed on Day One is if Miami's Sean Taylor should somehow fall on Draft Day from the top 10. Other than this, the Vikes may give this group cursory attention, but don't expect any early (and possibly no) activity here.

THE CLASS OF 2004 — Not a stellar crop. Aside from Taylor, there are some intriguing prospect, including Iowa's Bob Sanders, Maryland's Madieu Williams and Ohio State's Will Allen. About a half dozen safeties will go off the board on the first day and the activity will pick up on Day Two when teams have had a night to assess what they've chosen.


THE CREAM OF THE CROP

Sean Taylor, Miami, 6-2, 230 —
Third-year junior…Two-year starter who took over after Ed Reed (Baltimore) was taken in the first round…In two years, he recorded 162 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, 28 pass break-ups and 14 interceptions…Had 10 picks last year alone and returned three of them for touchdowns…Incredible combination of speed, size and strength…Speed to chase plays sideline-to-sideline…Can play both safety positions well…Big hitter with nasty streak…Long arms, he's adept at batting passes away…Sloppy tackler at times…Doesn't have good upper body strength due in part to a shoulder injury and did a position worst 11 reps with 225 pounds at the Combine…Ran a 4.53 40 at the Combine with a 35-inch vertical jump — one of the worst jumps among the safety crop.

PROJECTION: He has drawn comparisons ranging from Roy Williams — the No. 7 overall pick two years ago — to Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott. He shouldn't last long and, if Cleveland stays at No. 7, he will be very hard to pass up there.


THE NEXT LEVEL

Sean Jones, Georgia, 6-1, 216 —
Fourth-year junior…A two-year starter who had 212 tackles, nine tackles for a loss and seven interceptions…Good size and attacks the run…Hits the running lane in a hurry…Excellent turn and run in deep pass coverage situations…Doesn't make many mental mistakes in recognition…Very durable…Doesn't wrap up his tackles like coaches would like…Has a non-stop motor, but sometimes his own aggression takes him out of plays…Did 16 reps at the Combine with a 4.55 40, a 36-1/2 inch vertical jump and a 10-2 broad jump.

PROJECTION: Might have been a mid- to late-first round pick if he had gone back for another year of school, but has some excellent attributes that will likely see him drafted in the top half of the second round.

Bob Sanders, Iowa, 5-8, 204 — Fourth-year senior…Three-year starter who had 296 tackles, 12-1/2 tackles for a loss, seven interceptions, 33 passes broken up and 11 forced fumbles in that span…Hard-nosed player who loves to lay the big hit on someone…Explosive speed and can cover RBs, TEs and slot receivers…Excellent football instincts…Good burst on blitzes…Is among the fastest players in the draft, his Combine 40-yard dash time of 4.34 was best among safeties and one of the fastest times recorded at the Combine...Height — or lack of it — is his biggest downfall since he's two inches shorter than every other safety likely to be drafted…Had a foot injury that slowed him down much of 2003 and flared up at the Senior Bowl…Did 15 reps at the Combine with a 41-1/2 inch vertical jump (best among all safeties) and a second-best 10-8 broad jump.

PROJECTION: His height and injury history will scare teams off in the first 50 picks, but his phenomenal workout numbers could see him slide into the end of the second round.

Jason Shivers, Arizona State, 6-1, 201 — Fourth-year senior who became a starter midway through his freshman season…In three full years as a starter, he had 314 tackles, 4-1/2 tackles for a loss, seven interceptions and five forced fumbles…Decent size and can get bigger…At his best defending the run, where he is a lift-and-drive tackler…Has the speed to cover backs on passing downs…Is good in several areas but not great in any…Bites on fakes in the passing game too often…Is better suited for zone coverage than trying to cover man-to-man with any regularity…Did 19 reps with 225 pounds at the Combine, along with a 4.53 40, a 36-inch vertical jump and a 10-8 broad jump that tied for second-best among safeties.

PROJECTION: Shivers plays with a lot of intensity and never gives up on plays, but because of some of his limitations, he won't get serious consideration until the late-second or early third round.

Stuart Schweigert, Purdue, 6-2, 217 — Fourth-year senior who became a starter in his fourth college game…In four years, he had 360 tackles, 18 pass breakups and 15 interceptions…Has a wealth of experience and football savvy…Very good range in pass coverage…Doesn't make many mistakes in play recognition and isn't often fooled by playfakes…Has long arms…A playmaker…Doesn't have great upper or lower body strength…Has had a pair of alcohol-related arrests, which will sour some teams…Misses too many tackles…Had a great Combine workout, doing 18 reps with a 4.44 40, 38-inch vertical jump and a position-best 28 Wonderlic score.

PROJECTION: He has the experience to step in immediately and contribute, but until he can show he can get more physical, he likely won't be a starter — which should keep him on the board until the third round — but some teams may have him as a second-round talent because of his Combine performance.

Etric Pruitt, Southern Mississippi, 6-0, 197 — Fifth-year senior…Three-year starter who had 353 tackles, 29 pass breakups and 11 interceptions…Very good motor and contributes in many ways…Can chase from sideline to sideline in run support…Hard hitter who brings the wood on every play…Very good closing speed…Doesn't have good lower body strength…Undersized…Isn't as productive in pass coverage as he is vs. the run…Doesn't have good speed, his 4.61 40 at the Combine was one of the worst times posted…Set the bar high for the position at the Combine with a 41-inch vertical jump, did 15 reps with 225 pounds and had a Wonderlic score of 22.

PROJECTION: He has the chance to be a starting free safety, but needs to add 15-20 pounds. To do that, he may lose some speed, which is already a concern, so he should drop late into Day One.

Will Allen, Ohio State, 6-1, 202 — Fourth-year senior…Didn't become a full-time starter until last year when he had 83 tackles and two interceptions…Has solid speed…Does a good job of reading the QB and instinctively getting in position…Strong against the run…Good leaping ability…A hard tackler who makes the big hits on backs and lead blockers…Doesn't have great upper body strength…Is viewed as too slow and inexperienced by some…Has to add some muscle and some weight to be effective in the NFL…Didn't lift at the Combine but had a 4.57 40, a 36-inch vertical jump and a disappointing Wonderlic score of 13 — the second lowest among safety prospects.

PROJECTION: Has the skills to be a steal at the end of the third round, but his lack of tangible game experience will have some teams waiting to see if he's still available at the start of Day Two.


DAY TWO PROSPECTS

Madieu Williams, Maryland, 6-0, 193 —
Fifth-year senior who spent two years at Towson University before transferring to play for the Terps…Two-year starter who had 168 tackles, 12 passes broken up and seven interceptions…Has played corner and could project as a nickel back in the right situation…Has good speed and can cover from sideline to sideline…Hard worker and team leader…Drills ball carriers and receivers with Ronnie Lott-type heavy hits…Good upper body strength…Doesn't have any of the top intangibles, but gets by on being a good athlete…Very weak lower body strength …Did 18 reps with 225 pounds at the Combine with a 4.46 40, a 39-inch vertical jump (third-best among safeties), and a position-best 10-10 broad jump…He could be a Day One sleeper because of his measurables, but his downside is substantial and will likely be more pronounced in the NFL, which should drop him into the fourth round.

Brandon Everage, Oklahoma, 6-0, 194 — Fifth-year senior who came to OU as a quarterback…Three-year starter who had 230 tackles, 18 passes broken up and eight interceptions…Very good vs. the run and is known for knockout hits…Can cover a lot of ground in the passing game…Adjusts well to a ball in the air and makes big plays…Didn't lift at the Combine because of surgery on his left shoulder…Has some off-field baggage with both alcohol and marijuana-related arrests…Takes himself out of too many plays with his aggression…His best year was as a junior, not last year…He's got a bad-news trifecta — shoulder problem, off-field issues and a sub-par senior season, which could drop him as far as the fifth round.

Arnold Parker, Utah, 6-2, 213 — Fifth-year senior and three-year starter who had 158 tackles, 11-1/2 tackles for a loss, 12 passes broken up and one interception…Played safety two years and started at cornerback as a junior…Very good size/speed combination…Dominated the weightlifting at the Combine — his 28 reps with 225 pounds was double many totals and seven more than the next-highest safety…Strong in run support and can line up as a nickel corner and jam the receiver…Extremely inconsistent and can look great one week and mediocre the next…Viewed as a 'tweener who hasn't had the time to master either position…Doesn't have good run/pass recognition…Aside from his monster number of reps at the Combine, he ran a 4.45 40 with a 35-1/2 inch vertical jump and 10-0 broad jump…A better athlete than a football player, his gaffes and mental lapses may drop him all the way to final round or two.

Glenn Earl, Notre Dame, 6-1, 222 — Fourth-year senior and two-year starter…In his only full season as a starter, he had 81 tackles for passes broken up and two picks…His 2003 season ended six games in when he tore his left ACL and had surgery…Very good size and strength, his 20 reps at the Combine was among the most of any safety…Hard-nosed player who gives his all every game…Big hitter in run support…Speed is a post-injury issue — he ran a 4.65 40 before the injury…Only had one-and-a-half seasons as a college starter…If not for the injury, Earl would have gone in the third round. As it stands, he may stay on the board until the final two or three rounds.

Guss Scott, Florida, 5-10, 204 — Fourth-year senior and two-year starter who had 193 tackles, 20 pass breakups and four interceptions in the last two years…Extremely strong upper body strength…Monster hitter who lays backs out like former Viking Robert Griffith did…Bench presses 450 pounds…Has a mean streak…Suffered a concussion at the Senior Bowl and missed out on his chance to shine…Didn't play as well in 2003 as he did in 2002…Undersized…Makes too many mistakes and misses too many easy tackles…His positives are good, but his negatives carry just as much weight, so he could easily fall into the final rounds.



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