Positional Analysis: Safeties

The Vikings have their projected safety starters in Corey Chavous and Darren Sharper, but that might not stop them from selecting a top safety as soon as their 18th pick. Even if they don't get one of the top two safeties in the draft, there is decent depth throughout the first day at least. We break down the assets and liabilities of the top 10 safeties.

Vikings' Safeties — Corey Chavous, Darren Sharper, Willie Offord, Ken Irvin.

Vikings' Needs — This would seem to be a natural position for the Vikings to select from at some point in the draft. For 2005, they would appear to be set with Corey Chavous and Darren Sharper, but if a potential starter fell to them at the 18th or 49th pick, they might take a chance and put some heat on Chavous.

Class of 2005 — In a year when the cornerback is going to be king, the safety position could be one that slips through the cracks. This will create the potential for bargains in the second, third and fourth rounds, as safeties are forced to take a back seat to the positions that will have player runs early, namely cornerback, wide receiver and defensive end. The result could be some players taken later than they had intended, but several with a chance to make an immediate impact in the NFL.


Thomas Davis, Georgia, 6-1, 227 — Fourth-year junior … Two-year full-time starter who had 219 tackles, six pass breakups and two interceptions … Two-time All-SEC and made some All-American teams in 2004 … Like former Viking Randy Moss and the Eagle Jevon Kearse, his nickname is "The Freak" … Said he declared early to better support his two-year-old son … Very big for a safety and some believe he has the strength and hitting power to play situational linebacker in the NFL … Began his college career at linebacker, but spent his final two years at free safety, which would seem to be his most natural NFL position … Good recognition skills and solid in zone coverages … Quick reactor to the run and hits like Robert Griffith in his prime … Makes plays to both sidelines and has good closing speed on deep passes … The best run defender in the class … Gets out of position too often and gets burned over the top … Not fluid in movement when turning to run … Gets schooled occasionally by slot receivers — his biggest technical liability … Ran a 4.43 40 at the Combine with 12 reps of 225 pounds (tied for the lowest total of the safety prospects that opted to lift), a 36-1/2 inch vertical jump, a 9-10 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 19.

PROJECTION: Davis' hard hitting belies his inability to do more bench press reps than he did. He is the biggest hitter in this year's class of safeties and will be an immediate starter for a team in need. His ability to play safety or outside LB is a huge plus that will add to his cache as a draft pick. He shouldn't make it out of the first round and could be gone by the Vikings' second pick in the first if the Saints or Bengals are interested.

Brodney Pool, Oklahoma, 6-1, 201 — Third-year junior … Two-year starter who had 160 tackles, 15 pass breakups and nine interceptions … Had seven picks as a sophomore and led the team in tackles (93) as a junior … First-Team All-Big 12 in 2004 … Excellent size and great wingspan … Very good recognition skills on plays in front of him and quick to react … Rarely bites on play action or pump fakes … Good decision maker who knows when to try for an interception or slap the ball away … Allowed too many touchdowns over the top of his zone … Has a slower 40 times than several of the other top prospects … Doesn't like to attack in the run game and tends to try to go around blockers rather than try to blow up the play heads up … Doesn't have great upper body strength and didn't lift at the Combine … Ran a 4.54 40 at the Combine with a 39-inch vertical jump, a 10-8 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 16.

PROJECTION: Pool has a chance to be the first safety off the board, but his slow 40 time and inconsistent play as a senior will have some teams wondering if they can pass on safety and get another one in the following round. That line of thinking could easily drop him into the second round.


Josh Bullocks, Nebraska, 6-0, 209 — Fourth-year junior … Two-year starter who had 112 tackles, 14 passes broken up and 12 interceptions … Set a Big 12 Conference record with 10 interceptions as a sophomore … Two-time All-Big 12 selection … Has decent size and good leaping ability to go up after the ball … Solid in run support … Makes good turns from his backpedal … Good tackler in the open field and rarely comes up empty … Isn't overly physical and doesn't have great upper body strength … Has trouble with quick receivers in the slot … Will struggle trying to jam tight ends … Doesn't have good makeup speed when he gets beat … Ran a 4.54 40 at the Combine, did 13 reps, a 37-1/2 inch vertical jump, a 9-10 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 19.

PROJECTION: The jury is out on Bullocks, who could have used another in school and potentially be a first-rounder in 2006. As it stands, he will likely be on the board late into the second round if not longer.

Sean Considine, Iowa, 6-0, 212 — Fifth-year senior who came to Iowa as a walk-on … Two-year starter who had 112 tackles, 10 passes broken up and five interceptions … Three-time Academic All-Big 10 … Good straight-line speed … Motor always on high … Smart … Good tackler who excels in run support … The kind of player a coach loves … Excellent special teams player who blocked five kicks in his college career … Is a wrap-up tackler and doesn't get overly physical … A little smaller frame than scouts look for … Stiff hips when forced to change directions on the run … Isn't a big enough hitter to line up with tight ends and jam … Ran a 4.5 40 at the Combine with 19 reps, a 37-inch vertical jump, a 9-9 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 33.

PROJECTION: A self-made player who has a lot of great intangibles but is never and may never be a pure athlete that can dominate. His willingness to work and dedication to the game will score a lot of points and there will teams upset when he goes off the board. But that may not be until late in the second or the third round — so they shouldn't have too much reason for complaining.

Vincent Fuller, Virginia Tech, 6-1, 187 — Fifth-year senior … Didn't become a starting free safety until his senior year … Was second team All-ACC in 2004 with 51 tackles, four pass breakups and three picks … Has long arms and excellent speed … Can play both corner and safety and different NFL teams with needs at both positions will consider him … Makes excellent reads and is rarely caught out of position … Makes big plays on a consistent basis … Doesn't have ideal strength and a borderline skinny frame … Will struggle at times in run support … Isn't over aggressive and doesn't lay the wood on every tackle, which results in too many misses … Will struggle with fast slot receivers in man coverage … Didn't work out at the Combine, but runs a 4.47 40 and had a score of 24 on the Wonderlic test.

PROJECTION: Will be viewed by some as a ‘tweener — too small and not physical enough to be an every-down free safety and without the cover skills to be a starting CB. He has the potential to grow into a productive player, but will be viewed by just about every team as a project with one full season of play under his belt. That alone could drop him out of the second round.

Oshiomogho Atogwe, Stanford, 5-11, 219 — Fifth-year senior … Three-year starter who had 237 tackles, 19 pass breakups and nine interceptions … Played strong safety as a sophomore and free safety his final two years … Two-time All-Pac 10 selection … His first two years at Stanford he was on the track team, competing in the 200 meters, long jump and triple jump … Good upper body strength and chiseled physique … Durable … Good in run support … Solid tackler in the open field who rarely misses … Makes quick decisions on route jumping and has good recognition skills … A little shorter than the prototype safety … A little stiff coming out of his breaks and will lose contain … Needs work on his coverage and will struggle in zone schemes … Sustained speed is a question … Ran a 4.52 40 at the Combine with 22 reps of 225 pounds, and a Wonderlic score of 30.

PROJECTION: Made a lot of big plays at Stanford and made a habit of causing turnovers. His lack of size makes him a bit of a gamble, but his intangibles should have him going off in the first day.


Ernest Shazor, Michigan, 6-3 1/2, 224 — Fourth-year junior … Two-year starter who had 141 tackles, six passes defensed and four interceptions in that span … Incredible measurables for a safety … Has decent speed in the short area … Physical when playing man coverage … Very solid in run support … Solid around the ball, being able to make quick decisions whether to go for an interception or knock the ball away … Doesn't have sustaining speed and gets beat deep … Is fluid when he is forced to turn and run or change directions … Doesn't have good makeup speed … Played in a system that helped hide his deficiencies … Ran a 4.7 40 at the Combine with 19 reps, a 30-inch vertical jump, a 10-1 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 16.

PROJECTION: Because of his size, Shazor has a chance to move past some of the players we project as better prospects — to the point he goes in the second round. But, unless he goes to a team that is willing to make accommodations for his weaknesses, he might be a reach before the third round.

Gerald Sensabaugh, North Carolina, 6-0 1/2, 211 — Fourth-year senior … Spent three years at Eastern Tennessee State before transferring in 2004 after ETSU dropped its football program … In his only year at UNC, he led the team in tackles with 70, along with five pass breakups and one interception … Named Defensive MVP by his teammates … An incredible physical specimen that has a lot of intangibles scouts fall in love with … Makes plays everywhere on the field and rarely lets up until he hears a whistle … Solid in run support and a willing tackler … Spent a lot of time on special teams … While he has good size, he doesn't have good bulk and gets eaten up by blockers too often … His footwork needs a lot of refining … Misses open-field tackles too much … Helped his stock considerably at the Combine, running a 4.44 40, with 17 reps of 225 pounds, a Combine-best 46-inch vertical jump, a 11-1 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 21.

PROJECTION: A raw talent whose stock is on the rise after a very solid Combine workout, there will be at least one team that fell in love with him and he shouldn't make it past the first day.

Donte Nicholson, Oklahoma, 6-1, 209 — Fourth-year senior who spent two years at Mt. San Antonio (Calif.) College … Two-year starter who made starts in all 27 games he played for the Sooners … In his two years at OU, he had 162 tackles, 10 passes broken up and three interceptions … First-team All-Big 12 as a senior … Very good size and upper-body strength … Very strong in run support … Hard tackler with a mean streak … Better in zone coverage than manning up … Good blitzer … Doesn't have good hand positioning and is often neutralized by blockers … Doesn't have good recognition skills and is often found out of position … Inconsistent from one game to the next … Hurt his stock at the East-West Shrine Game by looking pretty pedestrian … Ran a 4.55 40 at the Combine with 18 reps, a 34-inch vertical jump, a 10-3 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 15.

PROJECTION: Played a key role in the Sooners' success the last couple of years, but his downsides are big enough to put him on the cusp of falling into the second day of the draft.

Jerome Carter, Florida State, 6-0, 211 — Fourth-year senior who was Florida High School Player of the Year as a senior … Three-year starter who had 248 tackles, 10 passes broken up and three interceptions … No stranger to the knife — at the end of each of his college seasons, he had surgery (one on a torn right ACL as a freshman and three shoulder surgeries … Very muscular and an intimidator in the middle … Has a mean streak that shows when he tackles through people … Good in run support and works his way through blockers without getting knocked down … Tremendous upper body strength … Is sometimes a liability in pass coverage … Bites on play action too often … Misses too many tackles going for the jarring hit … Durability is a huge concern … Doesn't play with a lot of discipline … Made points at the Combine, running a 4.44 40 with 21 reps of 225 pounds, a 36-1/2 inch vertical jump, a 10-1 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 13.

PROJECTION: On the field, he can be an intimidating presence that makes big plays. But with his laundry list of injury and surgery-room frequent flier miles, it's hard to imagine a team taking a chance on him with a first-day pick.

Kerry Rhodes, Louisville (6-2 1/2, 208)
Marviel Underwood, San Diego State (5-10, 197)
Justin Beriault, Ball State (6-3, 204)
James Sanders, Fresno State (5-10 1/2, 205)
James Butler, Georgia Tech (6-1, 212)
Andre Maddox, North Carolina State (6-0, 206)

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