Draft 2001: Safeties Analysis



The safety position isn’t an immediate priority of the Vikings since they already have Robert Griffith, Orlando Thomas and Tyrone Carter, but there are a lot of interesting developmental prospects in this year’s draft that will intrigue the Vikings and several other teams. There may not be a safety taken in the first round, but there are several that could be impact players if developed right and many of them will be available in the third and fourth rounds and beyond. The Vikings likely won’t prioritize this position, but, if a player they really like is available, they could surprise some people by using a third- or fourth-round pick to address depth at the position.

DERRICK GIBSON, Florida State, 6-2, 218 —
Fourth-year senior and three-year starter...In three years as a starter, he had 190 tackles, and seven interceptions...Two-time All-ACC and an All-America last year...Viewed as the top college prospect in the state of Florida coming out of high school...Big hitter and has all the prototype qualities of an NFL safety...Incredible strength, he bench presses 425 pounds...Never missed a start in three years as a starter...Gets burned over the top too much...May have hurt his draft stock badly by not working out at the Combine, other than doing 17 reps with 225 pounds.
PROJECTION: No other defensive back in the draft has faced tougher college competition than Gibson and, if he would have participated more at the Combine (he wasn’t injured) he could have vaulted himself into the first round. As it stands now, he looks to be more of a very late first rounder or an early second rounder — which could be the difference between going to a team like Baltimore to a team like Cleveland.

ADAM ARCHULETA, Arizona State, 6-0, 210 — A fifth-year senior who began his career with the Sun Devils as a walk-on...Played linebacker at Arizona State, a combination outside linebacker and rover position...Is viewed as too small for a LB in the pros, but an ideal heavy hitter at safety...In three years, he missed only one start...Two-time All-Pac 10 and All-America in 2000...In three years as a starter, he had 305 tackles, 53 tackles for a loss and 13 sacks...The biggest concern will be the learning curve required to play a position in the NFL that he never played in college...One of the most intense players to come into the draft in years, he reminds many of the same upside of Bryan Urlacher last year...Played safety during the Senior Bowl and played it like a natural...An impact player who is always around the ball...Has been compared to former ASU linebackers Pat Tillman and Darren Woodson, who was drafted by Dallas as a safety nine years ago...Wowed scouts at the Combine by doing 31 reps with 225 pounds, but didn’t run or jump.
PROJECTION: ASU has a history of turning out good safeties who played linebacker and that could be enough to get a team to jump early in the second round.

ADRIAN WILSON, North Carolina State, 6-2, 212 — A true junior who came out a year early...A starting strong safety the last two years, he was a Second Team All-ACC pick last year...In two years as a fulltime starter, he had 213 tackles, and four picks...Likely to play strong safety in the NFL...Excellent leaper with hitting ability, the prototype of a safety for NFL coaches and scouts...Still a little raw in terms of instinctive play, but makes up for it with mammoth hits...Ran a 4.48 40 at the Combine, as well as doing 21 reps and a 39-1/2 inch vertical jump.
PROJECTION: A guy who really could have benefited — both financially and with experience — by staying in school one more year. Instead of being the top safety in the draft, he’ll be the third or fourth one to go off the board, likely in the second round.

HAKIM AKBAR, Washington, 6-1, 210 —
One of the youngest players in the draft, he won’t turn 21 until November...A third-year junior who was a two-year starter...In his two seasons, playing both strong and free safety, he had 166 tackles, and three interceptions...Comes from a school known for producing solid NFL safeties like Lawyer Milloy and Tony Parrish...Added 15 pounds in the last two years in preparation for the NFL...Very muscular frame and drives into players with a fierceness scouts love...Quick player who chases down plays...Gets beaten by double-moves too often and misses some key tackles...Isn’t an ideal closer for a safety, since he drops more potential interceptions than he catches and at times is slow to react...Did not work out at the Combine, although he was healthy.
PROJECTION: Another guy who may have picked the wrong year to leave college early, he didn’t help himself by blowing off the Combine workouts. He has the ability to be a late-first round pick, but, because of the reasons listed, he likely will be around until late in the second round.

GARY BAXTER, Baylor, 6-1, 205 —
A fourth-year senior who started the last three years, missing just one start...In last three years, he had 194 tackles (96 coming last year) and six interceptions...Played cornerback his sophomore and junior season before moving to safety for part of the 2000 season and the Senior Bowl...Likely doesn’t have the speed to be an NFL corner, so he is being viewed as a free safety by most teams...Big for a cornerback if a team keeps him there...Has long arms and good speed to break up passes...Doesn’t have the burst off the line needed to be a top NFL corner...Not experienced enough at free safety to step right in...Didn’t lift or jump at the Combine, but ran a 4.46 40-yard dash.
PROJECTION: He has the ideal size for a cornerback, but many teams don’t see him at that position in the NFL. He will likely be asked to play safety and, due to his lack of experience at the position, that may be enough to drop him into the third round.

INDREES BASHIR, Memphis, 6-2, 205 —
A fourth-year junior...Started nine games as a freshman and every game the last two years, despite playing much of his frosh season with a broken arm...Has played both strong safety and free safety...In three years, he had 187 tackles and three interceptions...Has the size and strength to play either safety position...Very aggressive, but not great at making mid-play adjustments...Has shown improvement each season, despite being tossed back and forth from FS to SS...Not as polished as many teams want, but has a lot of good qualities...Ran a 4.6 40 at the Combine, as well as doing 22 reps, but didn’t jump.
PROJECTION: He really looks the part, but the lack of big-name competition and not being specialized will likely drop him into the third round, but he could really be a diamond in the rough in the Class of 2001.

JAMES BOYD, Penn State, 5-11, 206 —
A fourth-year senior who was a high school All-America...Only started the last year and a half — a time when Penn State went from a national power to a laughing stock...In the last two years, he had 178 tackles and three interceptions...An All-Big 10 pick who led Penn State with 109 tackles last year — the most ever for a Nittany Lion d-back...Doesn’t have the ideal height for a safety, but he is a warrior who led his team during hard times last year...Likely to start his career as a special team and dime back, but has the ability to eventually move into a starting spot with the right team...Doesn’t have pure speed needed for most DB’s which will be something he’ll have to fix with anticipation and finesse...Didn’t jump or lift at the Combine, but ran an impressive 4.53 40 — better than his usual times.
PROJECTION: A guy who has gone through the joy of winning and the pain of losing with a big time program, he will be a good addition to any team, but may have to wait until the second day of the draft to get there.

ANTHONY HENRY, South Florida, 6-1, 202 —
Fifth-year senior who started at safety his first three years before moving to cornerback as a senior...In four years, he had 265 tackles and 10 interceptions...A versatile athlete who was also worked out at quarterback, wide receiver, punter and return man with SFU...An impressive track athlete who high-jumped 6-6 and triple jumped 41 feet, one inch...Bench presses 345 pounds — an impressive amount for a guy who was a cornerback most of his college career...Can play all defensive secondary positions...An interesting prospect, because he is quicker than most safeties and stronger than most corners...Is likely not instinctive enough to play corner at the NFL level, especially against a veteran receiver who knows how to bait young CBs...Ran a 4.55 40 at the Combine, did 15 reps and had an impressive 41-inch vertical jump.
PROJECTION: A guy many scouts see as a tease. He looks to have all the ability to be a great player, but just hasn’t shown it consistently enough on film and, when you play at South Florida, that’s likely all coaches and scouts have to go on. He could be a first-day player, but likely will slide late in the third round or early on Day Two of the draft.

Jarrod Cooper, Kansas State, 6-0, 221
Tony Dixon, Alabama, 6-1, 210
Marlon McCree, Kentucky, 5-11, 194
Cory Bird, Virginia Tech, 5-10, 218
Tony Driver, Notre Dame, 6-1, 215
Robert Carswell, Clemson, 5-11, 215
Leo Barnes, Southern Mississippi, 6-0, 195
Terrence Carroll, Oregon State, 6-0, 212
Curtis Fuller, Texas Christian, 5-10, 188

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