POSITION OVERVIEW: Safety has never been a position that gets a lot of first-round attention. In the last four years, only three safeties have gone in the first round and two of those came last year.
This year, however, a safety is making as much noise as anyone, as Oklahoma's Roy Williams is a player that is getting so much hype that some scouts see him going at No. 3 to Detroit, others have him as a lock at No. 6 to Dallas and others feel if he makes it past Dallas, teams will line up to offer the moon to the Vikes to move into their No. 7 slot to get him — i.e. Oakland.
While the depth of the position isn't the greatest, Ed Reed of Miami looks to be another Hurricane to go in the first round, and those who know the situation say he's a lock to go to the Steelers if he's still on the board at that point. The quality drops off quickly, but after Derrick Gibson and Adam Archuleta made the safety position popular again last year, Williams and Reed will do it for the 2002 season.
THE TOP OF THE HEAP
Roy Williams, Oklahoma, 6-0, 219 — Fourth-year junior who began starting midway through his redshirt freshman season...Two-time All-Big 12 and unanimous All-American choice last year...Big 12 Player of the Year in 2001, as well as winner of the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the best defensive back, and Bronco Nagurski Award, given the best defensive player, last season...Finished seventh in the Heisman voting and got the most votes of any non-QB...In three seasons, he had 275 tackles, 25 passes broken up, 21 tackles for a loss and nine interceptions...Incredible athlete who has Pro Bowl written all over him...Great run-stuffer who is viewed as on a peer level of Robert Griffith at this point in his career...Played a modified linebacker at Oklahoma...Can cover receivers, blitz or come up in run support...Played special teams and excelled...His only drawback is that he wasn't asked to play a pure safety role to be a coverage defensive quarterback...Ran a 4.52 40-yard dash at the Combine, did just 13 repetitions with 225 pounds and had a 30-1/2 inch vertical jump. PROJECTION: Much like Randy Moss when he came out in 1998, media types will dog every team that didn't take him. If he's available when the Vikes pick at No. 7, they may have no choice but to take him, but, if he makes it past Dallas, it might mean that Jerry Jones is dead.
THE BEST OF THE REST
Edward Reed, Miami, 5-11, 204 — Fifth-year senior who was a four-year starter, amazing at a school like Miami that is rarely at a loss for top athletes...In his four seasons, he had 267 tackles, 43 passes broken up and 21 interceptions — including a whopping 17 in the last two years...Viewed as the team leader in a secondary that includes Phillip Buchanon and Mike Rumph, who some scouts see as two first-round corners...Played both free safety and strong safety — starting at FS as a freshman and senior and SS as a sophomore and junior...A guy who led by example and was viewed by his coaches as an intimidator and the hardest worker on the team...Quick to react and make picks — 17 picks in two years speaks volumes...Durable and willing to play through injuries without making excuses...A little smaller than the prototype safety in the NFL...Didn't work out at the Combine, which may hurt his standing a little. PROJECTION: If not for Williams, he'd be the first safety off the board and, if he's still there late in the first round, don't be shocked to see a team give up multiple picks to move into the first round to grab him.
Lamont Thompson, Washington State, 6-1, 219 — Fifth-year senior who redshirted in 2000 with a neck injury and spent two years playing hurt...All-Pac 10 as a senior and got a lot of All-America notice...As a senior, really turned thing up, posting 83 tackles and eight picks...Has a body made of granite and hits like a linebacker...Has good speed for a man his size...Viewed as one of the most underrated players in the draft...Can play either strong or free safety...Finished his college career with 24 interceptions, the most of any top-rated safety in the draft...Neck injury a big concern for some teams that worry about a potential recurrence...Ran a 4.52 40 at the Combine, while doing 13 reps and posting a 33-1/2 inch vertical jump.
Jon McGraw, Kansas State, 6-3, 206 — Fifth-year senior who came to K-State as a walk-on...Two-year starter who was a two-time All-Big 12 and got some All-American honors in both of the last two seasons...In the last two years, he had 152 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, 14 passes broken up and seven interceptions...Extremely tall in comparison to most of the other safeties in this year's draft...Incredible worker, he is a big hitter who makes almost every tackle he has a chance at...Extremely intelligent and a student of the game who studies game film religiously...Can play both free or strong safety...Doesn't have great speed to make the classic safety picks in the NFL...Durability is a question mark...Ran an impressive 4.47 40, did 13 reps and had a very strong 39-1/2 inch vertical jump at the Combine. PROJECTION: If you want a lunch pail guy who will give you everything he has, McGraw is your guy. That may be enough to get him tabbed in the second round. The Vikings would love to see him on the board with their pick in the third round if they haven't taken a Griffith replacement yet.
Clevan "Tank" Williams, Stanford, 6-2, 224 — Fourth-year senior who was bypassed by a lot of the power schools near his home in Mississippi because of injuries he sustained as a high school senior, especially a back injury...Became a starter as a sophomore, but suffered a foot injury at midseason...Two-year starter who was All-Pac 10 twice and an All-American last year...Over the last two years, he had 134 tackles, 13 passes broken up and eight interceptions...Great size for a safety and almost no body fat...Played more of a roving linebacker than a safety with the Cardinal...Has good cover skills...Great tackler...Never played a true safety position...A guy who has all the tools to be a great player, but lacks consistency...Ran a 4.47 40, did 16 reps and had a 38-1/2 inch vertical jump at the Combine. PROJECTION: If you went strictly on numbers, he would be a sure second-round pick. As it stands, he'll probably go in the third round, but some teams won't even consider him until the fourth round.
OTHERS TO WATCH
Michael Lewis, Colorado, 6-1, 210
Brian Williams, North Carolina State, 6-0, 207
Kevin Curtis, Texas Tech, 6-1, 211
Ramon Walker, Pittsburgh, 5-11, 191
Chris Hope, Florida State, 6-0, 208
Melvin Mitchell, Western Kentucky, 6-1, 215
Dante Wesley, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 6-1, 210
Marques Anderson, UCLA, 5-11, 210
VU Draft Profiles: Safety
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