Ranking The Safeties Available In The 2014 NFL Draft

Mark A. Cunningham

This is the second instalment of the series. This week we rank the safeties

Last week we placed the cornerbacks into tiers. This week we are going to look at the safeties, placing them into tiers. As you all know, safeties to me are like cornerbacks to Rex. Unfortunately we haven't made the safety position a priority for a long time now. We constantly plug the gap with one or two year deals for veterans and draft late round prospects in the hope they will develop. I like Allen, and rated him a lot higher than Josh Bush when we selected both. However at some point, I fell we'll need to address the issue.

According to several reports, the Jets are interested in Pryor. They have brought him in for a pre-draft visit. This could mean absolutely nothing. Or it could mean the Jets are open to addressing the position a little earlier than they usually would.

So lets dive straight in:

TIER ONE

Hasean "Ha-Ha" Clinton-Dix - Alabama (Projected, Top 15)

Calvin Pryor - Louisville (Projected: First Round)

Jimmie Ward - Northern Illinois (Projected: First Round)

My Take: In my opinion, the talent drop-off after these three is substantial. This is a top-heavy position in the 2014 NFL draft. I would be happy with all three of these players. Clinton-Dix is probably the most reliable, Pryor is the most physical and Jimmie has the most potential to be a play-maker out there. I really like Clinton-Dix's closing speed and fluidity. However the one issue I see with both Clinton-Dix and Pryor comes to being over-aggressive, and they will leave cut-back lanes. Both are good safeties though and I'd be happy to have either. If I got to choose the safety, I would select Jimmie Ward every single time. He's physical and competitive, he makes excellent breaks on the ball and he gets his hands in on most plays, breaking up passes and coming down with game-changing interceptions.


TIER TWO

Terrence Brooks - Florida State (Projected: Round 2)

Deone Bucannon - Washington State (Projected: Round 2)

My Take: Like I said above, the drop-off after the top three is quite drastic. I wouldn't take either Brooks or Bucannon in the second round but that is where they are being projected. Of the two, Brooks is by far more appealing. He's a converted corner who can sometimes take some poor angles to the football and really needs to wrap up the ball carrier if he hopes to be the last line of defense. However he does have good speed and an excellent closing burst, with good fluidity and change-of-direction skills, add in good range and he's a decent prospect. He has vast experience covering tight ends and slot receivers as he did that frequently with Florida State. I actually have Bucannon rated as a round 4 prospect but nobody agrees. He's still with a high back-pedal with little fluidity to his game. Doesn't show the awareness or tackling ability to be a reliable last line. He does hit big and will force fumbles and he looked much improved in 2013, can he continue to develop? still too much of a risk to think about any higher than the 3rd round in my opinion, but nearly everyone has him rated as a second round prospect.


TIER THREE

Ed Reynolds - Stanford (Projected: Round Four)

Dion Bailey - USC (Projected: Round Four)

Kenny Ladler - Vanderbilt (Projected: Round Four)

Craig Loston - LSU (Projected: Round Four)

Brock Vereen - Minnesota (Projected: Round Four)

My Take: If we are going to take a safety, I think he may come from this group. We have plenty of flexibility around the four round, so taking someone with upside at a  position of need is a logical option. I really like Bailey, he is a fluid athlete who is an excellent tackler and a player with good body control and speed. However he has only one year worth of experience starting at safety, as he started his USC career as an outside linebacker. Ed Reynolds is my favourite prospect of the group, he's a big physical defender who takes excellent angles to the football, with good fluidity, body control and acceleration. He would be my selection here if I were drafting. Loston is a physical defender who hits like a ton of bricks, but like most big hitters he is unreliable as the last line of defence. Ladler is a player with excellent awareness, but little fluidity. Vereen has an excellent football IQ, diagnosing plays before they happen, but he will need to seriously improve his tackling and closing speed to make an impact as a starter at the next level.


TIER FOUR

Tre Boston - North Carolina (Projected: Round 5)

Marqueston Huff - Wyoming (Projected: Round 5)

Ahmad Dixon - Baylor (Projected: Round 5)

Dezman Southward - Wisconsin (Projected: Round 5)

Vinnie Sunseri - Alabama (Projected Round 6)

Daniel Sorenson - BYU (Projected Round 6)

Jonathan Dowling - Western Kentucky (Projected: Round 6)

My Take: Will we take another safety around here, even though we are still trying to develop Allen and Bush who were later round prospects, if we see the value. All these guys are ranked here because they have some serious flaws in their games, however some can be worked out quickly. Southward is my pick here, fluidity and burst with a knack for bringing down the ball carrier.  He only started playing football his senior year of high school and coaches will need to get those hips looser, but he offers good special teams play immediately. Tre Boston is another guy I like here, a very physical defender who has excellent speed and acceleration, however he doesn't always take the best angles, which means he often arrives late. He has a ton of athleticism though, so I can see a lot of coaching staffs across the NFL wanting to see if they can mould this guy. As far as run defense goes, Ahmad Dixon is your guy. He is excellent up at the line, weaving his way through traffic, but his coverage skills leave a lot to be desired. I didn't see a great deal I liked about Huff, but apparently he killed it at the Senior Bowl, so I'm sure some team will take a look at him, he has good timed speed.


TIER FIVE

Christian Bryant - Ohio State (Projected: Round 7)

Lonnie Ballentine - Memphis (Projected: Round 7)

Nickoe Whitley - Mississippi State (Projected: Round 7)

Pierre Warren - Jacksonville State (Projected: Round 7)

Isaiah Lewis - Michigan State (Projected: Round 7)

Sean Parker - Washington (Projected: Round 7)

My Take: Now we really get down to the prospects, the guys who will probably need to work hard just to make the team, or even the practise squad. However you can find real gems down here. Whitley may not even get drafted but he is the pick of the bunch here for me. He is coming off knee surgery, however I saw him against Alabama and him chasing down T.J Yeldon for a touchdown saving tackle stuck out to me. He's also one of the most productive safeties in the FBS, as he was the active leader in career interceptions with 15. He has some discipline issues, but as far as taking a flyer on a player this late. Sign me up for Whitley, I'd be drafting him in the 7th round all day. Isaiah Lewis is a very good run defender who could offer immediate impact on specials. Sean Parker may be over-agressive and lacking the ideal size for the position, but he is another guy who leaves it all out on the field.


DW's Conclusion

Top Safety - Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois

Mid-Round Gem - Ed Reynolds, Stanford

Late-Round Sleeper - Nickoe Whitley, Mississippi State

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