The evolution of the NFL passing game caused changes in the thinking of NFL General Manager’s when they considered drafting a safety. It use to be a strong safety was big in stature and didn’t cover as well but was terrific in run support. The free safety was a more slender build and stronger in coverage. The game has changed and both positions have blended into each other.
Now GM’s are looking for safeties to be interchangeable pieces capable of covering the slot, TE in the seam, and be active in run support. It’s tough being successful in the backend without having a centerfielder with the instincts to play the run. With the old guard of Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu looking to turn the position over to new blood, NFL GM’s have struggled to find these interchangeable parts in recent drafts.
The 2013 safety class is one that appears dominated by junior talent. The senior class of safeties bring some experienced players but lack that game changing prospect. Phillip Thomas and Kenny Vaccaro are the closest things to a sure bet out of this senior class. I’ve been intrigued by Thomas with his ability to cover and play in run support.
The junior class is intriguing. My personal favorite is an undersized guy that was a former cornerback in Lamarcus Joyner. Joyner is neck and neck with Florida’s Matt Elam. They are the class of this class in my evaluation.
Here’s a look at the 2013 NFL Draft safety rankings.
1. Phillip Thomas I Fresno State I 6’1″ I 215 I SS
Phillip Thomas is an intriguing prospect. He led the nation in interceptions with his nose of the ball and craftiness in the backend. While he’s not a vicious tackler he will make plays in the run game and in the open field. Thomas has been known to miss a tackle or two in the open field which is the biggest knock on him for me. That said, I could see Thomas being taken atop round two.
DRAFT PROJECTION: 2
2. Kenny Vaccaro I Texas I 6’1″ I 215 I FS
Vaccaro has the blend of coverage skills and run support instincts to draw the attention of scouts fairly early in the draft. I don’t see Vaccaro as a spectacular prospect worthy of a first round selection but he is solid enough to be considered early on day two.
DRAFT PROJECTION: 2
3. D.J. Swearinger I South Carolina I 5’11” I 212 I FS
Swearinger plays the nickel corner spot and safety in South Carolina’s defense. Swearinger’s hybrid role will pay dividends during the evaluation period as he’s shown the versatility to be a top coverage safety at the next level.
DRAFT PROJECTION: 2-3
4. Shawn Williams I Georgia I 6’1″ I 218 I SS
Williams has had a sound senior season, his first as a FT starter. He has near linebacker size and runs pretty well. There were some moments this season that Williams dies on contact and doesn’t finish tackles or plays. He plays more of the force player with Rambo playing the back end. It will be interesting to see Williams ability to cover during the pre-draft process. He has top 100 talent and should find his way into the third round and possibly second.
DRAFT PROJECTION: 3
5. Bacarri Rambo I Georgia I 6’0 I 210 I FS
Rambo should be near the top of this list with his on the field play but off the field concerns will cause him to drop. Rambo has been forced to miss game over his career at Georgia due to drug related issues which will be a hot topic with this prospect. On the field it’s hard not to notice Rambo. He flies all over the field in coverage and in run support. He’s a versatile guy that can be interchangeable in any scheme.
DRAFT PROJECTION: 3
6. TJ McDonald I USC I 6’2″ I 205 I FS I DRAFT PROJECTION: 2-3
7. Daimion Stafford I Nebraska I 6’1″ I 205 I FS I DRAFT PROJECTION: 4-5
8. Robert Lester I Alabama I 6’2″ I 212 I SS I DRAFT PROJECTION: 3
9. Keelan Johnson I Arizona State I 6’0″ I 202 I FS I DRAFT PROJECTION: 6-7
10. Duke Williams I Nevada I 6’1″ I 200 I SS I DRAFT PROJECTION: 4
11. Zeke Motta I Notre Dame I 6’2″ I 215 I SS I DRAFT PROJECTION: 4-5
12. J.J. Wilcox I Georgia Southern I 6’0″ I 215 I SS I DRAFT PROJECTION: 5-6
13. Rashard Hall I Clemson I 6’1 I 210 I FS I DRAFT PROJECTION: 4-5
14. John Boyett I Oregon I 5’10” I 205 I FS I DRAFT PROJECTION: 5
15. Jordan Kovacs I Michigan I 5’11” I 202 I SS I DRAFT PROJECTION: 6
1. Lamarcus Joyner I Florida State I 5’8 I 205 I SS
Joyner may not top many lists because of his size but he’s one of the most impactful safeties in the country. He plays above his size and may be one of the more physical safeties on this list. While guys like Matt Elam and Tony Jefferson will be taken ahead of Joyner, I believe he’s the best of the bunch.
2. Matt Elam I Florida I 5’10 I 202 I SS
Like Joyner, Elam doesn’t bring impressive size to the table but he isn’t afraid to stick his nose into anything. He’s a first round pick whenever he decides to declare and could make his way into the top end of round one.
3. Tony Jefferson I Oklahoma I 5’11” I 212 I FS
Jefferson possesses the coverage skills of a corner with the size of a safety. He needs to work on taking better angles to the ball and has a tendency to miss tackles in the open field but it’s his coverage skills that will get him drafted early.
4. Eric Reid I LSU I 6’2″ I 212 I FS
Reid was my 16th rated prospect heading into the season. After a superb sophomore season, I fully expected Reid to emerge into a top 10 prospect this season. He took steps backwards as he was extremely inconsistent in all facets of the game. The game is all their for Reid and his ceiling is out of this world but he needs to translate it to the field. Seems to be a theme with LSU defenders this season.
5. Isaiah Lewis I Michigan State I 5’10” I 205 I SS
6. Sean Parker I Washington I 5’10” I 195 I SS
7. Ahmad Dixon I Baylor I 6’0″ I 210 I SS
8. Hakeem Smith I Louisville I 6’1″ I 188 I FS
9. Craig Loston I LSU I 6’2″ I 208 I SS