Top Five 2016 NFL Draft Prospects- Safety
These guys are he last line of defense and will be required to both play up at the line and cover receivers down field. Today I rank the top five safety prospects for the upcoming NFL Draft.
1. Jeremy Cash, Duke
Bio: After spending his first year at Ohio State, Jeremy Cash transferred to Duke due to a change in coaching staff. Over the last three seasons, he amassed over 100 tackles each year and was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2015.
Strengths: Very big and very physical. Focused every time he steps inside the box. Eye popping impact tackle production with 33 of his 101 tackles in 2015 coming for gains of two yards or less. Finished with 326 tackles and seven forced fumbles over last three years. Long arms and big hands for the position. Looks like a small linebacker in the box. Comes diving off the edge to upend running backs before they hit the hole. Plays with big closing burst when he sees the ball carrier. Runs through targets with force and can separate receivers from the catch. Brings the fight to fullbacks and move tight ends who try to come at him. Dominant run supporter when he's in attack mode.
Weaknesses: Will struggle in space if asked to match up in man coverage. Plays with tight, stiff hips that limit sudden movements and change of direction. Can't flip hips and accelerate without struggling. Slow to drop into zone coverage with proper depth from line of scrimmage. Allows receivers to consistently uncover at the top of their routes. Will have to be protected in coverage. Scheme limited. Had surgery this season for a broken wrist and will need to pass medical tests before going through the draft process.
Projected Round: 2
Possible landing spot: Carolina Panthers
2. Vonn Bell, Ohio State
Bio: Over the last two seasons, Vonn Bell has been a key starter on Ohio State's defense. As a redshirt sophomore, he led the Buckeyes with 11 passes defended with two interceptions and two defensive touchdowns.
Strengths: Good sized athlete to match up well with receivers. Coordinated with smooth lower body quickness and hip action to transition with little wasted movement. Has the burst and pursuit speed to close well. Not distracted by eye candy in the backfield, seeing things quickly with the reactive movements to plant, gather, and go. Keeps his weight on the balls of his feet in coverage to stay within arm's reach of the receiver. Reliable ball skills and has the timing at the catch point and won't cheat his team if he can make a play on the ball. Not a power player, but plays with the toughness to take on blocks and attack as a run defender. Leads with his head and shoulders as a striker and almost always gets his man on the ground. Productive as a starter with 22 passes defended and nine interceptions over 27 starts. Has the hips and footwork to shadow receivers.
Weaknesses: Not an intimidating physical presence. Needs to improve his technique as a run defender with more ankle-biting tackles than you'd like to see on film. Inconsistent breaking down in space with a bad habit of waiting on the ballcarrier to come to him and playing on his heels, causing him to be run over at the contact point. Anticipates well on some snaps, but then late to recognize the play design on others. Can get turned around in coverage and struggles to locate or make plays on the ball once his back is turned to the line of scrimmage. Not a playmaker after the interception, averaging 5.4 yards per return. Left knee sprain kept him out of 2014 spring practice, which required surgery to repair his MCL.
Projected Round: 2
Possible landing spot: Minnesota Vikings
3. Darian Thompson, Boise State
Bio: Over the last two years, Darian Thompson has proven to be both a ball hawk and a physical presence for the Boise State defense. In that time, he has tied for the most interceptions in the country with 19.
Strengths: Tall, angular build for the position. Impressive interception numbers, becoming the all-time leader in Boise State history this season. Soft hands and can make difficult, diving interceptions. Willing to take a chance to undercut throws and will run through receivers catch point to disrupt. Ready hitter with desired physical demeanor to play around line of scrimmage. Willing to sacrifice his body against pulling linemen in order to cave in the edge. Able to bob and weave around traffic and consistently choose the correct lane to find running backs. Saw tackle for loss numbers increase each year and will make his own luck on other side of the line.
Weaknesses: Instincts and awareness in coverage will scare coaches when they study the tape. Allowed receivers to get way behind him multiple times against BYU. Undisciplined. Seems to lose track of targets around him and can be baited to vacate his deep responsibilities by crossing routes in front of him. Allowed 10 touchdowns over last three years. Needs to play with more technique and less improvisation. Hip tightness hinders ability to open quickly and run with necessary speed to close separation. Plays tall in space and quick lateral movement and basic change of direction can be a challenge for him. Needs to slow down and gather himself when charging downhill to avoid missed tackles.
Projected Round: 2
Possible landing spot: Cincinnati Bengals
4. DeAndre Houston-Carson, William & Mary
Bio: After spending three years at cornerback, DeAndre Houston-Carson moved to free safety. The moved paid off as he was named an All-American after recording 109 tackles with four interceptions and a 94 yard touchdown.
Strengths: Team leader. Combines a nose for the ball and a hot motor to fill up stat sheet. Slippery on his way to the ball with ability to weave through traffic and slip blocks. Plays with plus balance and is able to withstand contact from blocker and stay in the play. Charged up tackler with some explosion behind his pads with high end tackle production. Former cornerback with a background in man coverage. Has twitch and acceleration to match slot receivers out of their breaks. Plays with outstanding awareness of man and ball in zone coverage. Special teams gunner and overall ace with multiple coverage tackles. Gets out of his stance in a flash and has unique talent for blocking kicks with nine during his time at William & Mary.
Weaknesses: Recovery speed and drive from the hash towards the deep sideline is just average. Pad level can get too high robbing him of tackle strength against running backs. Gets himself in trouble with some of his angles to the ball. Will take direct angles in his chase leaving little margin for error. Former cornerback still learning proper leverage as a run supporter at safety. Must learn to balance natural aggressiveness with necessary caution. Thin frame may not be able to add much more weight.
Projected Round: 2-3
Possible landing spot: Kansas City Chiefs
5. Miles Killebrew, Southern Utah
Bio: Over the last four years, Miles Killebrew has been a productive player in the Big Sky conference. In the last two years, he put up triple digit tackle seasons and was no slouch in pass coverage.
Strengths: Tightly bundled muscle hammer with a compact frame and the thighs of a track sprinter. World class form tackler with bad intentions behind his strikes. Patient and willing to wait until he's in proper range before exploding with everything he has into his victim. Confident around the line of scrimmage and uses aggressive hands to keep himself clean. Will not flinch in the face of contact and has the frame to be considered as a hybrid linebacker on the pro level. Relied upon to line secondary up and get defense situated.
Weaknesses: Instincts are very average. Needs to see it first and then can be a step slow to respond. Doesn't anticipate run direction as well as he needs to. Lack of instincts hinders range in coverage. Has a tendency to eyeball quarterback and lose track of route development around him. Has a verified 4.43 time from the spring in the 40-yard dash, but play speed doesn't always match that. Could be limited to box duties.
Projected Round: 3-4
Possible landing spot: Atlanta Falcons