NFL DRAFT 2013: Safety in Numbers as the Post-Reed Era Begins

NFL Draft NFL DRAFT 2013: Safety in Numbers as the Post-Reed Era Begins

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With the losses of Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard, safety could have been considered the greatest position of need for the Ravens. After the addition of Michael Huff, the free safety spot seems to at least be taken care of. While I think the Ravens will look for James Ihedigbo to start the season at strong safety, there is still a need at the position. This year’s class of safeties is actually pretty deep so don’t be surprised to see the Ravens take more than one at this position. If a drafted safety doesn’t crack the starting lineup, you can expect that they’ll make their living playing special teams in Baltimore. Let’s take a look at some of the safety prospects the Ravens may have a chance to select on draft weekend.

1st Round

Jonathan Cyprien – Florida International

Some believe that even though Cyprien will probably not be the first safety selected in this year’s draft, he could wind up being the best safety from this class. Aggressive and physical, Cyprien’s stock began to soar after a great Senior Bowl week. Cyprien possesses ideal size and average speed, but I love that he seems to enjoy contact. He has excellent ball skills but really shows up in run defense. Could be a day one starter at strong safety.

Matt Elam – Florida

Very versatile and explosive player at Florida, Elam’s physical abilities are outstanding. He’s a bit undersized but doesn’t play down to his height. He possesses above average ball skills and loves physical contact. Excellent tackler and plays physical, aggressive football. Elam excelled on special teams and was a team captain for the Gators during the 2012 season. Elam has also shown a serious playmaking ability at times throughout his career. His dynamic, explosive play matched with his versatility could make him a great match for the Ravens. Would almost undoubtedly start immediately at strong safety.

2nd Round

DJ Swearinger – South Carolina

Plays the game with reckless abandon and loves to hit. However, that may get him into trouble at the next level. Swearinger played both safety and corner at South Carolina but he appears a bit stiff when flipping his hips. His versatility has many projecting him to play free safety but his physicality may be better suited for an in-the-box, strong safety. Swearinger will likely go in the early part of the 2nd round, so the Ravens would have to make a move to grab him.

Shamarko Thomas – Syracuse

Another undersized safety that plays bigger than he measures in. Thomas is very physical and excels in the run game, making most of his plays in the box. Led Syracuse in tackles as a senior and given First Team All-Big East honors. Thomas is also one of the fastest safeties in the draft and combined with his physical play, he could be a monster of a player at the next level. Thomas is another player that will likely go in the early-mid parts of the 2nd round, so Baltimore would likely need to make a move to pick him.

JJ Wilcox – Georgia Southern

Wilcox has only one season of experience as a safety, making the transition from the offensive side of the ball. Though his experience is limited, he has ideal size and he shows great potential. Wilcox had a great week at the Senior Bowl and caught the attention of scouts from throughout the league. Given proper coaching and development, Wilcox could turn out to be one of the better safety prospects in the entire draft.

3rd Round

Shawn Williams – Georgia

Williams may not be the first safety from Georgia that comes to mind but in my eyes, he’s a much more consistent player. Williams is a very team oriented player and actually spent some time at inside linebacker for Georgia. He’s thickly built and doesn’t’ have great speed, but he’s a sure tackler that excels playing in the box. Williams has also been a special teams standout at Georgia and most recently, blocked a punt against Nebraska during the Capital One Bowl. If the Ravens are looking for a strong tackler than loves to play in the box, Williams could be that guy.

Phillip Thomas – Fresno State

Thomas may be the most versatile safety in this draft class and if the Ravens have the opportunity to grab him in the 3rd round, it could be a steal. In fact, if it wasn’t for a broken leg that kept Thomas out of the 2011 season, he could have been a much more highly touted draft prospect. Thomas is excellent in coverage and while his straight-line speed may not be ideal, he makes up for it with tremendous ball skills and leaping ability. Thomas has been incredibly productive over his career and once he gets the ball in his hands, he has a nose for the end zone. In 2012, Thomas returned three of his eight interceptions for touchdowns. Thomas is also a sure, physical tackler. His versatility and playmaking abilities could make it hard for the Ravens to pass him up in the 3rd round.

Mid-Rounds

Earl Wolff – North Carolina State

A very experienced safety that produced at a high level, Wolff could be a nice pickup in the mid rounds of the draft. He’s not a flashy defender but he’s very reliable. In fact, he led NC State in tackles as a senior with 136, racking up 19 tackles in one game against Clemson. Wolff has an excellent combination of height/weight and is known for being a hard hitter. Regardless of if he made the starting lineup, Wolff is an excellent special teams and rotational candidate for the Ravens.

Duke Williams – Nevada

Excellent combination of size and speed and has several years of starting experience at Nevada. Williams is a good combination of coverage and run-stopping ability. Appears to play out of control at times and will leave some plays on the field. However, he could develop into a nice safety prospect with proper coaching and of course, would be a great special teams fit.

Bacarri Rambo – Georgia

Rambo (aside from having an awesome name) is a player that you either love, or wouldn’t want to pick until the later rounds. He’s shown that he’s quite the ball-hawking, center fielder by racking up 16 career interceptions in the SEC, but he’s a very sloppy tackler. Rambo often goes for the big hit and will often bounce off ball carriers due to failing to wrap his arms. He has great speed for the position and a nose for the football, but isn’t the complete player a team may be looking for. Rambo has also had some off-field issues, failing two drug tests at Georgia, forcing him to miss the first four games of 2012. It’s unsure if the Ravens would be willing to take a chance on Rambo, but if he’s available at the right spot, he could be too good for Baltimore to pass up.

Late-Rounds/UDFA

Robert Lester – Alabama

I tend to watch pretty much every Alabama football game, especially since they always wind up having so many NFL prospects. Lester was a player that excited me years ago but basically disappeared as an upperclassman. He certainly has the size you’d like from a safety, but his speed is limited. Lester does a nice job once the ball is in the air, but doesn’t appear athletic enough to run slot receivers. Isn’t a “hit and wrap” tackler. Lester is a player that a team will take due to his experience and work ethic, but his career may be as a rotational safety or special teamer if he doesn’t further develop.

Cooper Taylor – Richmond

Taylor originally started at Georgia Tech but after undergoing a procedure to correct a heart-related illness, he transferred to Richmond. Taylor is the son of former Baltimore Colt Jim Bob Taylor. Taylor produced at Richmond and showed that he’s a physical, aggressive player. He doesn’t possess ideal speed but he makes up for it with a high football IQ. Had a nice week at the East/West Shrine game. May be a bit of an overachiever but if he clears medical tests by NFL teams, he could be a nice addition to the roster. However, the medical issue may make certain NFL teams remove him from their board.

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