Position Analysis: Safeties

Rahim Moore (Jeff Lewis/AP)

The Vikings may be in need of adding playmaking safeties, but there aren't a lot of top-end choices in this draft. We review the analysis, stats, measurables and projections for a position not likely to see a pick until Friday.

POSITION ANALYSIS – Safeties are the defensive equivalent to guards on offense Not only does a college safety hoping to make an NFL roster have to compete with cornerbacks that are strong but don't have ideal foot speed for roster spots, but they also have to contend with undersized linebackers – making the number of pure safeties drafted quite slim – just 16 in last year's draft This year's crop might not even produce that many There isn't a consensus top pick at the position and there may only be a few that get taken in the first two rounds This isn't a stellar cast, but with several teams in need of upgrading at the position, they will be dotted throughout the final six rounds, but none in the first

VIKINGS SAFETIES – Husain Abdullah, Eric Frampton (FA), Tyrell Johnson, Jamarca Sanford, Madieu Williams

VIKINGS NEED – It can be argued this is the worst unit on the entire team Williams is close to stealing money and is due $5 4 million in 2011 – a figure that almost certainly will have to be reduced Johnson has been a disappointment since he hit the starting lineup While Darren Sharper wasn't the same player he was during his heyday with the Packers, one thing that could be said about him was that he was a playmaker who could make the big play that turned games around In his time with the Vikings, his interceptions directly led to a half-dozen wins (not to mention what he did for the Saints in their Super Bowl year) The Vikings not only haven't been getting turnovers from their safeties, they haven't always been good tacklers – routinely showing up a half-second late or taking bad angles It is a source of frustration for the coaching staff and needs to be upgraded However, the Vikings aren't likely to address safety with either of their first two draft picks, which will likely make any safety added (through the draft anyway) another project type that won't provide the immediate improvement this lackluster cast needs

THE CREAM OF THE CROP

Rahim Moore, UCLA, 6-1, 195 –
Third-year junior…Started all 37 games of his college career, recording 186 tackles, 15 passes broken up, 14 interceptions, and three fumble recoveries…Has good speed and coverage range…Good hands and goes after passes like a receiver…Had a huge 2009 season in which he led the country with 10 interceptions…Is technically sound and typically in good position to break up passes…Good closing speed…A vocal, high-intensity leader in the secondary…Is undersized and doesn't have the kind of frame that adds bulk and muscle without losing speed…Limited experience covering slot receivers…Isn't an aggressive hitter in the safety tradition…Doesn't have good upper-body strength…Isn't a consistent wrap-up tackler…Will take bad angles and show up late on plays…Is willing in run support, but doesn't have the strength to make a huge difference…Ran a 4 58 40 at the Combine with just 11 reps (a position worst) of 225 pounds, with a 35-inch vertical jump and 11-7 broad jump
PROJECTION: Looks more like a cornerback than a safety, but finds the ball and makes plays He has good range and will be a quality NFL starter, but won't get considered until the second day of the draft

Ahmad Black, Florida, 5-9½, 208 – Fourth-year senior…Started all 39 games in his final three seasons, recording 244 tackles, 15 passes broken up, 13 interceptions, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries…Tied for the national lead in interceptions in 2008 with seven…Very strong in run support…Good read-and-react skills…A good hard-hitting wrap-up tackler…Makes a lot of plays in the box…Has the speed to take on tight ends and running backs in the passing game…Will get out of position on play fakes, pumps and can get looked off by QBs…If he takes a misstep, doesn't have ideal recovery speed…Is too short and will be a matchup problem with big tight ends down the seam…Doesn't have great upper-body strength to jam slot receivers…Wasn't asked to play in man coverage too often…Ran a brutal 4 70 40 at the Combine with 18 reps, a 35½-inch vertical jump and a 9-11 broad jump
PROJECTION: Undersized, but makes plays and has a receiver's mentality when the ball is in the air Doesn't have the ideal measurables, but the tape doesn't lie He will be a starter in the NFL, but likely won't come off the board until late in the second round or early in the third

Jaiquawn Jarrett, Temple, 6-0, 196 – Fourth-year senior…Started 37 of 49 career games with six starts each in his first two seasons…As a two-year full-time starter, he has 150 tackles, nine passes broken up, five interceptions, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries…Smart player with good instincts and read-react ability…Good closing speed on players in front of him…Is very strong in run support and consistently delivers big hits…Has good speed and change-of-direction skills…A strong wrap-up tackler who tries to drive the man with the ball into the ground…Doesn't have great strength or bulk…Is too easily contained when blockers get hold of him…Undersized…Doesn't have ideal range to the sidelines…Didn't play top competition…Has little experience in man coverage with slot receivers…Bites on deception too often and gets out of position…Ran a 4 62 40 at the Combine with 14 reps, a 30-inch vertical jump and a 9-5 broad jump
PROJECTION: Looked better on tape than a lot of prospects, but that has as much to do with his opposition than it does his skill level A talented, experienced player who will need a lot of refinement to make up for his physical limitations

THE NEXT LEVEL

DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson, 6-0¼, 213 –
Fifth-year senior who spent 2006 at Hargrave (Va ) Military Academy…Became a starter a month into his sophomore season and started 35 of 53 career games…For his career, he had 296 tackles, 20 passes broken up, 15 interceptions, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery…Led the ACC in interceptions in 2009 (eight) and was named team Defensive MVP…Well-built and a heavy hitter…Has experience in man coverage with slot receivers…A productive ball hawk who picked off 12 passes the last two years…Had good closing speed on the ball…Good field awareness…Played a linebacker/safety hybrid and is strong in run support…Doesn't take good angles on deep passes and will be a step late in arriving…Stops when the man with the ball is coming at him instead of driving into them in pass coverage…Character is an issue – had a horrible childhood and has had some run-ins with authority…Didn't lift at the Combine, but ran a 4 63 40 with a 35-inch vertical jump and a 9-8 broad jump
PROJECTION: Has limitations in his range, which will drop his stock But, he does a lot of things well and shouldn't last beyond the second day of the draft

Tyler Sash, Iowa, 6-1, 210 – Fourth-year junior…Started 37 of 38 career games, recording 217 tackles, 14 passes broken up, 13 interceptions and three forced fumbles…Throws his body around the field to make plays…Good hands with two seasons with five or more picks…Durable…A big hitter who seeks out contact…A good wrap-up tackler…Has good range to the sidelines…An effective blitzer…A vocal team leader…Doesn't have great burst and, if he takes a misstep, needs time to recover…Gets tied up too easily by blockers…Inconsistent technique and production…Struggles going man up with slot receivers…Doesn't break down consistently in space and make the tackles he should…Ran a 4 62 40 at the Combine with 18 reps of 225 pounds, a 34½-inch vertical jump and a 10-1 broad jump
PROJECTION: A durable student of the game, Sash has the intangibles coaches love, but doesn't have the pure measurables that they look for He'll have a chance to eventually compete for a starting job, but looks like a special-teams contributor that will be around into Day 3 of the draft

Quinton Carter, Oklahoma, 6-0¾, 211 – Fifth-year season who was granted a redshirt season in 2007 after playing five games as a true freshman special teamer…Two-year starter who had 184 tackles, 11 passes broken up and eight interceptions…Has a history of nagging injuries, including a knee injury that required it to be scoped in 2008…Won the 2010 Wooden Citizens Cup, given annually to the athlete (regardless of sport) for displaying high character and making a difference in the lives of others…A strong, secure tackler…Closes quickly and hits with some force…Had four interceptions each of the last two years…Adjusts well to a ball in the air and breaks up plays…Spent a lot of time as an eighth man in the box in run support…Played both safety spots and is experienced in either…Doesn't have great instincts and can be a step slow to react…Struggles to turn and run with speedy tight ends down the seam or cover of deep routes…Doesn't break down well in the open field and will miss tackles…Is prone to undercutting his angle on deep passes and lets receivers get deep on corners…Bites on play fakes and misdirection too often…Ran a 4 57 40 at the Combine with an impressive 23 reps, a 34½-inch vertical jump and a 10-1 broad jump
PROJECTION: A big hitter in the run game, but his limitations and inconsistency as a centerfielder in the passing game will drop him into the later rounds

Jeron Johnson, Boise State, 5-11, 194 – Fifth-year senior…Became a starter midway through his freshman season and started 44 of 49 career games…Amassed 325 tackles, 25 passes broken up, eight interceptions, three forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries…A heavy hitter who plays with a mean streak…Excellent closing speed on plays in front of him…Good read-and-react instincts…Is a force at the point of attack…A physical player who is tough, experienced and durable…Does not have good field speed, slower than what his 40 time would indicate…Doesn't have sideline-to-sideline range in the deep passing game and will be late to arrive…Is smaller and thinner than most NFL safeties…Plays too aggressively and will put himself out of position too often…Didn't consistently play top competition…Strained a hamstring at the Combine and all he completed with the lifting, where he did an impressive 23 reps – one short of the position high
PROJECTION: A physical banger who is a late-round prospect that could find a roster spot, but his range is his biggest detriment and may require that he make a significant special-teams contribution to make an NFL roster

THE BEST OF THE REST

Joe Lefeged, Rutgers, 5-11¼, 208 –
Fourth-year senior…Three-year starter who had 200 tackles, 12 passes broken up, two interceptions, seven forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries in that span…Good read-and-react skills and doesn't get sucked in by play fakes and pumps…Physical when lining up against slot receivers at the line…Very good playing speed…A big hitter who throws his body all over the field…Drives through the man with the ball and is a wrap-up tackler…A wealth of special teams experience…Very inconsistent…Not a quick, reactive run stuffer in the box…Limited coverage duties…Doesn't look good in space as a tackler or cover man…Doesn't look for picks and only had two interceptions in his career…Ducks his head on contact and will miss at times…Ran a position-best 4 42 40 at the Combine with 18 reps of 225 pounds, a 36½-inch vertical jump and a 10-2 broad jump
PROJECTION: An experienced, durable safety who didn't play top competition His special teams experience will likely get him drafted higher than a couple of people we have rated ahead of him, but his lack of playmaking skills will likely make him a career backup

Shiloh Keo, Idaho, 5-11¼, 218 – Fifth-year senior who started four games in 2008 before being injured and granted a medical redshirt…Started 50 of 54 career games, making 358 tackles with 20 passes defensed, 11 interceptions, three forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries…Was named team MVP as a sophomore…Good bulk and upper-body strength…A heavy hitter who drives into the man with the ball and finishes with good wrap-up technique…Has sideline-to-sideline speed in the run game and makes plays…Very productive in terms of tackles…Eliminates blockers in front of him and doesn't try to finesse his way around them…Incredible wealth of experience…Doesn't have elite quickness or instincts and will get out of position…Can be fooled by quarterbacks and leave big openings…Doesn't have ideal coverage skills…Will miss too many tackles because he lunges and dives prior to contact…Doesn't have great fundamental technique…Ran a position-worst 4 74 40 at the Combine with a position-best 24 reps, a 32½-inch vertical jump and a 9-2 broad jump
PROJECTION: Something of a one-trick pony that is strong in run support and not nearly as much in pass coverage His experience is a bonus, but he will likely be forced into being a late-round special teamer that will fight for a long-term NFL career

Robert Sands, West Virginia, 6-4, 220 – Third-year junior…Became a starter early in his freshman season and started 31 of 39 career games…Had 151 tackles, eight passes defensed, six interceptions and two forced fumbles…Very tall and has good strength…A big hitter who is force when he gets a head of steam…Has the speed to cover passes to the deep sideline…Has good closing speed and some pop in his tackling…Can handle tight ends and slot receivers in short-area coverage…Very aggressive in run support…Raw and needs a lot of refinement…Doesn't break down to tackle in space because his body is wiry and thin-limbed…A long-strider who needs time to build up speed…Doesn't have good technique and tries to make plays athletically instead of through sound fundamentals…Doesn't have good change-of-direction skills…Ran a 4 53 40 at the Combine with a woeful 12 reps of 225 pounds, a 35-inch vertical jump and a 10-4 broad jump
PROJECTION: A big, rangy safety who has a lot of upside, but when his positives and negatives are weighed against each other, the scale tips the wrong way He is a developmental project that could turn out to be a steal, but too many questions will keep him on the board late into the draft

Will Hill, Florida, 6-1, 207 – Third-year junior…Didn't become a starter until last year, posting 54 tackles, one pass defensed, two interceptions and one forced fumble…Has three children…Near-prototype size, speed and leaping ability…A solid wrap-up tackler who rarely gets beat one-on-one when he is in position…Has good closing speed on deep passes and can cover to the sideline…Very inconsistent and undisciplined…Has a thin frame that won't be able to get much bigger…Has a slow transition to flip his hips and runs and loses a step in the process…Has some significant character questions that will scare off some teams…Has trouble locating the ball when he arrives and will wave and miss too often…Didn't lift at the Combine, but ran a 4 64 40 with a 31-inch vertical jump and a 10-3 broad jump
PROJECTION: A team will have to be patient, because, if he gets his head on right, he could be the steal of the safeties But, he has a lot of refining that is needed and he may not have the mental makeup to handle being a role player A guy who could end up being a good pro or could be out of football by the end of the year

OTHERS TO WATCH

Da'Norris Searcy, North Carolina, 5-10¾, 216 –
Fourth-year senior…Two-year starter who had 97 tacklers, 10 passes broken up and five interceptions in that span…Suspended three games while the NCAA investigated charges of receiving improper benefits…Has good versatility…A big hitter who drives through tackles…Good closing speed…Able to run with tight ends down the seam and not lose coverage…Good zone awareness and reaction…A dangerous kick returner…Doesn't have great speed, explosiveness or burst…A DB ‘tweener who is too slow to be a cornerback and too small to be a strong safety at the next level…Tries to freelance too often and gets out of position…A player who got the job done, but didn't stand out or put up the kind of production numbers that make you take notice As a result, he will be a late-round prospect at best

Jermale Hines, Ohio State, 6-2, 210 – Fourth-year senior…Started 29 of 44 career games, totaling 157 tackles, eight passes broken up, three interceptions and three fumble recoveries…Prototype size and strength…An experienced starter from a strong program…A big hitter who helps in run support…Takes good angles consistently…Can play both the two-deep zone or take on receivers one-on-one…Has very strong hands and uses them to redirect players on the line with a strong jam…Doesn't have quickness and burst to hang with small, shifty NFL receivers…A ‘tweener who is too small to be a linebacker, but not ideally quick enough for an NFL safety…Very undisciplined in space and will dive at tacklers and miss too often…Doesn't have great range…Gets beaten if he makes a misstep…Has problems trying to disengage from blockers…He has the ability to add weight, which may end up seeing him moved to linebacker Any long-term starter from the Ohio State University will get drafted and get a shot in camp, but he is a project that will need a couple of years to develop He'll have to land in the right spot to succeed

Eric Hagg, Nebraska, 6-1½, 206 – Fourth-year senior…Started 34 of 41 games in his final three seasons with 128 tackles, 15 passes broken up, six interceptions, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries…Was named team MVP in 2010 – ahead of CB Prince Amukamara…Very good size with solid athleticism…A durable veteran player…Showed improved ball skills and was a playmaker in 2010…Can match up with tight ends and tall wideouts…Is able to reach the sideline in pass support for his cornerback teammates…Has difficulty turning and running or changing direction and needs too much time to recover…Is more of finesse tackler than a de-cleater type…Doesn't always read the run well and will be late to react…Doesn't always play with good balance and gets knocked down to often by blockers…Gives receivers too much cushion and allows plays to happen in front of him…Another ‘tweener type who could add 20 pounds and become a linebacker Some scouts love his positive intangibles, however, and he could go higher than we have him ranked That said, he will struggle to make an impact in the NFL


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here


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