Tuesday, April 21, 2015

DMN Print: Top Safeties

Alabama safety Landon Collins (AP Photo)
Alabama safety Landon Collins (AP Photo)
Each year, we see the value of elite safety play. Earl Thomas makes the Seattle defense as much as any player, following in the footsteps of Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu and Darren Woodson. The 2014 draft was the time to grab a safety. Seven safeties were taken in the first 100 selections. This year, however, the cupboard is quite bare with only one safety believed to be worthy of Rounds 1 and 2.
Spotlight player
Eric Rowe, Utah
Rowe projects as both a top corner and a top safety. Aside from his versatility, Rowe is clearly the type of defensive back who wants to hit and set a physical tone. He gets in the backfield and causes havoc, and with his size, speed and leaping, he is a formidable piece wherever teams wish to use him. Rowe excels more as a zone corner, but when he presses, his talent shines through. He had 250 tackles with the Utes. Many observers prefer him as a safety, but the Cowboys might like his corner skills as well. Doesn’t having a guy who can do both only add to his intrigue? He is confident and does not seem to be swayed by occasional poor play. He battles for the ball in the air. With 4.45 speed and the ability to help a team such as Dallas at both secondary spots and special teams, Rowe seems to be one of those players who can help in numerous ways early in his career until he grows into a regular.
Sturm's top five
Click on the highlighted names for Bob Sturm's individual analysis of players or here for his complete list of 2015 NFL draft profiles.
Rk., PlayerCollegeNoteworthy
1. Landon CollinsAlabama6-0228Clearly the best of a small class of prospects
2. Eric RoweUtah6-1205Corner/safety can do both well
3. Ifo Ekpre OlomuOregon5-9192Injured corner with free safety tools
4. James SampleLouisville6-2209Tackling machine with great motor
5. DeMarious RandallArizona State5-11196Combination of good/bad traits

The Best
Landon Collins, Alabama 
Collins makes people who want him to be a cover safety nervous because of his range limitations. He is better than some say, but it is clear he would be best used the way Arizona used Deone Bucannon last year — an early-down safety, late-down linebacker. The positives outweigh the negatives, but teams should play to those strengths to get the most out of him. He is a ball hawk and a special teams star, as well as a play-making safety.
James Sample, Louisville 
Sample played one year at Louisville and was not on any radar when last season began. But through several performances that demonstrated an ability to tackle in the open field, cover the middle of the field and in man situations, Sample has stolen the spotlight from Gerod Holliman, his fellow Louisville safety prospect. Sample is a tackling machine and a physical presence who has crept into the mix for Top 100 status.
Best of Texas 
Chris Hackett, TCU 
Hackett is another prospect out of Fort Worth who is appealing to NFL teams because of his approach to football. He is a highly productive player who is looking for the big moment to impact games, and he would often do just that in the Big 12. He blitzes, he hits and he finds interceptions, but questions about his judgment (he’s a bit reckless in center field) and reliability as a last line of defense are what has critics wondering about his upside.

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