2013 Draft Countdown: Safeties
Evolution of the safety
After a couple of miserable years at safety, the 2013 draft is pretty well stocked at the safety position going about six deep with prospects who have impact potential. Given the transition professional football is going through in terms of violent collisions and protections on receivers, the safety’s role is being altered. The “enforcer” portion of the job description is becoming secondary to range and cover skills. How that affects teams’ decision-making on prospects will be interesting to see evolve.
Patriots pecking order
The Patriots have arguably been worse at safety than at corner over the past few seasons when their pass defense was staggeringly bad. Poor communication, freelancing, lack of range and rudderless leadership were all present. But simply sliding Devin McCourty to safety where he can use his ball skills, leadership, tackling ability and athleticism/range made a major difference in 2012. Steve Gregory is OK to a point but has severe physical limitations (i.e. he’s built like a bank teller), while Tavon Wilson has promise but is unproven. The addition of Adrian Wilson gives the secondary a player they can drop into the linebacker level on passing downs and – depending on how much athleticism remains – could have him on the field even more. Nate Ebner is a special teamer.
Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
At 6-0, 214, Vaccaro has good size and has the combination of hitting ability and range a team needs at the back of its defense. Has coverage versatility to play in the slot. Has a little growing up to do off the field. Seen as a top-20 pick.
Matt Elam, Florida
At 5-9, 208, Elam is not the ideal height to be a rangy cover guy but he’s more of a strong-safety in terms of being able to hit and tackle. He does have very good speed and plays with attitude and power. Like Vaccaro, has off-field issues to investigate.
Eric Reid, LSU
At 6-1, 213, Reid may be the safest of the safety prospects. He’s played in a high-level defense and is tremendously athletic (40-inch vertical). Good leader, good size to cover tight ends and good range to support. Likely first-rounder and seemingly a Patriots fit.
Jonathan Cyprien, Florida International
Cyprien comes from a smaller school and his play and tape has to be measured with that in mind. Still, he’s got the attributes you look for in a strong safety in terms of size and hitting power along with athleticism.
Who knows, man? Really. Tavon Wilson's name wasn’t even in some of the most exhaustive draft books last year and the Patriots took him in the second round. Devin McCourty? First-rounder nobody had going in the first round. So I can only sit here and say, if it were up to me, I’d take Eric Reid.