The Senior Bowl Showcases Depth at Safety

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NORTH SAFETIES

Washington State Cougars safety Deone Bucannon (20) returns an interception. Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Washington State Cougars safety Deone Bucannon (20) returns an interception. Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Deone Bucannon, Washington State, #20

Bucannon doesn’t have the name recognition of Clinton-Dix or Pryor, but he may be the top strong safety prospect in the draft. The WSU Cougar boasts great size for the position at 6-1, 216 pounds and has a 78-inch wingspan. Bucannon is also projected to run the 40 around the 4.55 range.

Bucannon is a physical specimen that plays well in the box against the run and can drop back in coverage and make plays on the ball downfield. He recorded 114 tackles, six interceptions, and three forced fumbles as a senior. Bucannon can make plays and will be a great find for a team looking for a physical playmaking safety in the draft.

If anything, Bucannon does need to prove to scouts he can hold his own in man coverage at the next level. NFL safeties are often matched up against slot receivers or athletic tight ends. This may be one area of his game that causes him to slide down draft boards.

Northern Illinois Huskies safety Jimmie Ward (15). Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Northern Illinois Huskies safety Jimmie Ward (15). Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois, #15

Ward led the Huskies in tackles (77), pass deflections (14), and interceptions (6) as a senior. He may be the most underrated safety prospect in this year’s draft. He could certainly challenge Clinton-Dix and Pryor as the top safety prospect if he had better size than his 5-11, 192-pound frame, and had the same production at a bigger school, like Alabama or Louisville.

NFL Draft Scout’s Dane Brugler believes Ward is the top safety at the Senior Bowl, and could easily be an instant starter in the NFL. Ward plays tough against the run, is a sound tackler, and isn’t afraid to deliver a big hit in the open field. But Ward’s best assets are his ability to make plays on the field and play the ball in the air.

Ward excels in coverage and has the speed and athleticism to hold his own in man against receivers. Ward’s only knock seems to be consistency. He disappears at times in games. Scouts would like to see more impact plays on a regular basis from the NIU safety, and this week will be Ward’s time to show just that.

Ahmad Dixon, Baylor, #6

Nov 16, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders tight end Jace Amaro (22) catches a pass in the second quarter while hit by Baylor Bears safety Ahmad Dixon (6) at AT

Nov 16, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders tight end Jace Amaro (22) catches a pass in the second quarter while hit by Baylor Bears safety Ahmad Dixon (6) at AT

Dixon might be one of the most physical safeties in the draft. He plays fast, hits hard, and throws his 6-0, 205-pound frame around the field with reckless abandon.

He’s a fearless, tough player with experience also playing linebacker. There’s something to like about the way he plays football. He punishes ball carriers, but sometimes he does this at the expense of sacrificing technique. Dixon will miss tackles because he’s trying to deliver a big hit. He will also over-pursue the ball carrier in trying to use his blazing speed to get downhill.

Dixon needs to show he can play with a little more control, and he can hold up well in coverage. Dixon has plenty of upside as a safety, but there are still plenty of question marks when it comes to his game. He will help his draft stock significantly this week by showing he’s a reliable player that can play with sound technique.

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