NFL Draft: Breaking Down the Top Safety Prospects

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Wyoming Cowboys safety Marqueston Huff (2) breaks up a pass and makes an interception. Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

 

TIER FOUR

12. Marqueston Huff, FS, Wyoming: 5-11, 198 (4.49)

Huff is a converted corner who’s size and skill set seem to translate better at safety in the NFL. Huff has plenty of speed to spare, and as a former cornerback, really excels in coverage as a roaming free safety.

Huff still needs to improve as a tackler and needs to be more physical when playing up in the box in run support. Teams don’t want a safety that shies away from contact, so Huff needs to prove as a rookie he can deliver a hit and be physical when taking down the ball carrier.

(Draft Projection: Round 5)

 

Vanderbilt Commodores safety Kenny Ladler (1) intercepts the ball against the Florida Gators. Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

13. Kenny Ladler, FS, Vanderbilt: 6-0, 199 (4.58)

Ladler’s 4.77 forty time at the combine really hurt his draft stock. He did improve his time at his pro day to 4.58, but many believe it was a fast track.

Ladler is not necessarily the best athlete at the position, but he did make plays while at Vanderbilt. In 2013, he led his team in tackles with 91 and set a school record with five forced fumbles. He also recorded five interceptions as a senior, which demonstrates his knack for making plays.

However, Ladler’s shortcomings may be too much to overlook. In college, he struggled when asked to defend the back end in coverage. He was inconsistent as a tackler, and often took too many chances, trying to make a big play.

Ladler may be a bit of a project at the next level.

(Draft Projection: Round 5)

 

North Carolina State Wolfpack cornerback Dontae Johnson (25) returns an interception. Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

14. Dontae Johnson, FS, North Carolina State: 6-2, 200 (4.45)

Johnson is a former college cornerback who will try to make the switch to safety in the NFL. Johnson’s combination of size and speed make him an intriguing safety prospect in the draft.

However, he’s still relatively new to the position and will take some time to develop at the next level.

Johnson does offer versatility and excels in man coverage if matched up against a tight end or slot receiver. Johnson needs to improve as a tackler and needs to do a better job at diagnosing plays while dropping back in zone.

(Draft Projection: Rounds 5-6)

 

Minnesota Golden Gophers defensive back Brock Vereen (21) celebrates after intercepting a pass. Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

15. Brock Vereen, SS, Minnesota: 6-0, 199 (4.47)

Vereen had one of the most impressive combine workouts this offseason, posting a blazing 4.47 forty, 4.07 short shuttle, and putting up an impressive 25 reps on the bench press.

It’s this type of elite athleticism that makes Vereen an intriguing prospect come May and has some ranking the former Minnesota product higher at the position.

However, Vereen’s athleticism and ability to move well in space doesn’t match his college film. Vereen isn’t overly physical or a very solid tackler. He seems to struggle in coverage at times and gets outmatched by bigger tight ends or quicker wideouts.

He also doesn’t have great hands and only recorded four interceptions in his four years at Minnesota. Vereen is a player you draft to develop on your roster, not to plug in right away and have contribute as a rookie.

(Draft Projection: Round 6)

 

Other Late-Round Safeties

16. Isaiah Lewis, SS, Michigan State: 5-10, 211 (4.60)

(Draft Projection: Round 6)

17. Hakeem Smith, SS, Louisville: 6-0, 186 (4.58)

(Draft Projection: Rounds 6-7)

18. Ty Zimmerman, FS, Kansas State: 6-1, 202

(Draft Projection: Rounds 6-7)

19. Vinnie Sunseri, SS, Alabama: 5-11, 210

(Draft Projection: Round 7)

20. Daniel Sorenson, SS, BYU: 6-1, 205 (4.54)

(Draft Projection: Round 7)

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