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NFL Combine Checklist: Safeties

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NFL Combine Checklist: Safeties

Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (No. 6). Photo courtesy of University of Alabama.

The NFL Combine is one of the final opportunities for NFL Draft prospects to raise their stock with on-campus Pro Day workouts perhaps being the very last chance.

Their college careers are over, the all-star circuit is over. For many players, the Combine is an opportunity to put an exclamation point on their football résumés. And for those that perform well enough, they might decline to even perform certain drills at their individual Pro Days.

What follows is the most important part of the Combine for the top safety prospects in this year's draft class.

I apologize I don't have the time to do this for every position. But it is good fortune that not only do I create the safety profiles for our annual "Pro Football Draft Preview" guide, but it's also perhaps the No. 1 need for the Packers entering the 2014 season.

The order of the prospects is a pre-Combine ranking of how I view this year's class of safeties, subject to change before the Draft:

  1. Calvin Pryor, Louisville, Position Drills––There isn't much Pryor has to prove. His film says it all. Not even a slow time in the 40-yard dash can sink him, because he hasn't shown to be slow on the football field. His instincts, angles and ability to close will make up for any shortcomings. What Pryor doesn't have is elite ball skills, intercepting a maximum of three passes in any one particular college season. Ideally, the top-ranked safety in the entire class would be a better ballhawk, not that his coverage skills are lacking entirely. A good performance in position specific drills such as the "speed turn" and "pedal and transition" tests would likely cement his status as the No. 1 safety.
  2. Deone Bucannon, Washington State, 40-yard dash––At the Senior Bowl, Bucannon got a bad rap for getting beat in one-on-one drills against receivers. While a legitimate concern, it's not going to be much of a problem for any team that utilizes him as a back-end safety where he would play zone coverage more often than not and keep the action in front of him. Still, a good time in the 40-yard dash would prove that Bucannon has the speed to stick with receivers and make up ground in the event he does get beat.
  3. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama, Interviews––Clinton-Dix should pass the eye test at the weigh-in and likely won't raise any red flags in the measured drills if his past performance is any indication. But in 2013, Clinton-Dix was suspended two games for accepting a small loan from an assistant coach at Alabama. In the grand scheme of things, there are worse things the Tide safety could have done, but he was guilty of poor judgement and teams are going to probe to find out if there's any other skeletons is the closet before the potentially investing a first round draft pick into a player that goes by "Ha Ha."
  4. Kenny Ladler, Vanderbilt, Measured drills––The film on Ladler is largely impressive. He makes a lot of tackles and creates a fair amount of turnovers. But guys like Bucannon and Clinton-Dix get the benefit of the doubt and a higher ranking because they're 210 lbs. or more while Ladler was 199 lbs. at the Senior Bowl. To overcome the relative lack of bulk, he's going to have to put up bigger numbers than them in almost all measured drills. It doesn't matter if it's timed like the 40-yard dash and three-cone drill or tape-measure drills like the vertical and hortizontal jumps or even the bench press. They're all important for Ladler.
  5. Craig Loston, LSU, Medical examination––When healthy, Loston is a good safety, the next in a long line of good defensive backs from LSU. One hang up, however, is that he seems to miss time almost every season due to a variety of injuries ranging from his wrist to toe to groin. The good news for Loston is that he's never missed more than three games outside of his redshirt freshman season, but there always seems to be something nagging. He doesn't want to gain a reputation as an injury-prone player and checking out well in the medical examination portion of the Combine will put a few minds at ease.
  6. Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois, Vertical jump––Ward has perhaps the best coverage skills of any safety in this year's draft class and his stock is rising after a good performance at the Senior Bowl. But there are major drawbacks for a player that measured in at just 5' 10 3/8" and 191 lbs. One way for a player to overcome concerns about height are to have a terrific vertical jump, showing that he can compete with NFL wide receivers and tight ends that are 6' 2" and higher.
  7. Tre Boston, North Carolina, Bench press––While not quite as small as Ward, Boston is also slightly less than ideal size, reportedly checking in at 5' 11 5/8" and 198 lbs. at the East-West Shrine Game. He also showed he had above-average ball skills during his college career, but can he withstand the pounding an NFL safety takes when you're south of 6' 0" and 200 lbs.? Putting up over 20 reps on the bench would alleviate some of those concerns.
  8. Ed Reynolds, Three-cone drill––In film study, Reynolds ended up sprawled on the ground more than any other top-ranked safety, too frequently missing tackles, particularly in 2012. Teams are going to need to see Reynolds can stay on his feet and not be juked by opposing ball carriers, and one way to see that is how he performs when changing directions like he will in the three-cone drill.
  9. Ahmad Dixon, Baylor, Position drills––The enforcer of the group, Dixon is a hard hitter and sure tackler. Strength will be one of his strong points and putting up big numbers in the bench press shouldn't be an issue. His coverage skills are far behind that of his peers, however. Like Pryor, the individual position drills will be of utmost importance, showing he's not going be get twisted out of shape when a receiver puts on a double move.
  10. Terrence Brooks, Florida State, Measured drills––Yet another undersized safety at 5' 11" and 197 lbs., Brooks will need to put up big numbers in all measured drills to prove he can overcome the issues with size. Like Ladler, it doesn't much matter if it's the timed or the measured drills. All will carry weight for Brooks.

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email carriveau@uwalumni.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (76) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Luke Mills's picture

Great article Brian. Really good stuff. If Pryor is there in the 1st I say take him. If not, Bucannon in the 2nd or Ladler in the 3rd.  

bryce's picture

If they don't take a safety in round one I'm going to scream.

The TKstinator's picture

Do you want them to reach?

Bearmeat's picture

None of them look all that great. Last year was the year to grab a safety Teddy.

Ya done screwed up. Hope you can rectify it by taking a project S in the draft AND a mid level FA. Otherwise it's another year of the Dr. Ugh.

Arlo's picture

You couldn't be more correct. Going into the off-season (last season) everyone knew that the Pack needed a legitimate safety option either in the draft or FA. ---- Teddy Ballgame completely ignored the position. He also ignored the BU QB position.

As a result, 8-8-1. It's what you get when you're GM spends too much time scouting 5th, 6th & 7th round draft picks. ---- Thankfully, his days are numbered.

Stroh's picture

You keep trying to push it, but no matther how much you wish it Thompson's days are NOT numbered. Not in any way shape or form! He missed on a 4th rd draft pick. Not like EVERY GM hasn't had that happen to him. You make yourself look a Fool when you say such idiotic things!

Thompson will leave GB when HE wants to leave, on his terms!

Arlo's picture

You have no idea. Most GMs & HCs get fired or are forced to retire. TT is 61 & will retire soon, no matter what. Another season with as many fiascos as 2013 will lead to an early retirement or release.

It's amazing that some of you die-hard TT homers are satisfied with 1 SB appearance in ten years. Any GM with BF & AR at the QB position should have fared much better.

The thing of it is: Many PackFans are starting to ask the same question. ---- We have an elite QB & yet all we can do is be embarrassed in the playoffs. ---- Why?

mark's picture

If you think Ted is hanging it up before Rodgers is done playing, you're nuts. He's here for the duration of #12, maybe (and hopefully) much longer, God willing!

Arlo's picture

So you're happy with 8-8-1. Too bad. --- Typical homer.

Stroh's picture

Wolf left on his own terms, and his record as GM was barely better. He found himself the Franchise QB that will keep the Packers in SB contention for another 5-8 years.

Eraserhead's picture

I think Rodgers is overrated. He has been average or awful in our last 3 playoff losses.

Buster's picture

Whoever thinks Thompson is NOT on the hot seat hasn't followed the NFL very closely. Even Jerry Jones is on the hot seat & he owns the Cowboys!!

Phatgzus's picture

Did you just seriously compare Jerry Jones to Ted Thompson? Go home Buster, you're drunk.

Eraserhead's picture

C'mon you can't be certain. Murphy has the authority to fire him if he keeps ruining the team.

Phatgzus's picture

Everyone knew that then, or they know it now? A lot of people ft McMillain had q promising rookie year and that Jennings would be a solid backup. I guess not everyone's the second-coming of Jack Vainisi, yourself excluded of course, what with you being a highly-paid NFL scout and whatnot.

Phatgzus's picture

*felt, *a

The TKstinator's picture

+1 million.

The TKstinator's picture

Yeah, it was the solely due to the play of the SAFETIES that resulted in 8-8-1.

(Cough-Rodgers hurt-Cough)

Oh, and Arnold Schwarzenegger got his muscles from eating celery.

The TKstinator's picture

I guarantee there will be some good safeties that come out of this draft.
I also guarantee that none of us really know at this point who the hell they are.

Jordan's picture

Hey guys,......Don't rule out a guy like CB Kyle Fuller being drafted in the second or third round and being converted to safety. There may be other CB's that may be converted to safety too. I haven't taken the time look (yet).

I'm pretty sure Nick Collins was listed as a CB but converted to safety. I can't remember for sure what the general consensus was on him across the NFL.

Brian Carriveau's picture

There's no way I can see Kyle Fuller being converted to safety. His teammate Antone Exum maybe.

Jordan's picture

Yeah, I haven't really looked at cornerbacks yet. (I haven't really looked at anything yet). Just throwing that out there that there may be a handful of corners that could possibly be converted. And then again, there be none. Dunno.

I'll have to look at Exum and the rest of corners in the next couple weeks.

RC Packer Fan's picture

I was honestly expecting Exum to be moved to safety at the next level.

cLowNEY42's picture

This sounds about right.
Draft a player and then have him change positions.
Should work fine.
Oghta' be ready to contribute in around 3 years or so.
Why chase a championship now?
Keep lookin' towards the future.

You know what's a bit scary? How about 3 straight years of having to throw pick after pick at the defense. By the time the D gets "respectable" the offense is gonna need help and there won't be anyone developed and ready.

Arlo's picture

Hey, why not?
All TT knows is planning for everything AFTER this season.

Unfortunately, nothing will change until TT's retirement party is over & done with. ---- The sooner, the better.

Another losing season will convince many of the homers who attend this party.

Phatgzus's picture

There have been hundreds of players who have successfully changed positions from college to the pros (Shields, Adderly, S. Taylor, , etc.; Hasselrig didn't even play football in college). Lazy argument, Pogo, you're losing it.

Stroh's picture

Collins played Safety his college career. Only reason he was listed as a CB was due to his size, sub 4.4 speed and range. But all his tape was as a Safety not CB. CB can be converted to Safety, but not usually the other way around.

Jordan's picture

Thanks for clearing that up. Check out what SI had to say back in 2005 about Nick Collins. Lol. They said he would probably be an undrafted free agent.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/football/2005/draft/players/78801.html

Phatgzus's picture

Nick the Pick was a LB and S, excellent point nonetheless.

Jamie's picture

If it were me, I'd move some guys around a lil bit...

1. Pryor
2. Bucannon
3. Clinton-Dix
4. Loston
5. Ward
6. Dixon
7. Reynolds
8. Ladler
9. Brooks
10. Boston

The biggest drop was for Ladler, who to me looks solid all-around, but I don't see any part of his game that stands out as a possible difference maker/field tilter.

I'd be pretty pumped to get any of the top 5, maybe 6, and ideally would be able to snag Bucannon in the 2nd rd.

treg's picture

Like it.

Phatgzus's picture

I'd flip HH-CD and Buc as well as Ward and Loston, good list regardless.

Jamie's picture

Yeah, on second thought I think I'd put Ward ahead of Loston...for the simple fact that I believe Ward is plug n play from day one and almost a sure bet to be at worst a solid to very good pro Safety.

Loston has the size and tools, he just may (not necessarily, but MAY) take a bit of time to grow into a starter. I do think he has more upside, but not enough to justify being ahead of Ward...now that I think about it.

Eraserhead's picture

Loston? Like Boston? Cousins?

Stroh's picture

There's no such thing as a plug and play Safety in Capers scheme. Which is why I think a FA Safety is the best signing they can make. Any rookie Safety is probably going to be on the bench as a rookie, just like Troy Polamalu was in Pitts (same scheme).

RC Packer Fan's picture

I really like the idea of signing a veteran FA and drafting a S to develop. I think that would be the best way to go.

Speaking of Troy Polamalu, I had heard that he might be cut from the Steelers. I don't know if he will be or not, but if he was he would be a perfect veteran to bring in, because he knows the scheme and it would allow the Packers to develop a younger guy behind him.

Evan's picture

Was just announced that the cap is going up to $130 mil. Nice little jump from last year ($123). No reason TT can't pick up a FA safety while keeping his own priorities.

Jamie's picture

Burnett was essentially plug n play, though he was injured early in the season. Maybe that was partly out of necessity, but I'd say we're in a similar or worse boat this time around.

And I don't mean to say plug n play, as in no learning curve, no issues. He just seems like a guy that can jump in and hold his own, while he's learning the intricacies of the scheme and honing his craft.

Eraserhead's picture

No! Associating Bucannon with Buchannan's will make our players alcoholics. It's called subliminal messaging or something.

!!!

RC Packer Fan's picture

I agree but disagree...

I see Ladler as a player that will be a good player. He has good range, and has very good tackling ability.
When I watched Ladler he reminded me a bit of Collins. More of his ability to tackle.

Right now he would be my 4th best safety.

HUMP's picture

while you may or may not have studied the safety class as much as myself,i think you have a couple of these guys way overated. ladler plays really soft and is 5th rd material at best and boston has minimal instincts and lower than ladler. jimmy ward is 1st rd talent and lamarcus joyner is a hell of a player who will play safety on sundays i'd be willing to bet. this is all opinion of course and appreciate your analyisis and come may,you may be more spot on by far,but i like to get my 2cents in while your going to draftnik heaven at the combine. have fun bud

Jersey Al's picture

Dion Bailey?

Brian Carriveau's picture

Dion almost never lined up as a traditional deep safety. Not to say that he can't, but you're going out on a limb to think that he'll be able to line up 10, 15 yards off the ball and play in space. He's still practically a linebacker in my eyes. Like I said, subject to change. If he looks good at the Combine, I might change my mind.

stevn's picture

I feel like ward is going to be special, dunno why. But i feel the same about.buchannon, i would love either,

mark's picture

If Pryor and Mosley aren't there at 21 I'd like to see us trade back several spots and hope Jarvis Landry is there waiting.

4thand1's picture

Greatest GM in the NFL is Ted T. He'll prove with the next SB. Arloser will be eating crow.

Arlo's picture

Are you willing to explain ten years and only 1 SB appearance? ---- I didn't think so.

You'll figure it out by this time next year.

4thand1's picture

How many other teams have repeated in 10 years? I win again loser.

Eraserhead's picture

Patriots. The.

mark's picture

"Are you willing to explain ten years and only 1 SB appearance? —- I didn’t think so."

LOL

Evan's picture

This thread should keep @CHTVsmack busy for a while.

RC Packer Fan's picture

I think there needs to be a daily updated comment thread just for smack.

Leave the article comments for comments based on the article...

Jamie's picture

1st rd
--------
Pryor

2nd rd
--------
Bucannon
Clinton-Dix
Ward

3rd rd
--------
Loston
Dixon

4th rd
---------
None

5th rd
---------
Reynolds
Ladler
Brooks

6th/7th/UDFA
--------------------
Boston
Johnathan Dowling (darkhorse UDFA from WKU...kicked off Gators)

Eraserhead's picture

You want the Packers to draft all of them? Cool.

Fiscr's picture

"Bucannon can't cover receivers". That's all the safeties. That's why they aren't corners, and that's why they don't get drafted in the first round. One hopes.

Greenville's picture

I do not want Boston on the packers I repeat I Do not want Boston on the packers. That guy is horrible, I watched alot of his games threw out his career and ill say he is not good. Hope we dont draft this guy. He reminds me of MD Jennings.

I really hoping for a good free agent safety Ward or bryd but if neither just grab a descent vet like Stevie brown true playmaker. Then if we can draft pryor or dix seeing how we have brown. That would be a perfect situation.

mark's picture

I don't like Boston either. I hope rumors of Ted's talking with him were a smoke screen.

Phatgzus's picture

The Packers are going to end up talking to most of the players selected to attend the combine and probably a good number who weren't-don't read into that too much, if at all.

Eraserhead's picture

Because they're Irish in Boston? My god you are so racist!!!!!

RC Packer Fan's picture

Right now I would say that Pryor is probably the best safety. But there are some concerning things with him for me.
He is a very physical safety which I love. But he doesn't always wrap up and isn't a sound tackler. He tends to go for the knock out shot, which in the NFL won't always work.

I disagree a bit with the 40 time. If he runs around a 4.5 he will stay in the first. But if he runs above that, 4.6 or higher, I think he will fall out of the first.
My biggest question with him has been his speed.

That all being said a guy who is very similar to Pryor is Bucannon. Like Pryor I want to see his 40 time.
What I like about Bucannon is he is a big hitter and tackles really well.

jmac3444's picture

Yeah I definitely worry about Pryor's ability to wrap up as the tape that I have seen of him, he seems to like to go for the kill shot rather than wrapping up. I actually think that Clinton-Dix is better in this regard but I think Pryor is a better at coverage.

RC Packer Fan's picture

that's my biggest concern with him. Is he going to be the next Brandon Merriweather? Go for the knockouts all the time and not making the tackle that is necessary. Also the rule changes will he be one to get penalty's more because of his style of play?

I like him, but our safety's haven't been good at wrapping up and actually making the tackle, it does concern me drafting a safety high that could potentially miss tackles.

That being said, he is a very good player. I would be happy if the Packers took him, I'm just concerned with that...

Phatgzus's picture

I feel the same about both. The thing about big gutters is that at least they don't mind getting in there and taking a shot. I feel it's a lot easier to yeah someone who isn't afraid of contact proper tackling than someone who doesn't seem to like to hit bigger players (Clinton-Dix).

THEMichaelRose's picture

Interesting that Brian stands out amongst writers and prognosticators by saying Clinton-Dix is essentially a second round talent.

Even more interesting that seemingly every commenter with a noted opinion above totally agrees. Is 95% of the rest of the internet totally off-base with Clinton-Dix in the middle of Round 1? I respect Brian's choice, because I know he's done his homework and he should stand by what he sees. But why is it that everyone else feels the need to be so contrarian?

2 share owner's picture

I love HaHa, best safety in the draft. He won't be there when we pick but if he does fall, Ted will not pass. book it!

THEMichaelRose's picture

I agree that he'd be hard to pass up. It'd be interesting to see which way Ted would go if both Pryor and Ha Ha were there (though he'd be himself and probably go DL or OL or something else).

I think most people above would be happy with Ha Ha at 21. I'm pretty sure their first reaction wouldn't be "How could Ted do that with Bucannon still on the board?!"

(with all that said, there's still a ton of time (and notably the combine) before the draft, so maybe Bucannon proves he's worthy for that by then)

Hank Scorpio's picture

I don't know much about any potential draftee. So I don't know if the following comment applies to Clinton-Dix or not.

Having given that disclaimer, it is really easy to look good when you're surrounded by blue chip talent. And Alabama gets as much talent as anyone in college football. It's really hard to tell which ones are getting the benefit and which are giving it but generally speaking, that help flows from the LoS out, not from the back toward the LoS.

Eraserhead's picture

Shut up HeHe is going to be an All-Pro.

Phatgzus's picture

Tony Pauline thinks Pryor's better than c-D as well, he also thinks both are second-round talents. I think C-D has better instincts in coverage and better hands, but from what I've seen (granted it's limited to what all of the draftnicks have at their fingertips) he isn't as effective of a tackler, at least on bigger players. I dunno about you but I'm sick of our DBs, particularly our safeties, missing tackles and letting runners get the edge or receivers turn ten-yard passes into 50-yard TDs.

That said I'd be happy with either in the 1st and ecstatic if in the 2nd.

Hank Scorpio's picture

The defense Capers likes to run makes excellent use of an "In the Box" type of Safety. Charles Woodson filled that role from his slot DB position in nickel. Atari Bigby did for 1/3 or 1/2 of one season. Outside of that, I don't remember the Packers having another Safety that could really thrive inside the box when Capers was in GB. Heck, I'm not even sure Bibgy and Capers overlapped in GB.

So those are the types of guys I would be concentrating on when evaluating the possible draftees.

4thand1's picture

Maybe Delmas, he's available.

Evan's picture

A nice player, when healthy. Id love for the Packers to avoid players with that specific caveat.

Phatgzus's picture

Touché.

Jordan's picture

Actually Capers wants a safety as the dime back. I don't mean to split hairs, but that's according to a couple interviews he's done on packers.com 3 or 4 years ago.

Hank Scorpio's picture

They need to find a second starter before they can look for ways to get the top backup Safety on the field.

4thand1's picture

If Mosley is there at 21 he has to be taken. Maybe even trade up. Ted likes to trade down too. Who knows what the hell will happen.

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