NFL Combine 2012: Analyzing Linebackers with Potential to Transition to Safety
Regardless of where a prospect is projected to get selected or what position they play, being versatile and dynamic really increases their appeal. And when we're talking about the 2012 NFL draft, proving to be useful in more ways than one will increase a player's stock.
To that end, here are some linebackers who have the size, speed, and agility to potentially play the safety position in the NFL.
Lavonte David, Nebraska
At 6'1", 233 pounds, Nebraska's Lavonte David ran 4.65 seconds in the 40-yard dash, hit 36.5 inches in the vertical, 9'11" in the broad jump and ran 4.22 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle.
With that kind of speed, agility and quick explosiveness, David has all the physical tools to play safety in the pros. He has great awareness when in coverage, has proven to lockdown running backs and tight ends one-one-one, and is a sure tackler.
Now, David can sometimes be a little overaggressive because his acceleration and top speed can be used against him. However, as a safety, he will have the luxury of watching plays unfold from a better viewpoint and his instincts will takeover.
As evidence of his 285 tackles and 11 defended passes the past two seasons, David has sound anticipation and reaction skills. Given the right system and retaining his strength, while dropping a few pounds, Lavonte makes for an intimidating roll-down safety.
Mychal Kendricks, California
Roughly the same size as Lavonte David, California's Mychal Kendricks comes in at 5'11", 240 pounds. As for the combine, he ran 4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash, went skyward at 39.5 inches n the vertical, soared to 10'7" in the broad jump and hit 4.19 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle.
That's some serious speed and agility, as well as immediate power for a guy who played both inside and outside 'backer despite being slightly undersized.
For one, the Cal Bears ran a 3-4 front, which obviously utilized Kendricks' athleticism anywhere at linebacker. The man brings the pain with every hit, is a reliable tackler (241 from 2009-2011), recorded 11.5 sacks the past two seasons and defended nine career passes.
Provided that Kendricks can keep improving his ability to change direction quickly, while maintaining his ball awareness and play-recognition instincts, he would make a dominant safety.
He'd obviously have to lose about 10 pounds, but that'll only make him quicker and faster to breaking on routes. Plus, rolling him down to blitz in a nickel/dime package will allow a defense to become more dynamic.
Demario Davis, Arkansas State
Which LB would make a better NFL safety?
Easily one of the more unknown linebackers, since Arkansas State plays in the Sun Belt conference, Demario Davis is also one of the more athletic and dynamic 'backers in the draft.
At the combine, he ran 4.61 seconds in the 40, pumped out 32 reps on the bench, hit 38.5 inches in the vertical, leaped 10'4" on the broad jump and darted back and forth in 11.28 seconds on the 60-yard shuttle.
Davis is also 6'2", 235 pounds, therefore proving his extreme athleticism and potential to play free or strong safety. In the past three seasons, Davis made 212 tackles, picked off four passes, recorded seven sacks and forced five fumbles.
In short, he did a lot on a sound defense, but he does need to improve at reacting quicker while remaining under control. A lot of his missed tackles and problems in coverage came from misreads or oversimplification.
Put him at safety to recognize plays better and his ball skills will takeover when defending the pass, while also playing up to the run.
John Rozum on Twitter.
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