2012 NFL Draft Rankings: Top 5 Free and Strong Safeties

Jimmy Neil@@DoctorFootballContributor IIApril 26, 2012

Even more than the cornerback class, the safeties this year, whether free or strong, are very disappointing.

Outside of Mark Barron from Alabama, I certainly wouldn't put a second-round grade on any of them, and I might not even place one in the third round. It wouldn't surprise me at all if Barron went in the first 10 picks of the NFL draft and we didn't hear another go off the board until Saturday morning.

OK, enough of the negative...at least for now. Mark Barron is a "do-it-all" safety who can play in the box, cover in zone or man-to-man against tight ends and some slot receivers. He has great ball skills and a slightly below-elite-level burst to the football.

He is an aggressive run defender who arrives at the ball carrier with an attitude. Many general managers wouldn't think of selecting a safety with a top-10 pick, but I would beg them to reconsider when it comes to Barron.

Here are the rest of the strong safety rankings:

1. Mark Barron, Alabama
2. Harrison Smith, Notre Dame
3. George Iloka, Boise St.
4. Brandon Taylor, LSU
5. Antonio Allen, South Carolina

I'm sure some of you noticed that I have George Iloka listed with the strong safeties, and it's for a good reason...he will be an absolute liability in coverage. He is simply way too tight with extremely poor change of direction, backpedal and lateral movement skills.

As a matter of fact, I wouldn't be surprised if his new team bulked him up and moved him to linebacker.

As for the free safeties, they're an even more nondescript group. Markelle Martin is the best of the lot, and he'll probably be relegated to special teams duty unless injuries are involved. He plays way too high and stiff, so his movement skills are an issue.

Then, on top of all that, he's very aggressive and finds himself often out of position. If you're a team in need of a free safety, this is not your year.

Here are the free safety rankings:

1. Markelle Martin, Oklahoma St.
2. Trumaine Johnson, Montana
3. Trent Robinson, Michigan St.
4. Brandon Hardin, Oregon St.
5. Aaron Henry, Wisconsin