Baltimore Ravens 2013 NFL Draft: 5 Safety Prospects That Could Replace Ed Reed

Dee LetedCorrespondent IOctober 19, 2012

Baltimore Ravens 2013 NFL Draft: 5 Safety Prospects That Could Replace Ed Reed

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    For years NFL talking heads have been insisting that Ravens' "aging" defense was a problem, and for years Ed Reed and Ray Lewis made pundits look foolish.

    Now with the 26th ranked defense in the NFL (according to and riddled with injury, it seems that the end of a defensive era of dominance is imminent.

    The Ravens have tons of youth and potential future starters on the defensive side of the ball, but there's no question that areas like inside linebacker, safety and possibly yet another pass-rusher will need to be addressed this offseason.

    After learning of Ray Lewis' potential season-ending tricep injury last week, I wrote an article suggesting some potential future replacements for the all-pro linebacker.

    Now with the news of Ed Reed's injury, and knowing that he is in the last year of his contract and his affinity for flirting with retirement, let's take a look at some prospects that the Ravens may look at in the 2013 NFL Draft.

1. Eric Reid (LSU)

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    Height: 6'2"

    Weight: 212 lbs

    Projection: Top 20

    Assuming the Ravens are picking toward the end of the first round, they may not have much of shot at LSU standout safety Eric Reid.

    Reid somehow managed to break out last year among stars like Tyrann "Honeybadger" Mathieu in the most talented secondary in college football.

    A naturally athletic, instinctive safety, he does a great job of attacking the ball in the air.

    He's just as effective in pass defense as he is against the run, which has been an area of weakness for the Ravens so far this season. 

    Reid has also been known to lay some big hits from time to time. 

2. TJ McDonald (USC)

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    Height: 6'3"

    Weight: 205 lbs

    Projection: Round 1

    The son of former Cardinals and 49ers strong safety Tim McDonald, TJ's NFL bloodlines aren't the only thing he has going for him headed into the 2013 NFL Draft.

    An aggressive safety with ideal NFL size, McDonald is versatile enough to play either free or strong safety at the next level.

    Like Reed, McDonald is a good "center fielder," and has the ability to go up and get the ball at its highest point. 

    He doesn't have Reed's ball skills, but he is physical in run support and a very solid tackler.

3. Kenny Vaccaro (Texas)

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    Height: 6'1"

    Weight: 215 lbs

    Projection: Round 1-2

    Another versatile prospect, Vaccaro has played both cornerback and safety at Texas. He projects well as either a free safety or strong safety at the NFL level. His ability to cover slot receivers and tight ends could shoot him into first-round consideration.

    Vaccaro has stellar zone coverage instincts and always seems to be around the ball (sounds like someone you know, right?).

    His strength is in press coverage, an area where he could help current Ravens' corners Jimmy Smith and Cary Williams who do not do well with it.

    He doesn't have elite speed and is not typically able to recover on deep routes in man coverage.

    Vaccaro is a solid tackler and would be an asset in run support.

4. Tony Jefferson (Oklahoma)

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    Height: 5'11"

    Weight: 210 lbs

    Projection: Round 2

    Yet another safety prospect with scheme flexibility, Jefferson will certainly have the ability to play either free or strong safety at the next level. 

    A prospect with a lot of speed, Jefferson zips around the field looking for a big hit.

    He excels in pass coverage, and is physical and aggressive enough to cover tight ends.

    Even after an arrest in January 2011 for suspicion of driving under the influence with teammate Kenny Stills, scouts are buzzing about his high character. 

5. Robert Lester (Alabama)

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    Height: 6'2"

    Weight: 210 lbs

    Projection: Round 2

    Robert Lester is a smart free safety with great "center field" ability. Managing to stand out on what is quite possibly the best defense in college football, there's no question that Lester will be a high draft pick come 2013. 

    Like Reed, Lester has good return ability once he forces a turnover, which he is prone to do. He covers well in both zone and man coverage, but doesn't jam up slot receivers well when assigned.

    He's not the greatest tackler, but he isn't exactly a poor tackler, either.