2013 NFL Draft: Hardest-Hitting Safeties in This Year's Class

Dilan Ames@@DilanAmesNFLCorrespondent IJanuary 23, 2013

2013 NFL Draft: Hardest-Hitting Safeties in This Year's Class

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    Now that receivers are getting bigger and stronger, teams are trying even harder to find game-changing safeties in order to make up for any defensive discrepancies. We’ve seen these type of players before, whether it was a guy like Sean Taylor or John Lynch, we’ve seen safeties make a big impact on teams. 

    Nothing quite changes a game like a bone-crunching hit that levels an opposing player. Plenty of teams will have their chance to pick up a guy like this, as this year’s batch of safeties is one of the best classes in recent years. 

    Here are some of the guys whom you will see making a difference on Sundays.

5. Phillip Thomas, Fresno St.

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    The 6’1” 215 lbs. senior from Fresno St. has been making much noise on his way towards this year’s NFL draft. This past season, Thomas was able to tally 82 tackles along with four sacks and eight interceptions. 

    Thomas showed great potential and raw power, as well as a knack for finding the ball-carrier. Thomas also showed up big against tough competition, including nine tackles and a sack in a loss to Oregon last September. 

    This is a deep year for safeties, and it will be hard to go wrong with a lot of these guys, but I truly believe that Thomas’ hitting ability and instincts will do him much good at the next level.

4. Matt Elam, Florida

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    Elam is one of the most NFL-ready safeties in this year’s draft. He has good size for a safety, and is good enough in coverage to make an impact. What he lacks in coverage ability, he makes up for with his tackling. 

    This past season, Elam recorded 76 tackles along with two sacks and four interceptions. Elam made going over the middle a nightmare for many teams, and showed up against the stiffest of SEC competition. 

    Elam was one of the leaders on a tough Gator defense, and his presence over the top will surely be missed by Florida this Fall.

3. Eric Reid, LSU

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    It seems as though LSU has become a factory for defensive backs lately, as they have cranked out two very high draft picks the past couple of years in Morris Claiborne and Patrick Peterson

    Eric Reid looks like he’s the next Bayou Bengal to be drafted in high. Reid showed tremendous ability as a safety this past season, tallying 91 tackles as well as a pair of interceptions. 

    Similar to Elam, Reid is another SEC safety who is NFL-ready. Reid showed up big for the Tigers this past season, having his biggest games against the best teams. Reid isn’t the biggest or fastest guy in this draft, but I believe he has a good chance of being a starter in the NFL next season.

2. T.J. McDonald, USC

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    McDonald is one of the best players to come out of USC in recent years. His size and speed make him a devastating force on the backside of any defense. There have been times where he’s looked like a linebacker; There’s not many safeties who can hit like McDonald can. 

    McDonald recorded 109 total tackles his senior season, gaudy numbers for a safety. McDonald is a sideline-to-sideline guy who showed up big for the Trojans when he needed to, and will be doing the same come next season in the NFL. 

    McDonald is a guy who offensive coordinators will have to gameplan for, or else he’ll simply dismantle the offense. McDonald is going to be one hell of a headache for many guys in the NFL.

1. Kenny Vaccaro, Texas

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    Vaccaro is hands down the best safety in this year’s class as of right now. The 6’1” 218 lbs. senior from Texas is simply a beast. Vaccaro is one of those guys where he could probably beef up a bit and play linebacker at the next level. 

    He’s an in-the-box, rangy safety with the ability to close in quickly and terrorize wide receivers anywhere on the field. Vaccaro is the best safety prospect to come out of Texas since Earl Thomas a few years back. 

    In fact, I believe that Vaccaro is better than Thomas. The latter is a Pro Bowler, and a very talented safety, but Vaccaro’s size gives him a bit of an edge in my mind. Vaccaro had 87 tackles this past season, along with two interceptions, but it seems like all he does is hit. 

    Vaccaro is a guy who will be drafted high and who will be a starter in the NFL next season. Whoever drafts Vaccaro will be very happy for many years to come.