2010 NFL Draft: Top Five Safeties
With the advent of the Cover 2 and the NFL being more pass-happy than ever, safeties have become much more important in the grand scheme of things.
While only three safeties are receiving first-round grades, there is plenty of talent to be found in the later rounds.
You can find safeties in every round of every draft, and 2010 is no different. Look for some later-round picks to develop into sold starters.
Here are the top five safeties in the 2010 NFL Draft.
1. Eric Berry, Tennessee
Berry will be an immediate starter in the NFL and could end up being the best player picked in the 2010 Draft.
He's a two-time All-SEC selection at Tennessee and capped his career with All-American acclaim and the Thorpe Award as the best defensive back in college football in 2009.
Berry has the size (6'0", 211-pounds), speed (4.40 in the 40) and athleticism (43-inch vertical jump) to become a Pro Bowl safety.
He may or may not go in the top five, but he's a definite top-10 selection.
2. Earl Thomas, Texas
Thomas has the ability, athleticism, and speed (4.37 in the 40) to play corner as well as safety.
He led the NCAA with 24 passes defended in 2009, intercepting eight and breaking up 16 others. He also led the Longhorns with 18 passes broken up in 2008.
He will come up to support the run, but needs to work on his tackling.
Thomas can also contribute on special teams and should be selected in the top 15.
3. Taylor Mays, USC
Mays became an All-American as a sophomore and junior and considered leaving school early to turn pro in 2009.
He opted to return and close his college career as a four-year starter at USC.
Mays hopes to continue the tradition of All-Pro safeties coming out of Southern Cal and he looked the part last season.
Mays became the first defensive back since Troy Polamalu in 2001 and only the fifth defensive back in school history to lead the team in tackles. His 91 tackles were the most by a Trojan since linebacker Lofa Tatupu's 104 in 2004.
Tackling is what he does best.
Mays hits like a freight train, but makes careless mistakes and can be burnt in coverage. He might be better suited as a linebacker, a la Thomas Davis at Carolina.
4. Nate Allen, South Florida
Allen, like Mays, is an explosive tackler who can wreak havoc at the line of scrimmage.
He started 39 games for the Bulls, earning All-Big East honors twice.
Allen struggles in coverage, especially the deep ball, and will need some help until he learns the nuances of the pro game.
He'll have no problem covering the tight end in the flat and should develop into a solid pro.
Look for Allen to be taken early in the second round.
5. Morgan Burnett, Georgia Tech
Burnett does just about everything well, with excellent awareness and reaction in man and zone coverage, and he can be intimidating as a hitter.
He was very productive at Georgia Tech. In his sophomore season, Burnett collected 93 tackles with seven interceptions to earn All-American honors. He finished with 85 tackles and four picks last year.
His 14 interceptions are second most in Yellow Jackets history.
Burnett will fall into the second round because of a slower than expected 40 time (4.51), but he has the makings of a solid player at the next level.
Others to watch: Chad Jones, LSU; Major Wright, Florida.