At pick No. 160 of the 2010 NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns selected big hitting safety Larry Asante from Nebraska. Although he doesn't have the elite draft status of fellow safety and teammate T.J. Ward, Asante was ranked higher in some publications and may end up a valuable member of the Browns secondary rotation.
Asante was a three year starter at Nebraska and averaged over 70 tackles per year. He was named First Team All Big 12 by the coaches and led one of the nation's top defenses. At 6'1", 215lbs he has ideal size for the strong safety position and is known as a secure tackler who diagnoses plays well.
He never missed a game due to injury and was remarkably consistent during his senior year. Asante had eight games with more than six tackles.
T.J. Ward reminds scouts of Bob Sanders with the way he explodes into tackles and intimidates. Asante has drawn comparisons to Adrian Wilson who is definitely not a head turner like Sanders, but is an excellent, complete NFL safety who is at his best near the line of scrimmage also.
In the fifth round, NFL teams do not necessarily hope to find potential rotation players, but according to Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Asante was extremely impressive at last weekend's mini-camp.
He says that Asante was prepared for both the classroom and the playing field and the coaches really liked him. Pluto says "there were whispers" already that Asante could push Ward for playing time. The Browns were "pleasantly surprised" with the one area of his game reputed to be a weakness, pass coverage.
If Asante continues to work hard and hone his coverage skills, the Cleveland Browns have landed a steal in the fifth round.
Ward was reputed "to be a bit overwhelmed" according to Pluto. It is way to early to to be concerned about Ward after one mini-camp, especially since it was his first one.
It would be a definite bonus for the Browns if both safeties, Asante and Ward, could develop into players with different skill sets, since they could obviously play them together.
It's early, but hopefully both Ward and Asante will continue to develop and vie for time on the field. The earlier they can get out there, the sooner they accrue needed real speed game experience. They can practice all they want, but nothing simulates a real game like one.