2011 NFL Draft: Did Minnesota Vikings Address Safety Need with OLB Ross Homan?

Sean ConeryContributor IIIMay 23, 2011

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 18:  Ross Homan #51 of the Ohio State Buckeyes in action against the Ohio Bobcats at Ohio Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

In the Vikings' Cover 2 defense, the safeties are not only responsible for being the last line of defense—they are supposed to be playmakers.

Last year, the Vikings went with Husain Abdullah at strong safety and the perennially disappointing Madieu Williams at free safety. To be fair, Abdullah did a respectable job considering it was his first season as a starter with 75 tackles and three picks, but Madieu let down Vikings fans for a third straight year.

His 75 tackles were tops for him as a Viking, but still nowhere near the more impressive totals of 103 and 90 he had in Cincinnati in his first two full seasons. A third of his 75 tackles last year were assisted too, proving that he isn't getting to the ball-carrier as soon as he used to.

In the past two seasons, Williams has only recorded one interception in 30 games, a very low total for a free safety. Just as unimpressive is his tiny total of six pass deflections in that same span. Madieu has proven to be embarrassing in run support and even less impressive against the pass. Vikings fans and opposing offensive coordinators are well aware that he gets burned in coverage time and time again, so it's time for the Vikings to move on.

Mistral Raymond has an inspiring story, but it's unlikely that he'll ever be a great starter at safety. Instead, the Vikings may have snuck a better option under the radar a few picks earlier with Ohio State's Ross Homan.

Homan may have been an outside linebacker in college, but he's undersized for the NFL at 6'1", 240 lbs. Shedding 10 pounds or so would put him in the same league with other star strong safeties like Adrian Wilson (6'3" 230), Bernard Pollard (6'2" 224) and even Rodney Harrison (6'1" 220).

Husain Abdullah might have manned the SS spot last year, but he is a natural free safety. Abdullah started there at Washington State, so the transition would be easy for him and the move would open up the strong safety spot for Homan. As an added bonus, Abdullah's interception total would have a higher ceiling at free safety.

Homan has all of the heart in the world and his toughness and dedication would help him make the transition. He was first-team All-Big Ten, team captain and a three-year starter who always fought through his injuries (turf toe, concussion, sprained foot).

Ross has always been stuck in the shadow of other OSU linebacker greats like James Laurinaitus, A.J Hawk and Chris Spielman. Still, he managed to rack up a whopping 288 career tackles with five sacks and seven picks in his career as a Buckeye. Homan never had trouble locating the ball-carrier and he has always displayed amazing quickness.

Even though he is bigger than other safety prospects, his 4.66 40-yard dash would rank fourth among strong safeties at the combine. His 32 bench-press reps would rank first, his 35.5-inch vertical would tie for first and his broad jump would be fourth too. His three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle would be a few fractions of a second behind top prospects, but both of those numbers would improve if Ross shed those 10 pounds. 

With Ben Leber and Chad Greenway locking down the outside linebacker positions for now, Homan might just be an unexpected candidate to replace Madieu Williams next year.