B/R NFL Draft 400: Top Safeties for 2015

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterApril 14, 2015

B/R NFL Draft 400: Top Safeties for 2015

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    Danny Johnston/Associated Press

    Each spring, 256 players are drafted into the NFL and roughly another 100 are added as undrafted free agents. With close to 350 new prospects entering the pros each year, it's tough to keep track of them.   

    Everyone knows who Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota and Amari Cooper are. But what about the rest of the class? At Bleacher Report, our aim is to thoroughly cover the draft unlike any other outlet, so we're not stopping with coverage of the top 32 picks or even the top 200 picks. We're covering the top 400 draft-eligible players, with a full scouting report on each one. 

    The top 400 prospects have been tracked, scouted, graded and ranked by myself and my scouting assistants, Marshal Miller and Dan Bazal. Together, we have viewed a minimum of three games per player (the same standard NFL teams use), and oftentimes, we've seen every play from a prospect over the last two years. That's led to the grades, rankings and scouting reports you see here.

    Players are graded on strengths and weaknesses, with a pro comparison added that matches the player's style or fit in the pros. Position by position, the top 400 guys are broken down for easy viewing before the final release of a top 400 big board before the draft. 

    In the case of ties, competitors were ranked based on their overall grade. 

The Grading Scale

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    At the end of each scouting report, you'll see a Final Grade that falls somewhere between 9.00 and 4.00 on a unique grading scale.

    This scale comes from the teaching I had from Charley Casserly, Michael Lombardi and other former and current front-office personnel in the NFL. I've tweaked it this year to be more transparent, and the result is each player receiving a number grade as well as their ranking.

    This applies to all positions.

    Matt Miller Draft Grading Scale
    GradeLabel
    9.00Elite, No. 1 pick
    8.00-8.99 All-Pro Potential 
    7.50-7.99Pro Bowl Potential 
    7.00-7.49Top 15 Player Potential 
    6.50-6.99Rookie Impact/Future Starter 
    6.00-6.49Rookie Impact/Future Starter
    5.50-5.99Future Starter
    5.10-5.49Quality Backup
    5.01-5.09Backup Caliber
    5.00 Draftable Player Cutoff
    4.75-4.99Priority Free Agent
    4.50-4.74Camp Player
    4.00-4.49Not NFL Caliber

28. Justin Cox, Mississippi State

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press
    40          Bench PressVertical   Broad      3-Cone     
     4.36s 15 reps 38.0" 129.0" 7.05s

    STRENGTHS 

    Justin Cox wowed at the combine with impressive numbers in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump, 20-yard-shuttle and 60-yard-shuttle. That athleticism alone will get players drafted. He's smooth in coverage and can line up in the slot, over tight ends or take backs coming out of the backfield. In man coverage, he has the recovery speed needed to hide some technical flaws in his footwork. He uses his length well and has the frame to play aggressively at the line of scrimmage.

    WEAKNESSES

    A former JUCO player, Cox is still very raw and comes with off-field issues. He was arrested in November 2014 on burglary and domestic violence charges—and he pleaded guilty to trespassing after the victim dropped the domestic violence charge. On the field, Cox is simply very, very green. He's relied on his athleticism and didn't acclimate well to FCS football after dominating in JUCO. His instincts are questionable, and he chases more than he reacts to the play. At 6'1" and 191 pounds, he has a lanky frame for the NFL. With his off-field red flags and on-field rawness, Cox is a fringe player to be drafted. 

    2014 STATISTICS 

    Tackles        Passes DefendedInterceptions  
     21 4 1

    FINAL GRADE: 5.00/9.00 (Backup)

27. Dean Marlowe, James Madison

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press
    40          Bench PressVertical   Broad      3-Cone     
     4.58s 16 reps 33.5" 114.0" 7.00s

    STRENGTHS

    Dean Marlowe dominated the CAA Football Conference and comes into the NFL with solid all-around skills. He's a four-year starter with versatility to play deep halves or up in the box. Marlowe has the range to play the single-high safety look that's becoming trendy in the NFL. He's capable against the run and quickly comes up to stop the ball. Marlowe has good instincts and quick reaction time. He matches that up with clean angles and few wasted steps. At 6'1" and 203 pounds, he has the body type of a free safety.

    WEAKNESSES

    Marlowe won't wow you athletically, and his lack of explosion showed up in combine workouts and drills. He's tough, but limited coverage range against NFL speed is a concern. Marlowe doesn't have the quick, twitchy jump to get to the sideline from midfield. He doesn't have the footwork to slide with receivers or tight ends in man coverage and often lacks the awareness to find the ball in the air. 

    2014 STATISTICS 

    Tackles        Passes DefendedInterceptions  
     96 5 3

    FINAL GRADE: 5.00/9.00 (Backup)

26. Ronald Martin, LSU

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press
    40          Bench PressVertical   Broad      3-Cone     
     4.63s - 33.5" 113.0" -

    STRENGTHS

    A big, physical safety built like a linebacker (6'2", 220 lbs), Ronald Martin's best shot in the NFL may be as a nickel linebacker and safety hybrid. He's an aggressive player looking for the ball and isn't afraid of contact between the tackles. Martin was tested by SEC running games and stood up well at the point of attack. He's a high-effort, high-character player who tries to knock the ball-carrier out with each hit. Martin has special teams upside.

    WEAKNESSES

    Playing in the box is Martin's only asset, and he lacks the speed to play over the top in the NFL. His play speed matches that of a linebacker, and in zone coverage he lacks the quickness to keep pace with route-runners. If asked to cover a tight end or back, he can get taken downfield with their speed. Martin is stiff throughout the hips and won't change direction well on the go. 

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles        Passes DefendedInterceptions  
     73 9 2

    FINAL GRADE: 5.00/9.00 (Backup)

25. Chris Hackett, TCU

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press
    40          Bench PressVertical   Broad      3-Cone     
     4.81s - 32.0" 111.0" 7.12s

    STRENGTHS

    At 6'0" and 195 pounds, Chris Hackett looks the part on the hoof. He's an aggressive, attacking, downhill player who can play free or strong safety. Hackett is at his best against the run, coming down to sniff out inside and outside runs. He's a strong tackler with good power behind the hit. He'll intimidate receivers over the middle if he gets a shot on them. Hackett converted seven interceptions in 2014, showing off his hands and ability to flip the field.

    WEAKNESSES

    Hackett doesn't show the speed to play at the next level in deep coverage or matched up in man situations. His 4.81-second 40 time is abysmal for a safety, and while his 4.53 run at the TCU pro day (per scouts) is better, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Hackett struggled on film with deep range, and that showed up in workouts. Without that top-end speed to fly from center field to the sideline, Hackett is an in-the-box safety without the size to bang with NFL blockers.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles        Passes DefendedInterceptions  
     75 6 7

    FINAL GRADE: 5.00/9.00 (Backup)

24. Clayton Geathers, UCF

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    Patrick Bolger/Getty Images
    40          Bench PressVertical   Broad      3-Cone     
     4.55s 22 reps 37.0" 120.0" 7.21s

    STRENGTHS

    Clayton Geathers is a big, physical, filled-out strong safety (6'2", 218 lbs) who looks like Donte Whitner in his prime. He was a four-year starter at Central Florida and really became the leader of the defense there. He ran and tested overall much better than expected, showing speed, strength and explosive qualities. Geathers lives near the line of scrimmage and was an active, aggressive tackler in his career, posting 96 tackles in his senior season. He closes on the ball with speed and can run down backs behind the line of scrimmage. He's a fierce hitter with the power to make a statement on impact.

    WEAKNESSES

    Geathers is a limited coverage safety who must be played in the box. He'll struggle with any coverage beyond 10 yards and is too often chasing receivers and tight ends instead of mirroring them. He was an active tackler, but he also missed plenty of tackles and left production on the field. Geathers looks for that huge hit instead of breaking down in space and making a clean, wrap-up tackle. In coverage, he has potential but has to learn to trust his eyes and not get sucked in by play action and misdirection. He can help on special teams early and has potential to develop into a starter if he can improve his awareness and tackling.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles        Passes DefendedInterceptions  
     96 9 1

    FINAL GRADE: 5.05/9.00 (Backup)

23. Erick Dargan, Oregon

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    Brian Bahr/Getty Images
    40          Bench PressVertical   Broad      3-Cone     
     - - - - -

    STRENGTHS

    A playmaker and leader on the Oregon defense, Erick Dargan led the team in tackles (95) and interceptions (seven) in 2014. He's a smart, instinctive player with great read-and-react skills. He'll come down in the box and isn't afraid to get dirty in the run game. Dargan is a gamer who showed up huge against Florida State and Stanford. He's a smooth mover in his back-pedal and has good feet to transition from his back-pedal to a forward sprint. Dargan is an ace special teams player and a tireless worker who coaches will love. At 5'11" and 212 pounds, he has the body to bang in the box.

    WEAKNESSES

    Dargan is a limited athlete based on film study and doesn't flash the speed needed to run with NFL receivers. He's small for the strong safety position but doesn't have the fluid ability to play over the top at free safety. His ability to overcome physical limitations with an excellent football IQ will be tested in the bigger, stronger, faster, smarter NFL. Being an in-the-box safety when teams are forced to throw 50-plus times against Oregon allowed Dargan to get away with rarely having to take on blockers or fight through traffic to make plays.

      

    2014 STATISTICS 

    Tackles        Passes DefendedInterceptions  
     95 6 7

    FINAL GRADE: 5.09/9.00 (Backup)

22. Tevin McDonald, Eastern Washington

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press
    40          Bench PressVertical   Broad      3-Cone     
     4.63s 19 reps 33.0" 112.0" 7.01s

    STRENGTHS

    The son of Tim and brother of T.J., Tevin McDonald has a strong football lineage. He's a smart, instinctive player with a fiery streak and the strength to be an impact tackler. He plays much bigger than he's listed at and doesn't back down from a challenge. McDonald has the swagger and leadership teams want from a defensive back. he flashes playmaking ability and has produced at the FCS level (two seasons at UCLA) to prove he belongs in the NFL conversation. 

    WEAKNESSES 

    Playing free safety may be the wrong position for McDonald, who lacks the speed to run with range over the top. He's not a heads-up man coverage safety and could see a move to strong safety right away. He doesn't have great size (5'11", 195 lbs) for either position with short arms and small hands. McDonald is aggressive but takes himself out of the play with his pursuit angles. He has to learn to play with more patience and more discipline running angles and playing in coverage. He was kicked out of UCLA before landing at Eastern Washington.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles        Passes DefendedInterceptions  
     - - -

    FINAL GRADE: 5.09/9.00 (Backup)

21. Jermaine Whitehead, Auburn

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press
    40          Bench PressVertical   Broad      3-Cone     
     4.59s 15 reps 37.0" 128.0" 6.95s

    STRENGTHS

    A ball hawk with six interceptions in 2014, Jermaine Whitehead is an active player on film who is always around the ball. He truly flashed as the best defender on the field at times, which says a lot in the SEC. He's an active tackler who shows a strong wrap-up technique and a fight to drive back ball-carriers. He'll come down and poke his nose in the box to make plays. Whitehead runs with reckless abandon when he has a feel for where the ball will be and plays with a contagious aggression. He's capable of locking up tight ends and running backs in man coverage and has immediate impact as a special teams tackler.

    WEAKNESSES

    Whitehead was a part-time starter for Auburn in 2014 after starting 26 games in the previous two seasons due to a four-game suspension after arguing with his position coach. Whitehead isn't a super-aware or instinctive player, too often flowing to where he thinks the ball will be instead of reading keys and diagnosing the play in front of him. He's a see-and-go player, which works in his favor and also causes him to be badly out of position at times. Whitehead has just an average frame at 5'11" and 197 pounds. With poor read-and-react skills and the issue with his coach hanging over him, Whitehead is a fringe player to be drafted.

    2014 STATISTICS 

    Tackles        Passes DefendedInterceptions  
     36 1 6

    FINAL GRADE: 5.10/9.00 (Quality Backup)

20. Durell Eskridge, Syracuse

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press
    40          Bench PressVertical   Broad      3-Cone     
     4.63s - 31.0" 117.0" 7.09s

    STRENGTHS

    A tall, long, lean safety (6'3", 208 lbs) with the length to make plays above the field, Durell Eskridge will catch the eye of scouts on the hoof. He's a hard worker and a tough tackler, showing he can come down into the box and influence the run game. He's a smart, experienced player with good read-and-react skills on the fly. He won't get fooled by package plays or misdirection and reads his keys to make plays.

    WEAKNESSES

    Predictably, Eskridge is stiff and struggles with hip turns and explosive movements. With average long speed, he needs to be very quick and fluid in his transitions, and he's simply not. He has limited range when asked to move off his spot and isn't fluid or fast enough to be used as a single-high safety. Eskridge made the decision to come out of school early, and that looks like a mistake at this time.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles        Passes DefendedInterceptions  
     68 3 1

    PRO COMPARISON: Micah Hyde, Green Bay Packers

    Eskridge is a tall, high-cut player with the body to add strength, and his skills on the field remind us of Micah Hyde coming out of Iowa.


    FINAL GRADE: 5.15/9.00 (Quality Backup)

19. Ibraheim Campbell, Northwestern

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    David Banks/Getty Images
    40          Bench PressVertical   Broad      3-Cone     
     - 23 reps - - -

    STRENGTHS

    Ibraheim Campbell is a filled-out athlete (5'11", 208 lbs) with the ideal bulk and build for the strong safety position in the NFL. Campbell has been asked to play in the box and over the top at Northwestern and has produced at both. He attacks the ball well with an aggressive streak. Campbell has the quickness to cover tight end and running backs in phase and won't get boxed-out for the ball. Campbell was a turnover machine (three interceptions, four forced fumbles) and plays with the toughness to set the edge in the run game. He's an extra linebacker on the field and has special teams potential.

    WEAKNESSES

    When left alone in deep coverage, Campbell will give up big plays down the field. That makes him a better projection as an in-the-box safety, and not many teams are employing a limited safety these days. Campbell has the frame to be a bully as a tackler, but his technique and form lead to a lot of missed tackles. His vision and diagnosis skills are limited to what's happening right in front of him. He'll get caught up on misdirection and play action. General play awareness is an issue for Campbell. He missed four games in 2014 with injuries.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles        Passes DefendedInterceptions  
     54 3 3

    PRO COMPARISON: James Ihedigbo, Detroit Lions

    A strong safety with some coverage skills, Campbell has the frame and style of a James Ihedigbo-type safety.


    FINAL GRADE: 5.20/9.00 (Quality Backup)

18. Kyshoen Jarrett, Virginia Tech

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press
    40          Bench PressVertical   Broad      3-Cone     
     4.57s 21 reps 33.0" 109.0" 6.95s

    STRENGTHS

    A three-year starter for Frank Beamer, Kyshoen Jarrett is battle-tested and was a productive safety in coverage and in run support. He's a high-motor player with an attacking nature when the ball is in front of him. Jarrett is a clear leader on the field, and he's been tasked with making play calls and really captaining the defense. He's a fiery player who leads by emotion and production. He's been very productive in the ACC and has shown the hands to create turnovers and stop the offense. Teams that like to blitz their safeties will love Jarrett.

    WEAKNESSES

    Jarrett is an undersized safety prospect with average speed and average quickness on film. He's not a flashy player with the burst to jump the ball or show great range in deep coverage. Jarrett is limited when asked to backpedal, turn and run. He's heavy-footed and a little clumsy when asked to make quick, sudden movements. The line separating Jarrett and the other top strong safeties are size and athleticism. With just average size (5'10", 200 lbs), Jarrett does look more like a Day 3 prospect.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles        Passes DefendedInterceptions  
     88 5 3

    PRO COMPARISON: Major Wright, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    A small safety with good upside in the right scheme, Jarrett could have a career like Major Wright once in the NFL.


    FINAL GRADE: 5.20/9.00 (Quality Backup)

17. Jordan Richards, Stanford

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
    40          Bench PressVertical   Broad      3-Cone     
     4.65s 13 reps 32.0" 111.0" 6.74s

    STRENGTHS

    An in-the-box safety with plus skills against the run, Jordan Richards will intrigue teams looking for an enforcer in the secondary. Richards was a three-year starter at Stanford and consistently made plays against the run. He's a strong tackler with proper form and the power to back it up. He has a filled-out frame (5'11", 211 lbs) with impressive arm length and the aggressive nature to use it well. He attacks the ball when coming downhill to take on running backs and isn't afraid to get physical with tight ends in coverage.

    WEAKNESSES

    Richards is a limited player in coverage and is almost a two-down safety (and those don't exist). He doesn’t show the twitchy athleticism needed to change direction on the fly, and his closing speed is thrown off by poor footwork in his breaks. His recovery speed is not good enough to play man coverage in college and will be an obvious mismatch in the NFL. Richards will get the "smart" card because of Stanford, but his on-field read-and-react skills were a touch slow and unimpressive when he was asked to read the offense in the passing game.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles        Passes DefendedInterceptions  
     68 3 3

    PRO COMPARISON: Antone Exum, Minnesota Vikings

    Richards isn't a great athlete, but his toughness and ability against the run—plus on special teams—makes him a fine comparison to Antone Exum as a prospect.

    FINAL GRADE: 5.20/9.00 (Quality Backup)

16. Anthony Jefferson, UCLA

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press
    40          Bench PressVertical   Broad      3-Cone     
     4.72s 15 reps 33.5" 116.0" 7.18s

    STRENGTHS

    A strong week of Senior Bowl play helped Anthony Jefferson, but it also drilled home the belief that his best fit in the NFL is at free safety. Jefferson has long arms and uses them effectively at the line of scrimmage—something he showed at the Senior Bowl. He's quick enough in short areas to shadow on underneath routes and plays well in off coverage. If he's facing the ball, Jefferson has explosive skills to locate and drive on the football. His hands are solid and he'll flip the field for you with interceptions. At 6'1" and 198 pounds, Jefferson has a free safety's build.

    WEAKNESSES

    A lack of game speed is a major issue for Jefferson no matter where you line him up. He doesn't have the twitch to mirror at the line of scrimmage and lets his feet get too heavy in transitions. His hips are tight and his high-cut build makes turning to run with receivers a chore. Jefferson is much better suited for the safety position with these limitations. There he'll have to show better tackling skills and manage to stay healthy.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles        Passes DefendedInterceptions  
     72 9 1

    PRO COMPARISON: Kenny Ladler, Buffalo Bills

    An average athlete but a smart, tough player, Jefferson's best comparison is former Vanderbilt safety Kenny Ladler.


    FINAL GRADE: 5.20/9.00 (Quality Backup)

15. Detrick Bonner, Virginia Tech

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press
    40          Bench PressVertical   Broad      3-Cone     
     - 15 reps - - -

    STRENGTHS

    A converted cornerback, Detrick Bonner will get a long look at free safety in the NFL. Bonner has good size with a filled-out frame (6'0", 207 lbs) and nice length. His play strength is effective, and he's solid as a tackler and willing to come up into the box to make plays. He's a three-tool safety (tackle, blitz, cover) and can be used in a two- or one-safety high defense. He's balanced and controlled when changing directions and brings big versatility thanks to his experience at cornerback. Bonner can contribute on special teams as a gunner or personal protector.

    WEAKNESSES

    Bonner's instincts and awareness are average, and he's often a step late processing the play. His play speed is not great, and he'll rely on his hands to slow down receivers running past him. Bonner was not a dominant college football player and never owned the game tape. He's a hard tackler but looks for that highlight-reel hit too often and must adjust his target for the NFL. A toe injury has prevented Bonner from working out pre-draft.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles        Passes DefendedInterceptions  
     71 4 1

    PRO COMPARISON: Rahim Moore, Houston Texans

    A solid safety with coverage, tackling and run-fit traits, Bonner is a similar athlete and build to Rahim Moore.

    FINAL GRADE: 5.25/9.00 (Quality Backup)

14. Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss

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    Michael Chang/Getty Images
    40          Bench PressVertical   Broad      3-Cone     
     4.60s 11 reps 35.0" 125.0" 7.12s

    STRENGTHS

    A second-team All-American in 2014, Cody Prewitt was a turnover machine at Ole Miss. Prewitt looks like an NFL free safety from the minute you see him (6'2", 208 lbs). He's a solid athlete with better on-field range than tested time and has the hands to pull down the ball with a miraculous catch. He's quick to close on the ball moving both up through an alley and back on deep passes. Prewitt has Day 1 starting qualities, and it wouldn't surprise if he's a better pro than college player once he's placed into a trait-friendly scheme. He has hands, size, range and is a surprisingly powerful hitter.

    WEAKNESSES

    Prewitt isn't a fluid, smooth mover. Unless he's chasing down the ball, his movements look stiff, forced and robotic. Speed isn't part of his game—at least not in terms of a 40-yard dash—and he'll struggle if asked to cover man-to-man against speed. Prewitt is a scheme-specific player who needs to be off the ball and with his eyes on the quarterback. He's ideal for a Cover 2 scheme, but teams running more single-high safety looks could value him less than others.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles        Passes DefendedInterceptions  
     64 2 3

    PRO COMPARISON: D.J. Swearinger, Houston Texans


    FINAL GRADE: 5.25/9.00 (Quality Backup)

13. Ladarius Gunter, Miami (Florida)

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press
    40          Bench PressVertical   Broad      3-Cone     
     4.69s 12 reps 33.5" 108.0" 7.18s

    STRENGTHS

    A long, lanky cornerback prospect with a future at free safety, Ladarius Gunter was impressive at the Senior Bowl against top talent. Gunter has impressive length, height and weight (6'1", 202 lbs) and plays with enough speed and twitch to make plays in space. Gunter was all over the field for Miami and played in both man and zone coverage, lining up off and at the line of scrimmage. He's smart and experienced. Gunter is able to use his length to jam and press at the line of scrimmage and has value as a coverage safety in that he can bump down and cover the slot if needed.

    WEAKNESSES

    A lack of deep speed and a high-cut frame that makes his transitions slow point to a move to free safety. Gunter's film isn't dominant, and he looks like a player who is waiting to peak. Gunter struggled to impress at the combine and looked heavy-footed and awkward in positional drills. Without great anticipation or speed, he will get left behind in press coverage in the NFL—and that's the coverage he was best at in college.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles        Passes DefendedInterceptions  
     28 6 2

    PRO COMPARISON: David Amerson, Washington

    A college cornerback with good hands and promising upside, Ladarius Gunter has a lot of David Amerson qualities as a cornerback/safety prospect.


    FINAL GRADE: 5.25/9.00 (Quality Backup)

12. Donald Celiscar, Western Michigan

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press
    40          Bench PressVertical   Broad      3-Cone     
     4.62s - - 120.0" -

    STRENGTHS

    A physical press cornerback, Donald Celiscar has a future in the NFL. In man coverage he's feisty and competitive, using his length and size well to get at the ball and knock it away. He's shown the hands to make plays, too, notching 10 interceptions in his four years at Western Michigan. He also broke up 45 passes during that same time. He's a dog in phase and will bust his tail to keep in the hip pocket. Celiscar is a high-motor fighter on the field with excellent determination.

    WEAKNESSES

    Celiscar has good size but poor speed and range when pressed to run. He doesn't flash as a top-end athlete. That points to a move to safety instead of a career at cornerback. Celiscar's backpedal gets high and off-balance when asked to slide and kick for a longer period of time. He doesn't have the recovery speed to turn and bail. With his size (5'11", 194 lbs) and speed limitations, he would have to be perfect in his technique to win in man coverage, and he's not there, so he uses his hands too much.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles        Passes DefendedInterceptions  
     63 17 4

    PRO COMPARISON: Rashad Johnson, Arizona Cardinals

    A former cornerback with a bright upside at safety, Celiscar reminds us of a young Rashad Johnson.

    FINAL GRADE: 5.30/9.00 (Quality Backup)

11. Imoan Claiborne, Northwestern State

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    al behrman/Associated Press
    40          Bench PressVertical   Broad      3-Cone     
     4.59s - 39.0" 120.0" 7.28s

    STRENGTHS

    Don't blame teams in the Southland Conference for avoiding Imoan Claiborne. When targeted, he converted turnovers (four interceptions) and lived around the ball. Claiborne brings special teams ability and can help as a return man. A cornerback at Northwestern State, Claiborne uses his hands well at the line of scrimmage and has the hips to turn and bail to get depth. He's an improving player with more upside as a pro thanks to his burst and raw technique.

    WEAKNESSES

    Claiborne doesn't have ideal NFL size at safety and is a thinly built, small-framed prospect at 5'10", 187 pounds. A move to safety may highlight his lack of size, but it's the best move for his pro career due to limited speed. He doesn't play with the power to be an impact tackler and lacks consistency with his form. With below-average speed and agility on tape and in workouts, Claiborne will have to make the move to safety—where his lack of power is going to be an issue early on. He needs to spend time on special teams and in nickel packages before he's ready to play alone in the middle of the field.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles        Passes DefendedInterceptions  
     - - 4

    PRO COMPARISON: Andrew Sendejo, Minnesota Vikings

    An undersized safety with cover skills and upside, Claiborne and Andrew Sendejo are very similar prospects.


    FINAL GRADE: 5.40/9.00 (Quality Backup)

10. Kurtis Drummond, Michigan State

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press
    40          Bench PressVertical   Broad      3-Cone     
     4.65s - 39.5" 119.0" 7.09s

    STRENGTHS

    Voted the Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year, Kurtis Drummond was the on-field leader of a secondary that has been loaded with talent during his tenure. With great size (6'1", 208 lbs) and length, Drummond looks the part and brings the ball skills needed to play free safety in the NFL. His closing speed is solid, and when he has a line on the ball he gets there in a hurry. Drummond has been asked to bump down to the slot and cover receivers and has produced there. He's fast enough to recover from center field if beaten and has the range to make plays outside the hashes.

    WEAKNESSES

    An average tackler with inconsistent instincts, Drummond can be a liability in space. He has to play off the ball as he doesn't have the power to fill lanes and play the run in the box. He's surprisingly light against the run and plays much smaller than his listed size. He's a finesse player who doesn't like to get his jersey dirty.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles        Passes DefendedInterceptions  
     72 11 4

    PRO COMPARISON: Darrell Stuckey, San Diego Chargers

    Drummond has athleticism and size, but he's not a power player and has to be be more aggressive. That's Darrel Stuckey all over again.


    FINAL GRADE: 5.45/9.00 (Quality Backup)

9. Josh Shaw, USC

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    Harry How/Getty Images
    40          Bench PressVertical   Broad      3-Cone     
     4.44s 26 reps 37.5" 130.0" 7.01s

    STRENGTHS

    A physical man-coverage cornerback at USC, Josh Shaw's best fit in the NFL is at free safety. He has the build (6'1", 201 lbs) and strength for it, and his speed would be a major plus at safety instead of average at cornerback. Shaw went on a redemption tour after the season and impressed at the East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl before having a solid combine. He could be a fit in the slot—where his size and strength would be a plus—or play cornerback in zone coverage. His versatility makes him a unique fit for sub-package defenses, as he can play the run or in coverage. He's an attacking player with quick feet to mirror underneath.

    WEAKNESSES

    Shaw was suspended to start the 2014 season after lying to USC officials about how he suffered ankle injuries. He claimed he jumped off a balcony to save his drowning nephew, but he was actually running from the police. Shaw played in just three games in his senior season. On the field, he isn't a threat to create turnovers with his hands and doesn't have the hips of an NFL cornerback. At safety, he has to learn to be a better tackler in the open field and take cleaner, sharper angles to the ball.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles        Passes DefendedInterceptions  
     11 - -

    PRO COMPARISON: Duke Williams, Buffalo Bills

    A versatile safety with playmaking impact potential, Josh Shaw's move to safety gives him an upside similar to Duke Williams.


    FINAL GRADE: 5.49/9.00 (Future Starter)

8. Anthony Harris, Virginia

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    Mike Stewart/Associated Press
    40          Bench PressVertical   Broad      3-Cone     
     4.56s - - - -

    STRENGTHS

    A versatile prospect with the skills to play free and strong safety, Anthony Harris gets overlooked too often in the talk of this safety class. He shines with good awareness and instincts in coverage and when playing the run. He has the length to play in coverage and get his hands on the ball. Harris doesn't have a great build (6'1", 183 lbs), but he sacrifices his body to make tackles in the box. He's a twitchy mover and can change direction freely and without a hitch. He has ball-hawk traits and can flip the field with his hands. He's a clean, smart, confident player in coverage and doesn't get penalized.

    WEAKNESSES

    Man coverage will give Harris fits if matched up against speed. He has a narrow, lean frame that doesn't lend itself to him being a power player at the line of scrimmage. Average speed to carry targets downfield will be a concern, as Harris can struggle if matched up against speed. He plays tall and gets too stiff in his backpedal, making his hip turns tighter than they should be. A lack of power keeps Harris from being a bigger presence in the run game, despite impressive production.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles        Passes DefendedInterceptions  
     108 10 2

    PRO COMPARISON: Morgan Burnett, Green Bay Packers

    Versatile and long, Anthony Harris has the skills and upside to match Morgan Burnett's career.


    FINAL GRADE: 5.50/9.00 (Future Starter)

7. Adrian Amos, Penn State

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
    40          Bench PressVertical   Broad      3-Cone     
     4.37s 21 reps - - -

    STRENGTHS

    Adrian Amos can be listed at safety or cornerback, and how he's viewed by teams may vary. He has excellent speed, agility and short-area burst. He plays with balance and control, never letting his weight get too out in front of his feet or his back too straight. Amos has a cut physique and is known as a gym rat who loves football. He shows good balance and burst in his start-and-stop and can change direction without losing time. At 6'0" and 218 pounds, he has the size to play at cornerback, nickelback or safety.

    WEAKNESSES

    Amos disappears in run support and will take himself out of the play if a tackle is needed. At cornerback, he doesn't have the speed to recover off the line, but at safety he shows good range. There will be questions about combine (4.56) vs. pro day (4.39) speed, but on film he's a legit 4.45 player. Amos could fall into the tweener category, and he doesn't have much experience running at safety.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles        Passes DefendedInterceptions  
     42 7 3

    PRO COMPARISON: Da'Norris Searcy, Tennessee Titans

    A big safety with speed and range, Amos' projection is to a Da'Norris Searcy-type player in the pros.


    FINAL GRADE: 5.50/9.00 (Future Starter)

6. Derron Smith, Fresno State

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    Gary Kazanjian/Associated Press
    40          Bench PressVertical   Broad      3-Cone     
     4.60s - 34.0" 123.0" 6.94s

    STRENGTHS

    A versatile safety with speed and toughness, Derron Smith can start in the NFL early on. He is an active tackler, a capable punt returner and a natural free safety in the middle of the field. He notched 15 interceptions in college, showing his ball-hawking skills. This former quarterback has eyes when facing the signal-caller and the range to close on the ball. He can jump down to the slot and cover receivers and brings value in nickel situations. He's a willing tackler on the edge and has some burst to get into the backfield. Smith is short at 5'10", but he carries 200 pounds well.

    WEAKNESSES

    Game film shows that Smith is a step slow when asked to break on the ball, and he struggles to read and react at times. With a less-than-ideal 40 time, he has to answer questions that he's a small safety with bad speed. He's short with short arms and doesn't have the skills to challenge jump balls. Smith will get out-positioned with size and can be a liability when matched up against tight ends because of this. He became a freelancer too often and has to learn to play his role and not get baited into mistakes.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles        Passes DefendedInterceptions  
     93 7 1

    PRO COMPARISON: Louis Delmas, Miami Dolphins

    Smith isn't a big or fast safety, but he still makes plays—and that's who Louis Delmas has been for his entire career.


    FINAL GRADE: 5.50/9.00 (Future Starter)

5. James Sample, Louisville

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    Garry Jones/Associated Press
    40          Bench PressVertical   Broad      3-Cone     
     4.56s - 32.5" 123.0" 7.04s

    STRENGTHS

    A physical intimidator at safety, James Sample will turn heads when he locks onto a defender and blows up a play. He plays in the box and can be an extra linebacker in run support. Sample is a gamer with closing speed and agility when attacking the ball. His burst and ability to home in on the ball in the run game are very good. His range, toughness and ability to make plays in the open field make Sample a rarity in this class. He also brings considerable upside given his lack of time in an FCS program. His ability to step right into the Louisville defense and produce in 2014 is a testament to his skills. At 6'2" and 209 pounds, Sample looks the part on the hoof.

    WEAKNESSES

    A limited starter at Louisville, Sample has one year of full-time film to view.He has bounced around the nation after spending two seasons at Washington, one season at American River College and one season at Louisville. A lack of experience is an issue for him, and he needs time to learn the game and settle into the intricacies of the position.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles        Passes DefendedInterceptions  
     90 8 4

    PRO COMPARISON: Deone Bucannon, Arizona Cardinals

    A thumper with big potential and some positional and scheme versatility, James Sample is this year's Deone Bucannon.


    FINAL GRADE: 5.65/9.00 (Rookie Impact)

4. Gerod Holliman, Louisville

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    Stephan Savoia/Associated Press
    40          Bench PressVertical   Broad      3-Cone     
     4.65s 17 reps 27.0" 109.0" 7.08s

    STRENGTHS

    The 2014 Thorpe Award winner, Gerod Holliman grabbed 14 interceptions, tying a single-season FBS record. He is patient and fluid when tracking the ball from his position in the middle of the field. He's a classic single-high safety who reads the quarterback's eyes and makes a play on the ball. He has obvious ball-hawking skills and the jumping ability to go get the ball in the air. Holliman is a gamer who put on his best performance against Florida State. He's smooth in his backpedal and hip turn, and you can see the movement styles of a cornerback in his lower body. Holliman's feet are as impressive as his hands, and he's able to move and change direction with no wasted movement or steps. Holliman can play in man coverage and will lock up tight ends or slot receivers with good shadow skills. He has long arms and uses them well to attack the ball or put pressure on receivers leaving the line of scrimmage. Holliman left school as a redshirt sophomore to provide for his family.

    WEAKNESSES

    Holliman did not test well, especially in terms of pure speed, and he will be questioned for his ability to run with NFL range. He's not a hitter and comes up timid when attacking the ball too often. He's been caught playing undisciplined in coverage and likes to roam and look for the ball. Holliman has a tendency to idle instead of sprint, and that won't fly in the NFL. He needs a good coach to light a fire under him.  

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles        Passes DefendedInterceptions  
     44 3 14

    PRO COMPARISON: Devin McCourty, New England Patriots

    Holliman isn't as explosive athletically as McCourty, but they're similar in size, ball-hawking ability and the center fielder position they both excel at.


    FINAL GRADE: 6.30/9.00 (Rookie Starter)

3. Jaquiski Tartt, Samford

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press
    40          Bench PressVertical   Broad      3-Cone     
     4.53s - - 124.0" -

    STRENGTHS

    An old-school hitter with impact potential, Jaquiski Tartt is a monster at strong safety. He has ideal NFL size and length (6'1", 221 lbs), and he has the closing speed to be a force on the ball. Tartt was consistently the best player on the field at Samford and stood out as a guy who deserved to be at a much higher level. He impressed at the Senior Bowl and showed improvement throughout the week as he was exposed to NFL coaching. He's a tough player and a natural competitor. On the field, he's an attacker who looks at the ball as belonging to him. Tartt plays with clean, hard angles and lives around the ball.

    WEAKNESSES

    Coverage is still an issue for Tartt, who ends up playing like a linebacker more than safety at times. He has experience in multiple coverages but is the last guy moving on film too often and likes to ball-watch. He's a raw player and will need to adapt quickly to NFL coaching in technique and read-and-react skills.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles        Passes DefendedInterceptions  
     - - 1

    PRO COMPARISON: Johnathan Cyprien, Jacksonville Jaguars

    An attacking hitter with power behind his pads, Tartt has the style and upside of Johnathan Cyprien.


    FINAL GRADE: 6.35/9.00 (Rookie Starter)

2. Damarious Randall, Arizona State

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    Matt York/Associated Press
    40          Bench PressVertical   Broad      3-Cone     
     4.46s 14 reps 38.0" 120.0" 6.83s

    STRENGTHS

    An aggressive prospect with playmaking traits, Damarious Randall is versatile enough to play free or strong safety—or both. He has good speed and shows range on film, with an ability to get outside the hashes from his spot at center field. Randall excelled at the Senior Bowl and flashed both in man coverage and in zone drills. He also stood out at the combine and posted an impressive workout and agility/speed times. Randall stands out on Arizona State film not only on defense but on special teams. He has the speed and agility to make plays in space. He also has the hands and awareness for the ball you must have at free safety. Turn on the film and Randall is consistently making plays. He was often the best player on the field. That too often gets overlooked for size and speed.

    WEAKNESSES

    Randall doesn't have ideal NFL size and will be docked by teams for his stature. He's not a great tackler and can be timid at the point of attack. His angles when approaching ball-carriers can stand to be cleaner and more aggressive. He's a raw player (just 25 games) and has a baseball background. Randall has to learn to control his aggressive tendencies in coverage so he's not jumping every route going for the interception.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles        Passes DefendedInterceptions  
     106 9 3

    PRO COMPARISON: Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona Cardinals

    A small, feisty safety with special teams skills and some nickel cornerback upside, it's easy to see Damarious Randall as a Tyrann Mathieu-type NFL player.


    FINAL GRADE: 6.45/9.00 (Rookie Starter)

1. Landon Collins, Alabama

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press
    40          Bench PressVertical   Broad      3-Cone     
     4.53s - 35.0" 120.0" 7.38s

    STRENGTHS

    Landon Collins is an impact defender with blue-chip potential at the safety position. He has an NFL build and uses his size well. He's a bully when attacking the ball. Collins gets typecast as an in-the-box safety, but he played both free and strong safety at Alabama and looked good in single-high coverage when healthy during his junior season. He has downhill skills to be sure, but he can get depth and read-and-react to the ball in the air. Collins does excel as an attacker, and you want him around the ball—which is why Alabama put him in the box as its edge talent decreased. He's big enough to stack up blockers and get through traffic and plays with a pissed-off mentality. Collins is fluid if not blazing fast and is able to compensate for a lack of elite speed with size, awareness and instincts. He lives around the football and led Alabama in tackles in 2014. He can match up in coverage against backs and take away tight ends at the line of scrimmage. His feet are quick enough to shuffle and mirror at the line, but he uses his length and power well to jam and stick tight ends to the line.

    WEAKNESSES

    Collins doesn’t have the straight-line speed to run downfield with Jimmy Graham or other speedy tight ends. He doesn’t catch the ball cleanly and won’t likely be a turnover machine in the NFL. Small injuries affected Collins’ speed and agility in 2014, and you can’t get away from the thought that Alabama players come in to the NFL maxed out and beat up. In man coverage he can struggle to locate and attack the ball (see Ole Miss game).

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles        Passes DefendedInterceptions  
     102 7 3

    PRO COMPARISON: Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings

    A game-changing prospect with the ability to play free or strong safety, Collins matches up well with Harrison Smith both physically and in style of play.


    FINAL GRADE: 6.90/9.00 (Rookie Starter)