Safety rankings: OU's Pool might be only first-rounder
April 11, 2005 Print it
By Dan Pompei
This group is shy on front-end talent, and it's possible Oklahoma's Brodney Pool will be the only safety selected in the first round. Without juniors, this would be a weak class.
Players on the rise: Thomas Davis, Georgia; Josh Bullocks, Nebraska; James Sanders, Iowa; Hamza Abdullah, Washington State; James Butler, Georgia Tech; Mitch Meeuwsen, Oregon State.
Players on the decline: Jamaal Brimmer, UNLV; Junior Rosegreen, Auburn.
Biggest hitter: Davis.
Best in run support: Davis.
Best in coverage: Dustin Fox, Ohio State.
Best range: Pool.
Best ball skills: Kerry Rhodes, Louisville.
Best instincts: Matt Grootegoed, Southern Cal.
Underrated: Ben Emanuel, UCLA.
Sleeper: Raymond Ventrone, Villanova.
An analytical look at the safety class:
1. Brodney Pool, Oklahoma, 6-1/201. An opportunistic player, is well suited for free safety. Provides a solid last-line defense as a sound tackler. Closes on plays nicely. Shows a nice burst to break up plays. Shows a good nose for the ball and is fearless in going after it -- for better or worse. Sometimes gets beat and needs to polish his technique. It could take the early-rising junior a few years to develop and mature. Is a terrific athlete. Lacks elite speed, but is fast enough. Doesn't deliver knockouts, but is physical enough.
2. Thomas Davis, Georgia, 6-1/230. Posted a much faster 40 time at his on-campus workout (4.43) than he did at the Combine (4.69), but he probably still is best suited to play weakside linebacker. Has thick hips, and makes a tremendous impact against the run. Finds the ball and gets to the hole quickly. Violent defender and solid tackler; strikes opponents and intimidates. Plays with no regard for his body. Is an intimidating hitter who is a good blitzer. Lacks awareness in coverage. Is a sucker for play-action fakes. Does not turn and run well with receivers. Lacks good zone instincts.
3. Ernest Shazor, Michigan, 6-4/228. Is a big, tough, powerful hitter. Is a strong safety prospect. Makes plenty of plays close to the line. Could be moved to linebacker in the NFL. Lacks ideal speed and change-of-direction skills. Doesn't always take great angles. Sometimes fails to break down and make tackles against quicker players. Is a bit stiff as an athlete.
4. Josh Bullocks, Nebraska, 6-0/209. Covers a lot of ground. Has the short-area quickness to stick with tight ends and slot receivers. Shows good ball skills. Didn't make a ton of plays last season, but Nebraska's scheme might have been a factor. Was highly productive the year before under a difference coaching staff. Is best suited to play free safety in a zone scheme. Isn't a big hitter.
5. Donte Nicholson, Oklahoma, 6-1/209. Shows good range and run support. Can play either free or strong safety. Has a good body for the position and the athleticism to match. Runs well. Is both an active defender and a solid tackler. Coverage skills are slightly above average, but lacks great feel on deep throws. Didn't have an impressive individual workout, so stock might have dipped.
6. Oshiomogho Atogwe, Stanford, 5-11/219. Is a smart player who lights up ball carriers when given the chance. Shows good all-around ball skills to play free safety. Can make plays on the perimeter. Has quick feet and good athleticism, but is somewhat limited in coverage. Competes hard. Whiffs on some open-field tackle attempts.
7. Sean Considine, Iowa, 6-0/212. Is more of a football player than a pure athlete. Shows good instincts. Shows the ball skills to play center field. Is both tough and aggressive enough to make an impact in run support. Played hurt as a senior and could be better than he showed. Has special teams potential. Lacks both ideal coverage skills and top speed.
DAY 2 PROSPECTS
8. Dustin Fox, Ohio State, 5-11/191. Is a cornerback/safety 'tweener who played corner in college. His 4.53 40-yard dash time at the Combine indicates he would be best suited for safety, although he lacks ideal size and tackling ability for the position. Could fit in the NFL as either a cover-2 corner or a nickel back. Might lack the quickness to hold up in man-to-man coverage. Shows good instincts and ball skills, and plays hard. Was banged up as a senior. Vertical-jumped 43 1/2 inches at the Combine.
9. Vincent Fuller, Virginia Tech, 6-1/189. Played cornerback and safety in college, and could be considered for both positions in the NFL. Is built like a cornerback, and shows good coverage skills with range and speed. Tackling and durability could be issues as an NFL safety. Doesn't show much pop, but usually gets his man on the ground. Is instinctive, smart and productive.
10. Matt Grootegoed, Southern Cal, 5-11/218. Played linebacker in college, but probably will need to change positions in the NFL. Shows great instincts and toughness, and should make an impact on special teams, if nowhere else. Reads offenses well. Makes plays all over the field. Is a warrior and big-time competitor who rarely misses a tackle. Knocks opponents silly. Blitzes well. Has good speed. Is a decent zone player, but struggles in deep coverage. Lacks great hips to turn and run with receivers.
11. James Sanders, Fresno State, 5-11/205. Is a heady defender; plays with urgency. Is an intimidating, muscular presence who knows how to hit. Shows good coverage skills, and moves well for the position. Lacks elite speed. Is a junior prospect but wasn't invited to the Combine. Stock is rising, though. Teams are all over the board on his worth.
12. Kerry Rhodes, Louisville, 6-3/209. Is a natural free safety with all the skills. Is a converted quarterback who knows how passers think. Is tall, and shows nice range. Shows good athleticism. Has a history of production. Isn't very physical. Could improve at reading keys and diagnosing plays.
13. Marviel Underwood, San Diego State, 5-10/205. Hustles nonstop all over the field. Shows good straight-line speed, but is a little stiff when cutting. Explodes into ball carriers. Makes plays. Shows the ball skills to improve in coverage. Lacks ideal height, but has nice potential.
14. James Butler, Georgia Tech, 6-2/213. Is a big safety with range, but is most effective close to the line. Is an enigmatic player who was more effective in '03. Should be more aggressive. Blows assignments in coverage. Isn't a big hitter. Has a good body for the position with long arms. Offers solid intangibles.
15. Ben Emanuel II, UCLA, 6-3/213. Is an underrated strong safety prospect who gets downgraded because he is limited in coverage and lacks catchup speed. Plays the run well. Shows good instincts. Gets in position to make plays. Relies more on anticipation than athleticism in coverage. Has an ideal build for the position.
16. Jerome Carter, Florida State, 5-11/220. Is aggressive; flies around the field. Has good speed. Shows a nice feel for the game. Helped himself at the Combine. Is physical and a solid tackler. Some NFL teams consider him a possibility at weakside linebacker, but his lack of height might prevent such a move.
17. Gerald Sensabaugh, North Carolina, 6-1/214. Was a transfer from East Tennessee State. Could also be considered at linebacker. Sees the field well, and finds the ball. As a safety, gets physical and is at his best in the box. Is a big hitter. Struggled in postseason all-star workouts and games. Had spectacular jumps at the Combine -- 46-inch vertical and 11-1 broad -- both the best at his position.
18. Andre Maddox, NC State, 6-1/205. Is an in-the-box safety who lights up ball carriers. Has the range to play zone. Shows only average coverage skills, and makes few plays on the ball. Is a steady, consistent defender with good intangibles.
19. Jason Harmon, Michigan State, 6-0/209. Is a fluid athlete who shows good quickness and explosion. Had a nice Combine workout. Shows nonstop hustle, and is tough. Shows good hands. Doesn't anticipate routes well, and is slow to break on the ball. Is an average tackler.
20. Hamza Abdullah, Washington State, 6-2/214. Came on late with a strong pre-draft workout. Didn't start until senior season. Has good size and is a decent athlete. Shows some pop. Is limited in coverage. Misses some tackles. Shows only average instincts. Has not played as well as he tests.
21. Diamond Ferri, Syracuse, 5-10/223. Is a nice defender who flies all over the field. Explodes on contact. Is a converted running back still learning the position. Makes some plays. Has baggage that hinders his draft stock. Lacks elite speed.
22. Mitch Meeuwsen, Oregon State, 6-3/222. Is a big playmaker who improved his stock with solid pre-draft workouts. Is a center-fielder type with an impressive physique. Should be a solid special teams guy. Shows limited coverage skills. Shows good straight-line speed, but lacks much of a burst. Isn't a big hitter. Is a little hesitant in run support. Could take better angles. Coaches love him, though.
23. Jamaal Brimmer, UNLV, 6-1/216. Was a productive defender in college, and is best in run support. Is a decent blitzer. Was overhyped early in the draft process. Stock dropped after he ran a 4.96-second 40-yard dash at the Combine. Rebounded with a 4.69 time at on-campus workout. Doesn't play fast either. Lacks a special trait. Is an inconsistent tackler. Isn't real fluid. Could be more aggressive.
24. Andrew Guman, Penn State, 6-3/211. Is a tough safety who knows how to hit. Shows good instincts. Would be effective as the dropdown safety in an eight-man front. Is limited in coverage, and lacks elite speed. Has solid intangibles. Could contribute on special teams.
25. Dominique Price, Northwestern, 6-0/215. Is expected to convert to strong safety from cornerback. Excels in run support. Is an explosive player with good toughness. Is stiff in coverage. Lacks elite speed. Should be a good special teams contributor.
26. Justin Beriault, Ball State, 6-3/204. Is a downhill safety who plays with reckless abandon. Is active and tough. Has a nice build with long arms. Shows subpar ball skills. Is good enough in zone coverage, but is limited in man-to-man. Offers solid intangibles.
27. Jason Leach, Southern Cal, 5-10/214. Is a strong safety prospect with a good feel for the game. Shows toughness to the point of being a bit reckless. Whiffs on tackles at times. Shows limited coverage skills. Makes a ton of plays. Is short but stocky.
28. Jim Leonhard, Wisconsin, 5-8/191. Is limited by small size. Might be forced into exclusively being a punt and kick returner. Shows terrific return skills. Also could be considered as a dime back. Is a playmaker who is in the right places at the right times. Shows good instincts and toughness, but lacks elite speed. Shows great ball skills.
29. Terry Holley, Rice, 6-1/211. Is a former quarterback who has an understanding of the passing game. Is alert in coverage. Doesn't fly to the ball, and isn't ideally aggressive. Is an average tackler. Is a work in progress; could be a developmental project.
30. Raymond Ventrone, Villanova, 5-9/198. Missed most of the '04 season but got noticed with a good workout. Shows a good build; is small and fast. Shows good toughness; is at his best in the box. Is stiff in coverage. Should be a solid special teams contributor.
31. Junior Rosegreen, Auburn, 5-11/189. Was a highly productive college player who is tough, aggressive and athletic. Is a physical defender and hard hitter. Shows good range, but lacks good instincts. Doesn't always follow assignments.
32. Aaron Francisco, BYU, 6-2/211. Is active, and flows to the ball. Hits hard. Shows good hustle. Is best suited in a zone-heavy scheme; isn't a top athlete. Shows marginal coverage skills. Lacks ideal speed.
33. Jermaine Harris, South Carolina, 6-4/210. Is a big safety with a good body to support the run. Isn't shy about contact. Is only a so-so tackler. Is decent in pass coverage, but shows questionable instincts when playing the ball.
34. Herana-Daze Jones, Indiana, 6-2/202. Is a former linebacker with limited athleticism for safety. Is competitive and aggressive. Shows decent instincts. Is a good hitter, but misses some tackles.