You’ve no doubt got your pet favorites at every position in this year’s Draft. It’s natural.
But don’t fall prey to a common folly of all Draft lovers: single-mindedly obsessing over a couple players so much that your understanding of all the others is pathetic by comparison. Everybody has That Guy at the Draft party who’s scratching his head when your team picks. Really, the Titans went with a wideout?
We all know That Guy. I despise him. I punch That Guy right in the stomach with my mighty arms, sending a wave of pain through his abdomen with righteous vindication. And you better believe that my Draft anger does not discriminate. I went through it last year and my fiance was pooping scouting reports for days. Oh yes.
So to save you from my scorn, we here at Arrowhead Addict will do an entire position every now and then, giving you a good reader on the talent available. You’d do well to either bookmark these puppies (or print them out altogether) and keep them handy for Draft Day(s), so you can have a 101 on all the new talent we just picked up.
If you know your Bible as well as I do, than this post’s title informed you that today’s position examination is safety.* Pioli has highlighted safety as a position that needs to be upgraded, since our crop of safeties sports two great character guys with no talent (McGraw & Brown), one talented guy with promising potential (Morgan) and another guy who probably doesn’t fit this defense anymore (Page).
So we take a moment to focus on the strong safeties, the free safeties, the bodyhunters and the centerfielders. They’re mostly all introduced to you right here in this thread. Everybody except Eric Berry and Taylor Mays, who we’ve talked about extensively on this blog. This thread is for the guys we’re not obsessing over.
Get an education, after the jump.
The following is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a damn good primer. You’re not going to get this anywhere on the web but Arrowhead Addict.
Allow me to start with the one Top Tier guy that isn’t talked as much as Berry and Mays are. We’ll then go from there.
FS Earl Thomas, Texas
What he is: Earl Thomas may or may not be the next Derrick Johnson. It depends how skeptical you are of Texas players in particular and the Big 12 more broadly. What is not in dispute is that Thomas has all the speed of Mays, and rivals Eric Berry in his playmaking ability. Many commentators and draftniks rank Thomas higher than Mays, despite the fact that he’s twenty pounds lighter — but his frame looks great for football. He has a great nose for plays and can truly eat up space. His coverage skills are great, and he is not shy of contact, as no safety should be.
Where the Chiefs might look for him: As good as he is, he just doesn’t wow as regularly as Eric Berry does, therefore he is a surefire “no” for the #5 overall. He’ll probably go somewhere in the first, but if he somehow drops to our “2a” pick, he is a no-brainer in terms of value.
THE SECOND TIER
FS Nate Allen, South Florida
What he is: The elite three in this Draft are Eric Berry, Taylor Mays, and Earl Thomas. At the very top of the 2nd tier guys is Nate Allen. Of the remaining safeties, Allen still sports outstanding speed and recovery although he may not time well. He’s a pure centerfielder who can bait QBs as well as most QBs bait safeties, which leads to him consistently racking up good numbers throughout his career. Most appealing is the fact that he’s a composed leader on the field with a very high football IQ. Only Eric Berry sports better intangibles than Nate Allen, who is a true blooded football player. He is under everybody’s radar — most of the safeties are this year, but Nate Allen especially. Keep your eyes on him.
Where the Chiefs might look for him: Pioli and Haley would absolutely love to get their hands on this guy. I wouldn’t put 2a out of the question with a strong Combine, but 2b is much more likely if he’s around.
SS Chad Jones, LSU
What he is: If you’re a running back that has somehow stumbled past the defensive line, there are few things in life that you would like to see less than Chad freakin’ Jones, a 230 lbs. beast that hits harder than most linebackers. Jones is your classic run-stuffing free safety in the vein of Bernard Pollard, but he’s actually much more versatile. He can cover tight ends and backs very well, and can serve in a pinch on some bigger wideouts. Jones is an all around safety, with a family of athletic achievement, including himself being a promising pitcher when he was younger. Strap in for this kid.
Where the Chiefs might look for him: Chad has the look of a 2b pick. There’s no chance he falls to the third.
FS Morgan Burnett, Georgia Tech
What he is: A sure thing. If Burnett declared last year after his amazing sophomore season, he’d be a first round pick. I’m still kinda thinking he still could be. Burnett took over Tech’s secondary his freshman year, leading the defense with three picks and nearly 60 tackles. He was so impressive immediately out of the gate that for the past two years, the coaching staff has essentially let him play and do what he wants and where he wants on the field. He rewarded them with eleven more interceptions over the past two years, and nearly 180 tackles. That’s a wow, my friends. He has the instincts to play free safety but honestly he’s played everywhere. Some good workouts and he could pole-vault up this list, but it’s most likely that he’s dropped because his speed won’t turn many heads and his junior year was somehow considered underwhelming with 80+ tackles and four picks.
Where the Chiefs might look for him: He’s a pretty solid third rounder, although a good Combine might make him worth the 2b pick.
FS Major Wright, Florida
What he is: Wright is not the kind of guy to shy away from a big stage. He has risen to the platform of every stage he’s been given. Regularly nationally ranked high school team? He was a stud on it. Regularly elite college football program? He was a stud on it. National championship games two years in a row? Wright rose to the challenge every single time, a reliable and instinctual over-the-top player that’s guaranteed to do well in the NFL, as either a reliable starter or as a solid backup that you can trust on the field. Wright never really has that size or speed that makes you go wow, but he is a reliable pair of legs on the field that rarely gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar. This pick doesn’t have a lot of upside in my opinion, but he’s a fairly reliable pick.
Where the Chiefs might look for him: Pioli likes a sure thing, and he loves big programs. Wright might be a clever fourth round pick, with perhaps a reach in the third if we haven’t picked up any safeties yet and he’s aching for one.
SS Larry Asante, Nebraska
What he is: A lunchpail type guy if there ever was one. The Huskers don’t ask for a lot of flashy plays from Asante and their safeties, especially with Suh destroying offensive lines forwards and backwards. So while Asante never racked up that many flashy stats, Asante sports measurables that suggest he could actually be groomed into that kind of player if a team trusted its secondary coaches to develop him. He has the body and aggressiveness to get into the backfield if he needs to, although again, Nebraska hardly ever asked him to do that. Asante will probably never be a ballhawk but he is a reliable guy that will almost never be caught out of position and will do his job. At best he’s an unheralded starter for your defense, but you can trust him out there on the field.
Where the Chiefs might look for him: Top of the third would be a tad too high for Asante. Top of the 4th would be an okay deal.
SS Darrell Stuckey, Kansas
What he is: Stuckey is a smallish strong safety that might not be at home as a traditional strong safety in something like a 3-4 defense. If you like to drop your safeties back into a Cover 2 type formation, you might have the best fit for Stuckey. But this kid is a playmaker. Not only does he return kicks pretty well (but not outstandingly well or anything — he doesn’t project to be the next Devon Hester), he also has really good ball skills and the ability to pluck the ball out of the air if he gets the inside track on someone. His speed is above average for a safety, but he demands enough attention that offenses do have to gameplan around him.
Where the Chiefs might look for him: They probably won’t be. I think they want a more aggressive, maybe even a bigger SS.
THE THIRD TIER
SS Reshad Jones, Georgia
What he is: He’s been compared (unfairly, in my opinion) to Darren Sharper, but Darren Sharper can do it all. Jones is more of a one-dimensional overachiever. As a pure secondary player, he struggles in coverage against speedier receivers if he’s ever asked to cover. When he’s asked to man the middle and play the routes, he can be easily looked off by the QB. And he doesn’t sport speed that really turns heads. Instead, Jones is a brillaint box-stuffer. If you want an 8th guy in the box to stuff the run, you couldn’t ask for a better fundamentally sound safety. This is where he eats. Matter of fact he plays the run like a linebacker, and always diagnoses where the run’s going ahead of time.
Where the Chiefs might look for him: I honestly don’t think the Chiefs are looking for a pure run-stuffing safety, seeing as how they didn’t have much use for Pollard. I doubt the Chiefs look his way at all.
SS Myron Rolle, Florida State
What he is: The YouTube I’m linking you to is a Rolle special run on ESPN GameDay, where they make a pun by calling the player a “Rolle model.” And that’s exactly what he is. We’ve talked a little about Eric Berry’s intelligence, and how he actually interned for a dental hygenist. Well hey, if pure intelligence is your thing, Rolle is in Berry’s league. Pioli has long loved genuinely intelligent players, so surely Rolle is on his radar. But Rolle has called himself a “student first” — but that’s exactly why Pioli (and Haley especially) would hesitate. Pioli/Haley want players who eat, sleep, and breathe football, and if Rolle was willing to suspend his college football career to pursue academics, will the NFL be able to hold his attention? For that reason alone, Rolle lands here in my “third tier,” because I think he’s a high velocity safety whose size/speed combo is worth drooling over. He plays as smart as he is, a great opportunistic playmaker, and covers well for a safety. But what’s he really about?
Where the Chiefs might look for him: Your guess is as good as mine. We know they spoke with him at the Senior Bowl They may think he’s worth a third, they may not even look at him at all. I, personally, love players like this. But Pioli and Haley are looking for obsessives.
FS/SS TJ Ward, Oregon
What he is: A highlight reel–if he can stay healthy. Ward has been sidelined for significant portions of his college careers because of a series of fluke injuries (including an ankle injury this past year) that nonetheless do have a tendency to linger. But in one of his first plays on the field for Oregon, he picked off a pass. Throughout his career, he has made a series of “OMG” type plays that blow the door off the place, typically when it comes to sideline pursuit. Ward plays with outstanding speed, and virtually no one can beat him around the corner. That said, he does carry a couple red flags with him, including an underwhelming campaign this past year that may or may not have been due to an injury. If he stays on the field, you’ve got yourself a more than a few “wow” plays every season. He has the body and speed of a free safety, but he looks at home at the strong safety position.
Where the Chiefs might look for him: He fits Pioli’s profile of an attractive middle-round prospect. His versatility is definitely a plus, and he is definitely NFL ready. Top of the 4th seems too early, but it’s not out of the question.
FS/SS Kurt Coleman, Ohio State
What he is: Kurt Coleman is a lot of things, but above it all, he is a football player. (Call him the anti-Myron Rolle or something.) Looking over Coleman’s statistics is enough to make you sick — sacks, interceptions, passes defended, tackles for loss, tackles tackles tackles tackles… He really did do it all for an underachieving Ohio State defense. What else could you want? Nasty on-the-field attitude? Done. A team leader, you say? Sold! Coleman is a captain-on-the-field type, he’s mentally tough, and has the speed to hit the edges and the aggressiveness to stuff the box. But Coleman also fits the profile of the dreaded “tweener.” Coleman is 190 lbs soaking wet, but strong safety most closely aligns with his ability. He might make a decent free safety but you’re simply not using him to his best abilities if you do, and he doesn’t have the coverage skills to play corner. So where does he play? Good question, and that’s why he’ll drop. He’s going to be perfect in dime coverage, maybe even nickel. And I’m sure he’ll be ferocious on special teams. But where does he play?
Where the Chiefs might look for him: I think the mysteriousness of what to do with him would cause the Chiefs to look past him, to be honest. But if you can crack that nut, you’ve got yourself a player. Coleman has a fiery, Haley-approved work ethic. The Chiefs should consider him with their “5c” pick if he’s still on the board.
FS Robert Johnson, Utah
What he is: He is a Utah Ute. What that means to you probably depends on how you feel about Robert Johnson. Utah Utes have not had the kindest transition success into the NFL. However, Johnson’s fellow safety, Sean Smith, was drafted in the 2nd by the Dolphins last year and started for all 16 games at cornerback for them. But Robert Johnson does not have Sean Smith’s crazy-good measurables. I love Johnson’s personality, and his great attitude is probably the best part about his game, no question. He’s one of those guys that everybody in the locker room loves. But two red flags appear when we talk about Johnson: his play dropped off to ordinary without Sean Smith around this year (which may or may not be his fault, depending who you talk to), and he’s battled through numerous injuries that have sidelined him, including essentially benching him for awhile in Utah’s classic 2008 season. Buyer beware.
Where the Chiefs might look for him: He’s a Haley guy, no doubt. Hard worker and a Grade A personality. But the aforementioned red flags, plus just the genuine fact that he comes from Utah, might be enough to keep Pioli’s finger off the trigger until the 6th or 7th, where the Chiefs currently do not have any picks.
SS/OLB? Barry Church, Toledo
What he is: As known a quantity as you could ever get out of a smaller program like Toledo. Church started every single game for every single year he played at Toledo, and earned first team all-MAC every single year. That’s right, every single year. Church loves to get in the backfield and get to the quarterback, and at 220 lbs, he can pack a wallop. Despite his speed, he still might have just under 4.6 speed, but coverage is not really his game. He has pretty good ballskills, but by no means is he a world-beater. If it sounds like I’m describing a linebacker more than a safety, that’s because he translates there better than he does to strong safety. It is entirely possible that Church ends up as a nickel linebacker, or just a weakside linebacker in general.
Where the Chiefs might look for him: Pioli typically doesn’t shop for small-program guys like Church until late in the Draft. If the Chiefs pick him up, it wouldn’t be until the latest rounds where they currently aren’t selecting.
LATE ROUND INTERESTS
S Justin Woodall, Alabama
S Kyle McCarthy, Notre Dame
S Kam Chancellor, Virginia Tech
SS Nick Polk, Indiana
What they are: Talented achievers for bigtime programs (and Indiana…), but don’t seem to be very fast. Out of the four here, I’d say Woodall is the only player with any chance the Chiefs might be interested because of the Saban connection Pioli has with Alabama. Other than that, these players all have the skills and heads to play in the NFL as potential backups, but when it comes to the later rounds, Pioli loves measurables and players he can develop, rather than readymade players who don’t have the physical ability.
Where the Chiefs might look for them: If any of these players can find a way to get into the mid-4.5s with their 40 yard dash, Pioli may take a look. Chancellor is interesting to many people if he shows speed, but I think he’s way overrated.
FS Eddie Hicks, Southern Miss
What he is: My official late-round safety sleeper. He seems to fit the exact profile of Pioli’s late-rounders in 2009: he has NFL speed (he could run a 4.4!), and he seems to have serious boom potential. Hicks’ biggest liability is his size (he’s less than 190 lbs), but he is a fantastic weapon to use against the faster receivers that always seem to vex the Chiefs secondary. He also has great ball skills, and despite his smaller size he seems to genuinely love playing the run. The big unknown here is whether he’s able to cover — if he has the athleticism to cover receivers with any effectiveness, he could be a great nickelback. And how is he returning kicks?
Where the Chiefs might look for him: Late, but he’s probably in their crosshairs. As interesting as he is, he’s probably just a situational guy in the NFL because of his size: when the Chiefs play deep, or spread out their defense, or have to go nickel or dime.
FS/SS Harry Coleman, LSU
What he is: An unfinished product. Coleman’s play at LSU, unlike his fellow Draftee Chad Jones, is too inconsistent to consider him to be much more than a late rounder. The problem is that he hovers around 200 lbs but his skill set translates horribly to free safety. He doesn’t pick off passes because he doesn’t have ball skills, and he may not translate into being much of a strong safety because of his lack of size (and the fact that, as the YouTube above demonstrates, he can get manhandled by even tight end blockers). His personality is also a question mark to me here because he is almost violently enthusiastic on the football field and that’s going to get him in trouble with flags after-the-play. Coleman is, otherwise, a standard late-rounder if not for some of these issues. He eats up space very well, and he’s an enthusiastic contributor in run defense.
Where the Chiefs might look for him: I think he’s overrated. Most Draft boards have him down as a midrounder, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he falls all the way to UDFA. He’d be appealing to smaller defenses, but I doubt Pioli is really interested in making this square peg fit.
FS Josh Pinkard, USC
What he is: Your typical USC player, but loaded down his entire college career with an ACL injury. He was in college six years, though, so even if he gets healthy and stays that way, he’s fairly old by Draft standards.
Where the Chiefs might look for him: Can the Haley fitness regime get him back to health? If they believe they can, and he can stay that way, he’s an intriguing UDFA.
FS Dorian Porch, Virginia Tech
What he is: A great size/speed safety. Could run a low 4.5, and if that’s the case, he will end up on Pioli’s late-round radar. Most folks are high on Kam Chancellor, but I think Porch is far more likely to make a splash in the NFL.
Where the Chiefs might take him: It’s impossible to predict if Pioli would trade up into the 7th round like he did last year with O’Connell. Porch is probably worth tracking as a UDFA.
* Proverbs 11:14, anybody? “In the multitude of counselors there is safety.” And yeah, I read King James Version — who wants to touch me?