Sept 22, 2012; Tallahassee, Florida, USA; Florida State Seminoles defensive back Terrence Brooks (31) celebrates after a defensive stop during the second half of the game against the Clemson Tigers at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NFL Draft: Finding The Kansas City Chiefs A Safety


The Kansas City Chiefs offseason has been a relatively uneventful one. While I’m content with what KC has done (or more accurately, not done) it does put an added emphasis on the upcoming NFL draft. Last week I broke down some possible mid-round WR prospects. In the comments of that post I received a request to do something similar with the safety position. So this week I’ve got a short preview of nine different safety prospects that I personally would like to see in a Chiefs uniform next season. These are NOT the nine best safety prospects in this draft. There are some prospects that I’m not a big fan of, some that have character issues that scared me off, and then I basically ignored any prospect that I felt was more of a run support safety with limited coverage abilities.

It’s my belief that with how KC has shown that they prefer to use Eric Berry around the line of scrimmage that their other starting safety needs to be strong in coverage. That means both being able to cover some in man to man and dropping back and playing “center field” as the last line of defense against the deep ball. If you feel like KC would be better served with a bruising enforcer type next to Berry, feel free to make your case in the comments below, but you won’t find those guys in this post (with maybe one exception).

The safeties on this list would all be great additions to the KC secondary as rookies, either as the starting FS, a third safety (which KC used on a number of occasions), or some even possess the skills to drop down and play nickel back against slot WRs. While opinions vary, these players are predicted to go anywhere from the first round to the 5th round. So regardless of how big of a priority drafting a safety is to you, there is a prospect on this list that could be an option.

Let’s get to it.

HaHa Clinton-Dix – Alabama – 6’1″ – 208 lbs – 4.58 forty

In the eyes of most evaluators Alabama’s HaHa Clinton-Dix is the top safety prospect in this draft. In a league that has become so reliant on the passing game, Clinton-Dix is the superior pass defender to the other top safety prospect, Calvin Pryor. Clinton-Dix is still a solid tackler and is extremely aggressive, he just possesses better instincts in coverage. He also has ideal size for the position. If he was still on the board at pick #23 the Chiefs should jump all over him.

Calvin Pryor – Louisville – 5’11″ – 207 lbs – 4.58 forty

The other clear cut first round safety prospect in this draft is Pryor. In contrast with Clinton-Dix, Pryor is the superior run defender. He has an intimidating “enforcer” presence on the football field that every fan craves for their safeties to have. It may sound like a contradiction, but despite Pryor being my favorite safety on this list, I’m not sure he’s a good fit for the Chiefs. While Pryor does possess some good ball skills and makes some plays in coverage, his best attribute is his physicality. In a lot of ways he’s very similar to Eric Berry, and that’s why I’m not sure KC is a natural fit. I don’t know if they need two safeties with such similar strengths. If the Chiefs drafted him at #23 I would be excited, but if they opted to pass on him and take one of the other safeties on this list later in the draft I would definitely understand.

Nov 20, 2013; Toledo, OH, USA; Northern Illinois Huskies safety Jimmie Ward (15) warms up before the game against the Toledo Rockets at Glass Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmie Ward – Northern Illinois – 5’11″ – 193 lbs – 4.47 forty

There are varying opinions of Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward. Some feel he will be a late first round pick due to his strong coverage skills (some have even called him the best man to man cover safety in this draft). Others feel that his smaller frame is a concern and his skills are more worthy of a 2nd or 3rd round pick. I’m in the first group. I think having a safety like Ward that could play FS in the base defense and also give you the option to drop down and cover slot WRs in the nickel is valuable enough that Ward could go as high as #21 to the Packers and I would have no problem with KC taking him at #23. I don’t see any way he would fall to KC in the 3rd round.

Lamarcus Joyner – Florida State – 5’8″ – 195 lbs – 4.55 forty

If Lamarcus Joyner was 6’1″ and 210 lbs he would be challenging Clinton-Dix to be the top safety taken in this draft. Joyner plays like he’s that size and his game plays like that of an NFL FS. However, his diminutive size is obviously an issue. Despite that size, he’s very physical and aggressive while displaying excellent ball skills. He probably won’t be an option for KC because pick #23 would be too early for a player his size and I don’t see his skills dropping to KC in the 3rd. However, if his size were to scare people off and he did fall to KC in the 3rd they would be foolish to pass him up. Even if he didn’t work as a starting FS his skills as a physical nickel back that could take down RBs and cover slot WRs would be worthy of that pick. If KC were to pick up a 2nd round pick with some kind of a trade, Joyner would be an ideal target.

Terrence Brooks – Florida State – 5’11″ – 198 lbs – 4.42 forty

Joyner’s FSU teammate Terrence Brooks is another one of my favorite safeties in this class. He has experience playing CB and may be the fastest safety prospect in this draft. He’s physical enough to play safety in the NFL despite his size being more like that of a CB. Like both Ward and Joyner, Brooks has the skill set to drop down and cover slot WRs man to man. If KC doesn’t draft a safety in the first round Brooks would be at the top of my list to draft in the third. However, his speed and coverage skills may make him falling that far unlikely.

Aug 29, 2013; Honolulu, HI, USA; Southern California Trojans linebacker Dion Bailey (18) against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors at Aloha Stadium. USC defeated Hawaii 30-13. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Dion Bailey – USC – 6’0″ – 200 lbs – 4.66 forty

Bailey is one of the more interesting prospects on this list. He possesses some of the coverage skills needed to play CB, yet he played one season at LB for USC. Normally a safety prospect with LB experience would be a clear SS type and more of a run stopper than a coverage guy, but that’s not the case with Bailey. He seems to have a nose for the ball and I think he has a very high upside. However, because he’s a little raw and it’s a bit of a question mark as to how he’ll take to playing a traditional FS in the NFL there is some bust risk here.

Ed Reynolds – Stanford – 6’1″ – 207 lbs – 4.57 forty

Reynolds is one of the more traditional safeties on this list. In my opinion he is the only safety on this list besides Pryor that could play either of the traditional FS or SS roles. He also has the more prototypical size and build for the position that some of the others on this list are lacking. His aggressive nature has gotten him in trouble both for biting on fakes and getting beat deep and also for leading with his helmet and getting ejected in one game. However, if KC is looking for a safety with starter upside in the 3rd or 4th round Reynolds would be a solid choice.

Dec 28, 2012; Orlando, FL, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies cornerback Antone Exum (1) returns an interception thrown by Rutgers Scarlet Knights quarterback Gary Nova (not pictured) during the fourth quarter of the 2012 Russell Athletic Bowl at the Citrus Bowl. Virginia Tech defeated Rutgers 13-10 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Douglas Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Antone Exum – Virginia Tech – 6’0″ – 213 lbs – 4.59 forty

Virginia Tech’s Antone Exum is a safety prospect that is flying under the radar in my opinion. He missed most of 2013 with injuries, but in 2012 he lead Virginia Tech with five interceptions and 16 passes defended while playing CB. That’s pretty good for a guy that in 2011 lead his team in tackles while playing safety. If you take one look at Exum he looks much more like a safety than he does a CB and I think FS will be his best position in the NFL. Virginia Tech has a great track record recently of putting DBs into the NFL and I think Exum will greatly out perform his draft position which is currently predicted to be somewhere in the middle rounds. The only question mark for me is that after being cleared by doctors to come back from an ACL injury he declined to play at first saying he wasn’t ready. The Chiefs would want to make sure his medicals and his desire to play check out but I really think Exum could be a steal in the middle rounds.

Marqueston Huff – Wyoming – 5’11″ – 196 lbs – 4.49 forty

Marqueston Huff is another intriguing safety/cornerback prospect in this draft. Huff possesses the size and speed of a CB, which is what he played early in his college career. However, in 2013 he moved to safety and recorded an astounding 127 tackles. At the Senior Bowl he played both CB and safety and showed the skills needed to play either position. Having a player that can cover well and is that willing to mix it up and tackle ball carriers will be a valuable commodity on draft day. Huff is another player with some upside that could be had in the middle rounds.

So there you have it. Some safety prospects that I would like to see KC target in next month’s NFL draft. You can see that the ability to cover is something that I have placed a high priority on. Before anyone takes to the comments to complain about all the undersized prospects on this list, keep in mind that the best FS in football, Earl Thomas is 5’10″ and played some CB in college (just saying). There are safety prospects like Deone Bucannon, Craig Loston, and Ahmad Dixon that I think will be good NFL players, but simply profile as traditional SS type players that I don’t think KC needs with Eric Berry on the roster. Also, I looked at Jonathan Dowling of Western Kentucky but his character concerns took him off my list.

So what do you think Addicts? What safety would you like to see KC draft next month? Where do you think the best value is? Did I leave someone off this list that you think belongs on it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!

Follow me on Twitter: @LyleGraversen

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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft Kansas City Chiefs

  • Stacy D. Smith

    Dix or Pryor for my money. There’s a major dropoff in talent behind them.
    If we can’t get either of them, I’d probably wait until Round 4 and take a project like Bailey.

    • berttheclock

      What makes Bailey look very promising is the fact, he had an excellent high school record playing defensive back at Lakewood where they were 11-2 his senior year, then, sat out his freshman year, but, followed by improving his play each year, first at corner, then at safety. This is a young man with a work ethic and has shown he can adjust. He does not appear to have that dreaded “Look, I’m very athletic and I don’t even have to work at it” attitude.

  • berttheclock

    Lyle, I know you wrote this fine article due to a fan requesting you review the safeties. Great job with one exception. I believe you forgot to place the words “one of ” before the best safety, Earl Thomas. Thomas is great, but, I don’t see the difference between Berry and Thomas.

    But, I would like to ask you to address a comment from John Elway, last week, where he stated he thought the nickle back was second only in importance on a team to a starting QB. The reason he said that position was so important was the fact a nickle back had to be quick enough to handle the quick and elusive slot backs in the league, must be an excellent tackler due to the major problems caused down field should he miss the tackle on the slot, be savvy enough to learn quickly from mistakes and take immediate corrective action and be fast enough to drop over to cover on the outside. These qualifications separate many from the few and, as Elway said, can be hard to find due to having to evaluate so many different corners and safeties coming out of college. His best was an UDFA out of KU and even though he went on IR, Denver paid Harris, Jr very well to remain with them. Perhaps, Jason Verrett, the small CB from TCU would fit this bill. But, in your list of above, perhaps, such as Marqueston Huff would work. Remember, quick, fast and a solid tackler, plus, someone who can learn quickly from any mistake. This means total concentration which is something lacking for a corner such as Roby coming out OSU. But, Reynolds, Jr, might be snatched by the Giants as his father has really made a sales pitch to Coughlin for him to follow his footsteps.

    • Lyle Graversen

      Called Thomas the best FS (which he is), Berry is a SS.

      As far as Elway’s comment, he has some valid points but there is NO way I’d put nickel back over pass rusher. NO WAY. I don’t care how good a NB is, if the QB has time he’ll find someone. Hit the QB, break his rhythm, make him uncomfortable, that’s how you beat elite passing teams.

      • berttheclock

        Thanks for responding, Lyle. Yes, I understand the need for pressure, but, a much better nickle, last season, would have helped greatly against some of the slots who gave us fits.

  • berttheclock

    When both Berry and Thomas were picked so high, fans from both teams groused about paying a safety so much money. However, if you look at the best safeties in the league, the majority of them have been fairly high draft picks, with Kam Chancellor being somewhat of an exception

  • Michael Shaw

    To be perfectly honest, I don’t care who we get at #23 as long as it isn’t anyone from freaking USC! Too many busts coming from that school lately!

    • berttheclock

      Yeah, I know what you mean. Why just thinking about having Malcolm Smith, the SB MVP, or Clay Matthews, Matt Kalil or his brother Ryan Kalil, Tryon Smith, Jordan Cameron or even the pass catching Robert Woods, Jr on the Chiefs would be frightening. Just because Barkley was a reach doesn’t mean there are not legitimate Trojans playing Pro Bowl ball in the NFL or very close to it. That is similar to fans dismissing LSU players, while, overlooking the many quality Tigers playing in the NFL. Would you have passed on Eric Reid, last year?

      • Michael Shaw

        Really? The only names I recognize are Kalil, Mathews and Smith. Unless Cameron is the TE from Cleveland. Still, there have been more high profile guys form USC since Carroll left that haven’t been that good.

  • Erik Hild

    I think the Chiefs have a tough choice. Do you take a FS at 23 and draft a WR in the third or do you take a top tier WR at 23 if available? Since the chiefs have yet to address the WR issue in FA I think they will take a WR at 23 or try and trade for more picks. One receiver I think the chiefs should look at if they get a 2nd round pick via trade is Jordan Matthews from Vanderbilt. He has the size to compete in the NFL runs precise routes and is very intelligent. GO CHIEFS!!!

    • berttheclock

      What happened to Matthews at the Senior Bowl practices? He kept getting jammed by more aggressive D-backs.

  • freshmeat62

    I’m going to bring up again the guy I’ve been harping on for a month now, and that’s Dontae Johnson of NC ST. After the combine I went thru several positions that I thought the Chiefs would be interested in to see if anyone stood out. Johnson did like a diamond in a coal mine.

    The guy was a FS his 1st 2 years, and later converted to CB his last 2. So he has experience at both. He ran a 4.45, 2nd best for FS, a 38 1/2 vertical, best of the FS’s. His cone time was fast. He has perfect FS size – 6’2″, 200. He stood out in all areas, yet he is rated as a 5th rd pick. Why? I read his bio, maybe the guy is a disciplinary problem. Nothing there! Injury prone? Nope! Can’t cover worth a darn? Nothing mentioned in the scouting reports. So why is this guy only a 5th rd prospect? He sounds to me more like a 2nd rd pick.

    I’m curious, does anyone know anything negative about him to warrant being a 5th rd pick?

    • berttheclock

      WalterFootball has him as a sleeper in the 2-3 round range. Another service had him as an excellent backup in a zone scheme. Their only knocks on him were taking bad angles at times and that he showed a lack of top end speed while trying to cover Sammy Watkins, but, then, who really did cover Watkins very well?

    • Lyle Graversen

      I looked at him but honestly couldn’t find much on him. Based on the little bit I’ve read he sounds promising. I certainly wouldn’t be upset if we took him. Some of the reports seemed to think he’d be looked at as a CB in the NFL, but that’s really speculation.

    • cyberry

      I was big on Dontae Johnson also til a guy brought up an issue. So i went and watched him on U-Tube.. He will shy away from contract.. Comes across as , he doesn’t like to get hit.. If he sees someone else making the play..he gets out the way so to speak..To be a safety in the NFL you gotta give it all..and enjoy it..

  • chief4ever

    Great breakdown ! Unfortunately, Clinton-Dix and Pryor will be gone at 23 so I hope we go for Beckham, Cooks or Lee…one of them will be there and I think it is a coin flip as to which will end up being the best. Cyril Richardson in the third round and Huff in the 4th is what I would consider right now …assuming Cummings is fully recovered. Go Chiefs !

  • Josh Landers

    I don’t believe that fs is a need. If commings isn’t ready to start, Abdullah is. Just like Schwartz, Abdullah played much better than the starter in front of him and received less playing time. We need a backup for Poe, secondary depth, at least 1 wr, rb depth and o-line depth (maybe a starter at rg). Outside of that, all I can see is building for the departures of guys like Hali and Johnson. I think fs was only a need before Abdullah was signed. GO CHIEFS!!!

    • Lyle Graversen

      Even if they feel good about the guys they have, we still need another for depth since they like to play three at a time in some packages.

      • Josh Landers

        Seems like were in need of a ss more than fs, though. Who’s behind berry?

  • Daniel Mayfield

    Great work Lyle!! I bet that wasn’t easy to track those players and break everything down about them.

    I’ve got 3 players I would like to see KC pick up if they go for a FS.
    #1 Clintun-Dix It looks like he’s got the
    skills for covering a WR, falling back in the deep area, and being aggressive enough to stop players from getting past him(good for RBs and WRs that get the ball)

    #2 Huff I like that has a “big nose” for
    the ball….CB and FS plus being able to make tackles!?

  • Justin R Groth

    Lyle thank you. I have to say this was helpful and furthered my belief that picking either S or Wr in third round would not be horrible. One thing though I wonder if we didn’t play Berry as a hybrid ILB only because he was the best person on roster for the job. I believe you wrote an article about how the.chiefs have targeted better tackling safeties this year. Berry cab play at a probowl level at all 3 safety positions imho. So I could see them going with an enforcer just as quickly as someone for centerfield or our nickleback/ role.

  • jesse

    Randomly throwing this is but if they go safety first, I’d like to see them grab Jeff Janis at wide receiver in the middle rounds. Dude is big and fast.

  • Justin R Groth

    JC would you rather see one of these guys on the field or Abdullah and Cummings because ultimately that is what Dorsey would have to think about especially in the 1st round

  • Justin R Groth

    Also if in the later rounds I go for Bailey because he could play the hybrid role Berry does letting berry play centerfield. Bailey’s experience at linebacker though I believe he was a olb would help him in that case.

  • Calchiefsfan

    I’m partial to Brooks and Huff. BPA at 23.

    • Lyle Graversen

      Me too, I also really have a good feeling about Exum.

  • cyberry

    I like Deone Bucannon.. 6-1 ..216 ilbs.. First reports he was just SS because he drops the hammer on people. Then he ran a 4.49 40 yard., a broad jump of 10 feet 6 inches, a vertical jump 36.5 inches and benched 19 reps.. He has a chip on his shoulder because he been labeled a “in the box’ safety. A read a report on him from some guys covering him all year.. he can run with any TE and most receivers.. he has only had minor issues with fast slot receivers. Which..he shouldn’t be covering them in the first place.. had 6 incepts..2nd in school history in tackles,,,hard tackles..

    Buccannon and Berry would give the Chiefs 2 top DB’s that can excel at any Safety Position.. He also would allow Berry to move to Free Safety ( IF the coaches and Berry think that would impove the team)..Eric B is the best SS in football..I firm believer in ..don’t mess with stuff that isn’t broken..

    • Lyle Graversen

      Bucannon is going to be good, but he seems like he’d be out of place at FS to me. Maybe he would prove me wrong, but I think there are other guys that are a more natural fit.

  • KCMikeG

    Nice work Lyle. I think it is great that you responded to a readers post. If you are taking requests or if any of the other writers want to run with these ideas it would be great – especially during the turtle slow news days ahead – I would really enjoy an in depth analysis of Andy Reid’s coaching staff. Not just the stats but the people/systems that shaped them, strengths and weaknesses, who their skill set helps/hinders the development of players and their production, how they influence the offense/defense, players they have helped succeed. There is such in-depth analysis of the players it would be interesting to better understand the other side of the ball. Also a detailed explanation of Reid’s West Coast Offense and how it relates to who we have and what we need for it to succeed. Just some food for thought. Thanks for the time and effort you share with us all.

    I would be fine with Pryor at #23 as I have a spooky bust feeling about Dix. I think Lader, Dontae Johnson or Tre Boston would work just fine with Berry, Abdullah, Parker and Commings. IMO Sutton should consider moving Berry back to centerfield like he was in his Pro Bowl rookie year. Our need for a safety is becoming less critical so I am beginning to settle into an Odell Beckham Jr. as our first pick bandwagon fan. No one could contribute across the board like Beckham can at WR, KR, PR and out of the backfield. He is the one player that really replaces McCluster/Demps on ST’s and improves us at WR. That’s like three players in one!

  • Roger Mihalko

    Good article, good info on all of them. I think I would go with Exum, ( I would grab a second in later rounds for a double down, but that’s just me) the other top ones will get picked before 23rd pick. We Need a starter and backup at Free Safety… Abdullah is listed as a strong safety and isn’t very fast.

    I’m not down on Sanders at all, he just was injured last season, and there isn’t any guarantee he wont get injured again, so to hang that critical a position need on a rookie who may or may not be injury prone is just to much pressure.

    Rutland, KevinDBACT6’0″1934/2/19882Missouri41Bronson, MalcolmDBACT5’11″1925/11/19901McNeese StateVan Dyke, DeMarcusDBACT6’1″1871/17/19893Miami (Fla.)Kearney, VernonDBACT6’2″1851/31/19891Lane

  • iowaskcchiefsfan

    Reynolds breakout season was 2012, 6 Ints., 4 for TD’s, 1 to the one yard line. Does very good in Deep Safety playing centerfield. Is smart, Stanford, usually very good instincts in coverage and vs. the run. Can play either Safety, Dime, and Special Teams.