The past couple of years have offered less-than-stellar safety classes, but the 2013 class offers solid value at the top and some quality to be found in the mid-to-late rounds. I don’t think you will see a safety go as high as Mark Barron went in the 2012 NFL Draft (#7 overall), but the overall quality is much better. USC‘s TJ McDonald has a solid 1st round grade and should hold that top spot all season. Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro and Alabama‘s Robert Lester could both sneak into round 1, and at this point are both better prospects than Harrison Smith, who went #29 last year to the Minnesota Vikings.
These rankings are extremely fluid, especially this early in the season and will change constantly throughout the process. Juniors will be added as they begin to declare for the draft.
1. TJ McDonald, USC, 6’2 205: 1st Round
-At his point McDonald is the number one safety prospect, and he should remain there all the way until April. He has great size and excellent quickness to turn and run in man coverage. Looks very fluid and changes direction with ease. He’s not a big time hitter like many Trojan safeties before him, but he’s a sure tackler in the open field. McDonald looks more comfortable in pass coverage, but isn’t afraid to play closer to the line of scrimmage and help in run support. McDonald would have been a borderline 1st/2nd round pick last season, so if he continues to improve he should hear his name called on Day 1.
2. Robert Lester, Alabama, 6’2 212: 1st-2nd Round
-2012 could be somewhat of a make or break season for Lester in terms of draft stock. With Dre Kirkpatrick and Mark Barron both playing in the NFL, Lester will have a bigger spotlight on him this season. He’s a centerfielder-type who has excellent ball skills and plays solid man coverage. He has great size and shows good speed and fluidity when asked to turn and run. He has the size to play SS, but I think his tackling needs to become more consistent to play closer to the line of scrimmage. Lester also can be too aggressive and will fall for pump fakes at times. I think Lester is a solid Day 2 pick, but with a great 2012 could push himself into the 25-32 range.
3. John Boyett, Oregon, 5’10 205: 2nd-3rd Round
-Boyett doesn’t get the recognition he deserves because the Ducks aren’t really known for having a top-notch defense. However, at a closer look, Boyett is one of the more pro-ready safeties in the draft. He has a great blend of strength, speed and quickness to go with great instincts. He does a solid job keeping plays in front of him and doesn’t leave anything on the field in terms of effort. Right now he has a conservative 3rd round grade, but he could easily end up becoming a solid 2nd round pick.
4. Jarred Holley, Pittsburgh, 5’10 190: 3rd-4th Round
-Holley probably wouldn’t test well, and doesn’t have the look of an NFL caliber FS, but the two time All-Big East selection does have some game. Holley is very consistent and reliable for the Panthers. He’s a leader on the field, and is always around the ball. He looks fluid when in coverage and does a good job seeing and diagnosing plays. Holley’s weakness is defiantly in run support, so I would like to see him add some strength especially if he were to stick at the next level.
5. Bacarri Rambo, Georgia, 6’0 210: 4th Round
-Rambo has the skill-set to either play FS or SS at the next level, but unfortunately for Rambo, I think is stock is trending downward. He will be suspended for four games to start the season for his second failed drug test. If you really watch the tape, Rambo is someone who looks the part but hasn’t really done anything great. He has terrific size and will occasionally make plays, but to me he looks lazy and unmotivated. Rambo is extremely inconsistent, and I think he’s overrated by many. Barring a complete turn around after his suspension, I think 4th round is a best-case scenario.
6. DJ Swearinger, Ohio State, 5’11 210: 4th Round
7. Vaughn Telemaque, Miami (FL), 6’2 202: 5th Round
8. Rashad Hall, Clemson, 6’1 210: 6th Round
9. Javon Harris, Oklahoma, 5’11 206: 6th-7th Round
10. Duke Williams, Nevada, 6’1 200: 7th Round
11. Malcolm Bronson, McNeese State, 5’11 192: 7th Round
12. Brandon Bishop, North Carolina State, 6’2 205: PFA
13. Ray Polk, Colorado, 6’0 205: PFA
14. Josh Evans, Florida, 6’1 200: PFA
15. Kemal Ishmael, UCF, 5’11 206: PFA
16. Eric Franklin, Maryland, 6’2 215: PFA
17. Mike Hicks, Baylor, 5’11 195: PFA
18. Keelan Johnson, Arizona State, 6’0 202: PFA
19. Kejuan Riley, Alabama State, 6’0 206
Eric Reid, LSU, 6’2 212
CJ Barnett, Ohio State, 6’0 202
Tanner Miller, Iowa, 6’1 201
Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma, 5’11 212
1. Kenny Vaccaro, Texas, 6’1 215: 2nd Round
-The thing that teams will notice about Vaccaro is his range and instincts. Put on any tape from last season, and Vaccaro was in on every play. In his first full season as a starter, Vaccaro finished with 82 tackles, 6 tackles for a loss, and 8 passes broken up. He does a great job in zone coverage and has the ability to run with TE’s when he forced to play man. I think he’s versatile enough to play either safety spot and is poised for a big year in 2012.
2. Shawn Williams, Georgia, 6’1 218: 3rd Round
-Williams gets overshadowed by his teammate Rambo, but make no mistake, Williams is no slouch. Williams is physical in-the-box safety who plays like an OLB. He’s a sure tackler and does an excellent job in run support. While pass coverage isn’t his strong suit, Williams did have 4 interceptions and 6 pass break ups last season. Williams lacks elite speed, but makes up for it with his size and strength.
3. Jahleel Addae, Central Michigan, 5’10 195: 4th Round
-Addae is one of the more underrated prospects heading into the 2013 draft. The former prep RB redshirted in 2008 then made the switch to safety when Butch Jones left for Cincinnati. Addae isn’t the biggest safety prospect, but he has great quickness and fluid hips. He was named 1st Team All-Mac last season after totaling 107 tackles and 4 interceptions.
4. Dexter McCoil, Tulsa, 6’4 222: 4th-5th Round
-McCoil has the look of an OLB and sort of plays like one. He projects as an in-the-box safety who does a solid job in run support. He’s not bad in pass coverage, but has trouble when he’s forced to run with TEs or RBs out of the backfield. He’s been very consistent for the Golden hurricanes and has accounted for 225 tackles and 16 pass break-ups in his career.
5. Ray Ray Armstrong, Faulkner College, 6’3 216: 5th Round
6. Rontez Miles, California(PA), 6’0 206: 6th Round
7. Drew Frey, Cincinnati, 6’3 200: 6th– 7th Round
8. Jordan Kovacs, Michigan, 5’11 202: 7th Round
9. Jamoris Slaughter, Notre Dame, 6’0 200: 7th Round
10. Bradley McDougald, Kansas, 6’2 214: PFA
11. Zeke Motta, Notre Dame, 6’2 215: PFA
12. Duron Harmon, Rutgers, 6’1 200: PFA
13. Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse, 5’10 210: PFA
14. Jonathan Cypherian, FIU, 6’0 210: PFA
15. Cody Davis, Texas Tech, 6’2 203: PFA
16. Nick Williams, North Alabama, 6’2 216: PFA
17. Don Jones, Arkansas State, 6’0 298: PFA
18. Earl Wolff, North Carolina State, 6’0 207: PFA
19. Luke Ruff, Wyoming, 5’11 190: PFA
Matt Elam, Florida, 5’10 202
Craig Loston, LSU, 6’2 205
Isaiah Lewis, Michigan State, 5’10 205
Jeremy Cabler covers the NFL Draft and College Football for Rant Sports. Check out his Scouting Reports
Follow him on Twitter @JeremyCabler.