2012 NFL Draft Analysis - Safeties No. 11-35
Oregon S Eddie Pleasant
Oregon S Eddie Pleasant
Posted Apr 5, 2012

From a college football perspective, here's the analysis of all the top safety prospects.

2012 NFL Draft Position Rankings

Safeties - No. 11-35

By Pete Fiutak

- 2012 NFL Safety Rankings - Top Ten

11. Brandon Taylor, LSU (SS) 5-11, 209
There were question marks about him as a prospect before going into the offseason, and he didn't help himself despite running a nice 4.54 40, but he's not quite built like an NFL strong safety and doesn't have much room to rock up. A mediocre athlete, he's not going to be able to fly around with the speedier receivers, and his speed and quickness in the short drills was horrible. Throw in his mediocre tackle skills and there are plenty of concerns about what he can grow into. However, he's a smart, tough leader who works his tail off to make himself into a player. He'll never take a play off and he'll never give an uneven effort, but he could use some fine-tuning to be a decent part of a rotation.
CFN Projection: Sixth Round

12. Winston Guy, Kentucky (SS) 6-1, 218
A football player. He didn't time well in Indianapolis, and he might not be all that quick, but he's a big-time tackler who had an ultra-productive, unappreciated career playing at a high SEC level. He was used like another linebacker at times and was a premier tackler, but it came at a cost getting banged up a bit. Few safeties in the draft are as physical and few are able to do a little of everything like he can. While he'll start out his career as a special teamer, and he doesn't have the speed to be a free safety, he's a baller who can be a jack-of-all trades for a secondary. Quickness and athleticism will be a problem, but he'll be a tough cut if he doesn't make a team.
CFN Projection: Sixth Round

13. Sean Cattouse, California (FS/SS) 6-2, 211
With good size, he's a thumper who can get physical with the stronger receivers and has the size and the height to match up well in a variety of roles. Good against the run, he's a tough player who makes up for too many missed stops by coming up with a big pop here and there. Not fast, running a miserable 4.73 at the Combine, he'll get torched by the speedier receivers and doesn't have the raw wheels to be left on an island in any way. The bigger question, though, will be how much he wants to improve. There's a concern about what he can do at an NFL level, and he'll have to learn the ropes for a while as a special teamer before being a regular as a defensive back. Even so, his size is intriguing.
CFN Projection: Sixth Round

14. Eddie Pleasant, Oregon (SS) 5-10, 211
A rock-solid tackler who'll beat people up and seems to relish getting physical. Great against the run, he's like another linebacker and has no problem mixing things up. A pure strong safety, he'll be great against power running teams and he should be able to blast receivers coming from across the middle. However, he doesn't move all that well and he's not going to be a free safety in any way. He's a better athlete than he gets credit for and can move a bit, but he's mostly going to be used in specific situations. Pass coverage will be a problem and can get burned deep, and he doesn't have the overall athleticism to hang with the better receivers, but he can make a team as a special teamer and a decent cog in a secondary rotation.
CFN Projection: Fifth Round

15. Tysyn Hartman, Kansas State (FS) 6-3, 208
While he has great size and he can come up with big pops with great tackling skills, there are concerns. He's not all that fast and might not have enough athleticism to do much when the ball is in the air. The problem is that he doesn't really fit a defined role; he's too slow to be a free safety and better in space against receivers with the ball, he doesn't exactly fit as a strong safety who'll load up against the run. There might be limitations, but he's a baller of a football player and could make a team as a good special teamer and a top nickel and dime defender. His ball skills are just good enough that he could put up nice interception numbers in a limited role.
CFN Projection: Seventh Round

16. Cyhl Quarles, Wake Forest (SS) 6-2, 213
A very nice all-around prospect with excellent size and terrific straight-line speed. He's a good enough athlete to be used in a variety of roles and schemes, even though he's mostly going to be used as a strong safety. There's a chance he's just scratching the surface and showed enough upside last year to think he might be a steal. A decent tackler who's willing to mix it up, he's tough enough to be a rock against the run, and he's smart enough and athletic enough to not be a total liability in pass coverage. However, he's a better prospect than a pure football player. He'll be a decent mid-round pick because of his potential and his versatility, but he needs technique work and likely won't be ready out of the box.
CFN Projection: Fourth Round

17. Brandon Hardin, Oregon State 6-3, 222 (FS)
Is he a huge corner or is he a true safety? He's a little of both with excellent speed, tremendous size, and phenomenal all-around athleticism. There are few defensive backs in the draft as versatile and with the same tools, and there are few who can bring the lumber and stay with speed receivers with just as much skill. However, he didn't quite do enough on the field when the ball was in the air and he'll need at least a full season or two to learn the subtle nuances of whatever position he ends up playing. With his raw skills and upside he'll be an intriguing project for some defensive coordinator with a little imagination, but it'll take a little work.
CFN Projection: Fourth Round

18. Charles Mitchell, Mississippi State (SS) 5-11, 202
A good athlete with enough skills to play just about anywhere in the secondary, he could find a niche right away as a fifth defensive back in dime packages. He jumped out of the stadium at the Combine and was quick enough in shorter drills to think he could be a free safety from time to time. Willing to work to be better, he'll be thrown to the special teams and won't be a problem. Being stronger against the run would be nice and being a more consistent tackler is a must, and he's a bit too much of a finesse hitter for an NFL strong safety, but there are just enough all-around skills to hope for a big payoff with a little bit of patience.
CFN Projection: Fifth Round

19. Phillip Thomas, Syracuse (FS) 5-11, 198
It was one of the most shocking workouts at the Combine. Thomas might be considered a great prospect as a pure football player, but he was slow and awkward in his 40, but his best clocked time this offseason has been a 4.69. He's just not fast enough to be a top-shelf starting free safety, and he's not built to do much as a strong safety. A better football player than an NFL athlete, he was a good college tackler and takes nice angles, but he's not strong enough, not fast enough, and he could be an easy cut if he's not drafted into the right system. Throw in the suspension problems for the dreaded "violation of team rules, and he's a risky pick.
CFN Projection: Sixth Round

20. Janzen Jackson, McNeese State (FS) 5-11, 188
He looked like he was in for a tremendous career as one of the key parts of the Tennessee secondary, but there were issues throughout his career and he ended up landing at McNeese State. While he was way too slow in offseason workouts, and the nine reps on the bench at the Combine were embarrassing, he was really, really quick through the short drills and jumped incredibly well. He's a good football athlete who played corner from time to time and could find a role as a nickel and dime defender. There's big-time upside and he can be drafted on the cheap, but there are just enough warning signs to make him a bit of a risk. If he can get functionally stronger, he'll find a home.
CFN Projection: Fifth Round

21. Justin Bethel, Presbyterian 6-0, 200 (FS)
Fast, he came up with the offseason workouts he needed to have tearing off a 4.56 while coming up with a safety-best 39.5" vertical and 10'11" broad jump. He used that speed and athleticism to be a half-step faster and better than anyone else on the field at the FCS level, and he has proven to be just talented enough to get an honest look to be someone's free safety. However, he got by on being more athletic than anyone else at the lower level and he might not fit a defined role. He's a good tackler, but he's not going to blow anyone up, and he doesn't have the elite wheels to make him a sure-thing as a free safety. It'll take a while before he finds his niche.
CFN Projection: Fifth Round

22. Jerrell Young, South Florida (FS) 6-1, 210
With excellent size and a great personality who's a natural leader, he's the type of player a coaching staff would love to have running the secondary. He moves well for a good-sized safety and he has a good ceiling with room to get much, much better. So what's the problem? He was merely okay as a college player and wasn't enough of a difference maker. The skills are just good enough to be considered in a variety of areas, but not good enough to be a rock in a defined role. If he's going to stick, he'll be a special teamer early on and he'll have to suddenly become a playmaker in the secondary.
CFN Projection: Sixth Round

23. Tavon Wilson, Illinois (SS) 6-0, 203
An excellent tackler with good size, he's good in run support and isn't afraid to mix it up in the open field. Smart, he has the instincts to always be around the ball and be a half-step ahead of everyone else, and he's a proven player who was a key part of the Illini defense for a long time. He's not great in pass coverage and he can't be used as a free safety for long stretches, but the bigger problem is his inability to get through the wash; he'll be erased by blocks. Even so, he's a good prospect who could sneak on to a roster and be productive if given the chance.
CFN Projection: Free Agent

24. Johnny Thomas, Oklahoma State (FS) 5-10, 206
While he's not a blazer, he moves well enough to get by and he's in great shape with plenty of tread on the tires. He missed all of last year after being declared academically ineligible, and he appears to have been busting his tail during the down time to get ready. Strong and quick, he was excellent in workouts. However, he'll need a little while to get back into the swing of things and he'll have to prove he's a better tackler than he was a few years ago. There's enough overall talent to be tried out at a few spots, and he's worth a flier, but he'll have to shine on special teams to have any hope of making a roster.
CFN Projection: Free Agent

25. Tony Dye, UCLA (SS) 5-11, 208
The athleticism is enough to warrant a long look in a camp. With good speed, excellent cutting ability, and the ability to get all over the field, he looks the part to go along with his size. He can also hit, leading the team in tackles in 2010 and proving he can play in a variety of roles. However, he'll be undraftable on some boards because of a neck injury that knocked him out last year, but he also had a problem with a lack of big plays. He only had one career interception and wasn't a big enough playmaker.
CFN Projection: Free Agent

26. Kelcie McCray, Arkansas State (SS) 6-2, 194
27. Troy Woolfolk, Michigan (CB/FS) 6-0, 198
28. Sean Baker, Ball State (FS) 5-11, 207
29. Eddie Whitley, Virginia Tech (FS) 6-0, 186
30. DeQuan Menzie, Alabama (SS) 5-11 201
31. Albert Evans, Purdue (FS/SS) 5-11, 205
32. Eddie Elder, Arizona State (FS) 5-10, 189
33. Matt Daniels, Duke (SS) 6-0, 215
34. Damien Jackson, Ole Miss (FS) 5-2 212
35. Matt Merletti, North Carolina (FS/SS) 5-10, 202

- 2012 NFL Safety Rankings - Top Ten