2012 NFL Draft Analysis - Safeties
Notre Dame S Harrison Smith
Notre Dame S Harrison Smith
Posted Apr 5, 2012

Breaking down and analyzing the top pro safety prospects in the 2012 NFL Draft.

2012 NFL Draft Position Rankings

Top Ten Safeties

By Pete Fiutak

- 2012 NFL Safety Rankings - No. 11 - 35


2011 NFL Prospect Rankings & Breakdowns
- QBs | RBs | FBs | WRs
- TEs | OTs | OGs | Cs 
- OLBs | ILBs | DTs | DEs
- CBs | Ss

2011 NFL Post-Combine Draft Rankings
- Top 32 Talents
- 2nd Rounders
- 3rd Rounders
- 4th Rounders
- 5th Rounders
- 6th Rounders
- 7th Rounders & Top Free Agents  


2010 CFN Talent Rankings
- 1st Rounders
- 2nd Rounders
- 3rd Rounders
- 4th Rounders
- 5th Rounders
- 6th Rounders
- 7th Rounders 
- Top Free Agent Talents 

2010 CFN Position Rankings & Analysis

- QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs
- Cs | OTs | OGs | DEs
- DTs | ILBs | OLBs
- Ss | CBs

Who needs a safety? Everyone, and that's why Alabama's Mark Barron might be the one of the highest-rising prospects in the draft over the next few weeks. The safety supply isn't coming close to meeting the demand, especially after last year's miserable safety draft class, and things aren't much better in this year's draft. Tampa Bay, Dallas, Miami, Philadelphia, Chicago, the Jets – unless they're planning on using Tebow correctly –all need help in a huge way, but again, everyone needs safeties.

This has become a premium position and that's why Barron has to be seen as a premium pick. You can't have too many good defensive backs, and while Barron isn't a superstar prospect, he's outstanding in run support, athletic, and he's a plug-in starter from Day One. On pure talent, Barron belongs in the late first-round to early second, but some starving team will have to take him in the top 15, because, again, everyone needs a safety.

This Class Is …
Awful … AWFUL. There's Mark Barron, Harrison Smith, and a slew of chance picks with almost no sure things to be had. There will be some who'll shine from the mid-rounds and later, but it'll take a lot of time, patience, and luck to pluck a good starter out of this group after the first few prospects. Considering what a weak lot this is, Barron and Smith deserve to be overdrafted. Way overdrafted.
The Best Value Pick Will Be … Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State
Most Underrated … Cyhl Quarles, Wake Forest
Most Overrated … Brandon Hardin, Oregon State
The Deep, Deep Sleeper Is … Shawn Anderson, California (Pa.)

1. Mark Barron, Alabama (SS) 6-1, 213
One of the few top-shelf safety prospects in the draft, he's a premium prospect even if he isn't quite considered one on most draft boards. With excellent size, he hits like a linebacker and is terrific in run support, however, he also covers like a linebacker from time to time and might only be able to work at strong safety. He has decent speed for the position, but he's not going to fly all over the field and he'll be at his best when he gets to play closer to the line. Forget about him when it comes to man coverage against the speedier receivers, but he'll provide good help and will be in the right position at the right time to make a slew of big plays and interceptions. No, he's not going to be another Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu, but he'll be ready right out of the box and should be a good leader and key part of a secondary for a long, long time.
CFN Projection: First Round

2. Harrison Smith, Notre Dame (SS/FS) 6-2, 213
While he's not going to see a Pro Bowl and he's not going to be a star, he's a versatile talent who came up with a very productive, slightly underappreciated career and will be a good fit in any system. Fast enough to get by, he's more quick than speedy and always seems to be around the ball when needed. If he has any success early on, he'll make the secondary his; he'll be the leader and the quarterback who'll know everything that needs to be done. A team might try him out as a free safety, but he'll be at his best closer to the line and when he gets to come up with pops against the run. There might not be a huge upside, but there's a high floor, too. He'll be a safe pick who'll be an immediate starter.
CFN Projection: Second Round

3. Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State (FS) 6-1, 207 Proj. 3
Very, very strong, he put up 19 reps and the Combine and translates the weight room strength to the field. Big and with decent range, he's a highlight reel hitter who could be an intimidating force in just about any defensive system. When he gets a bead on a receiver or a ball-carrier, it's over. However, he tends to try too hard to go for the kill shot rather than simply come up with the run of the mill tackle and he needs to get it in his head that the routine is okay. While he's not elite in pass coverage, he's athletic enough to get by and makes up for most of his mistakes by coming up with the big plays at the key times. A great guy and a good leader, he has the potential to be a nice part of any secondary, even though he won't necessarily be a star.
CFN Projection: Third Round

4. George Iloka, Boise State (FS) 6-4, 225 Proj. 3
Very tall, he's an interesting prospect mainly because of his skill set. He might not have run well in post-season workouts, but he's extremely quick for his size and he's football fast with the ability to always be around the ball. In the pros, though, he'll have to be more of an impact player and has to show he can take advantage of every opportunity. While he'll have big problems against speed receivers, he'll be fine against the bigger, slower targets and tight ends; he's the good prospect for the new wave of New England Patriot-style offense. However, he's not the best tackler and is merely average against the run with too many whiffs. With his athleticism and his potential, some defensive coordinator will be very, very excited to get him.
CFN Projection: Third Round

5. Antonio Allen, South Carolina (SS) 6-2, 210
Really, really slow at the Combine, he moves well on the field but lacks the superior wheels to be a factor as a free safety. With his size and work ethic, he has the potential to get bigger, stronger and better – he's a better football player than a workout warrior. A big-play performer, he always stood out on a defense that had a slew of top playmakers, and he is always working to do whatever is needed to make a difference. He'll be the type of defender every coach will want. While he might have a hard ceiling on what he can do athletically, he isn't smooth, and he'll need a little big of seasoning, but with a little bit of patience he'll be a whale of a nickel and dime defender.
CFN Projection: Fourth Round

6. Trent Robinson, Michigan State (FS) 5-10, 195
With just enough talent to be a very, very nice tweener who can play a variety of roles, he has decent enough size to get by as a corner and he's as fast as any safety in the draft. A phenomenal athlete, he cranked out a terrific 4.48 this offseason and was just as quick and impressive in the short drills. However, he's not huge and he gets shoved around a bit. He'll be erased by blockers against the run and he's not going blow anyone up, but he's a battler who doesn't back down from a challenge and seems able to rise up to the moment. There's a chance to come up with a nice future in dime packages and could grow into a ball-hawk with a little bit of time and seasoning.
CFN Projection: Fourth Round

7. Duke Ihenacho, San Jose State (SS) 6-0, 213
A terrific all-around defender in the WAC, he stood out in game after game, looking like he was playing a half-step faster than anyone else. Big and tough, he looks the part and he brings it against the run with the type of intimidating pop that won't be a problem against any NFL back, and he could become a top tackler with a little bit of time. Instinctive and smart, he doesn't miss plays and is always in the right position. However, he's not all that fast and he's far better against the run than he is against speed receivers. Even though he can tackle, he'll get erased by anyone who gets hands on him. A pure football player with the skills needed to have a nice career, he'll be around the league for a while. CFN Projection: Fifth Round

8. Aaron Henry, Wisconsin (FS) 6-0, 208
Fast, athletic, and versatile, Henry can work in a variety of areas and, at worst, will likely be a good nickel and dime defender who can see time at corner or as a free safety. He's not going to blast anyone with his tackling ability and he'll get run over and through from time to time, but he's okay in open space and is a willing defender. Not physical, though, he's not a strong safety and he's not going to provide a whole bunch of help in run support. He'll be at his best when he's helping out in pass coverage, with the smarts and the ability to see plays well before they happen and the wheels to get to the ball when it's in the air. Staying on the field will be a problem – he's not really built to hold up over a full NFL season – but he's a leader who'll make a team because of his work ethic and athleticism.
CFN Projection: Fifth Round

9. Sean Richardson, Vanderbilt (SS) 6-3, 216
Will the tremendous performance at the NFL Combine translate into NFL production? Not only is he big with the size to hold up against any receiver, but he's very, very fast, ripping off a corner-like 4.49 in Indianapolis and proved to be one of the fastest safeties in the short drills. Throw in the 22 reps on the bench, and everything is in place skill-wise. Smart, tough, and a proven veteran, there's plenty of upside. However, he's better in workouts than he is an NFL football player. A defensive coach with talent should be able to take Richardson's ability and turn him into a playmaker, but getting stronger against the run is a must and he isn't nearly as smooth in pass coverage as he was around the cones.
CFN Projection: Fifth Round

10. Christian Thompson, SC State (FS) 6-0, 211
He might have a small-school stigma, but he's a former Auburn Tiger with the speed and athleticism to have played at an SEC level. What went wrong? He didn't go to class enough, but he has resurrected his career and has all the talent and the upside to find an NFL home. While he's not all that big, he tore off a 4.49 at the Combine and moved like a corner. Not just a finesse defender, he can hit a little bit, too, and is a willing tackler. Faster than quick, he'll have trouble with the shiftier receivers and plays small. A good football player who can run, he should be a whale of a special teamer early on and should find a home in nickel and dime packages.
CFN Projection: Fourth Round

- 2012 NFL Safety Rankings - No. 11 - 35