2012 Preseason Player Rankings - Safeties
USC S T.J. McDonald
USC S T.J. McDonald
Posted Aug 22, 2012

CFN's Top 30 Players of 2012 By Position - Safeties

Preview 2012

Player Rankings - Safeties

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Note: This isn't a ranking of the top pro prospects.

2012 CFN Preseason Player Rankings  
Preview 2012 | Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Receivers
Tight Ends | Offensive Tackles | Offensive Guards | Centers 

Defensive Ends | Defensive Tackles | Linebackers
Cornerbacks | Safeties | Punters | Placekickers | Returners 
1. Eric Reid, Jr. LSU
Lost in the shuffle with all the publicity given to Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne was Reid, a terrific all-around free safety with 6-2, 207-pound size and unlimited range. A star high school prospect, he has grown into a first-round caliber pro prospect with the ability to lock down in the open field against speedy receivers and the physical ability to match up with the bigger ones. He finished tied with Mathieu for the team lead with 76 tackles to go along with two picks and three broken up passes, highlighted by his brilliant grab in the win over Alabama. Had the Tigers gone on to win the national title, his interception would've been remembered as the play of the 2011 season.

2. T.J. McDonald, Sr. USC
Obviously, Matt Barkley's career path made a bigger splash, but McDonald's decision to return to USC was almost as big a deal for the defense. Following in the footsteps of father Tim, the younger Trojan has also earned All-America recognition for his play in the secondary making 67 tackles. Arguably the hard-hitting free safety in college football, he's an intimidating force with the instincts and crisp fundamentals to support both the pass defense and the run D. The 6-3, 205-pounder has the wingspan, range and hips to perform like a corner when the ball is in the air, picking off three passes in each of the last two seasons. However, he's most valuable when unleashing the kind of vicious hits that dispatch a message to the other team's sideline.

3. Bacarri Rambo, Sr. Georgia
There's a chance he could be suspended for a game or even two after failing a drug test, but he's not going to miss any significant time and he's going to be one of the nation's top all-around defensive backs when he's on the field. The 6-0, 218-pound senior free safety is a tackling machine making 55 stops last season with an SEC-leading eight picks with eight broken up passes. With good size, great range, and a nose for always being around the ball, he'll be moved around where needed in the secondary and he'll once again put up huge numbers.

4. John Boyett, Sr. Oregon
Ever since becoming the first freshman to lead the Ducks in tackles, Boyett has been a fixture in the secondary at free safety. About to enter his fourth season as a starter, he's been named to the All-Pac-12 Team in back-to-back years. In 2011, he led Oregon with a career-high 108 tackles, adding seven pass breakups and a couple of blocked kicks coming up with a team-leading 108 tackles with six broken up passes and a pick with two blocked kicks. While just 5-10 and 202 pounds, size has never been a roadblock to his success. He's athletic, especially in small spaces, has a high football IQ and operates with maximum toughness and intensity. Never far from the ball, he's always prepared and is always around the ball.

5. Kenny Vaccaro, Sr. Texas
The Longhorns lost third-leading tackler Blake Gideon at free safety, but the secondary is loaded with athletes and speed, and it has a nice answer to fill in for Gideon Vaccaro, a veteran who started every game last year at strong safety and now will get a chance to use his physical style and skills to be all over the field. All but certain to be gone to the NFL, the 6-1, 215-pound senior stuck around for one more year after finishing fourth on the team with 77 tackles with a sack, two picks and eight broken up passes. While he's a huge hitter, it's his speed and range that make him special, earning All-Big 12 honors last season. While he'll be the main man at free safety, he'll also work as a nickel defender from time to time.

6. Robert Lester, Sr. Alabama
7. Jahleel Addae, Sr. Central Michigan
8. Tony Jefferson, Jr. Oklahoma
9. Lamarcus Joyner, Jr. Florida State
10. Hakeem Smith, Jr. Louisville
11. Jarred Holley, Sr. Pitt
12. Dexter McCoil, Sr. Tulsa
13. Daytawion Lowe, Jr. Oklahoma State
14. Matt Elam, Jr. Florida
15. Brian Blechen, Jr. Utah
16. Drew Frey, Sr. Cincinnati
17. D.J. Swearinger, Sr. South Carolina
18. Cody Davis, Sr. Texas Tech
19. Darwin Cook, Jr. West Virginia
20. Shamarko Thomas, Sr. Syracuse
21. Kemal Ishmael, Sr. UCF
22. Ty Zimmerman, Jr. Kansas State
23. Brynden Trawick, Sr. Troy
24. Vaughn Telemaque, Sr. Miami
25. Eric Franklin, Sr. Maryland
26. Tevin McDonald, Soph. UCLA
27. Duron Harmon, Sr. Rutgers
28. Jacorius Cotton, Jr. Southern Miss
29. Luke Ruff, Sr. Wyoming
30. Gary Walker, Sr. Idaho