2009 NFL Draft - The Safeties

Posted Apr 22, 2009

The 2009 NFL Draft is almost here. From a college football perspective, here's the CFN ranking of the top 25 safety prospects led by Patrick Chung, Louis Delmas, and Michael Hamlin, along with the most overrated and underrated prospects and the deepest sleeper.

2009 NFL Draft Position Rankings

The Safeties

2009 NFL Draft Post-Workout Rankings

| Running Backs | Fullbacks | Receivers | Tight Ends
Centers | Guards | Off. Tackles | Def. Ends | Def. Tackles
Inside LBs | Outside LBs | Cornerbacks | Safeties

By Pete Fiutak  

- 2009 NFL Prospect Rankings
Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers
Tight Ends | Off. Tackles
| Off. Guards | Centers
Defensive Ends
| Defensive Tackles | Inside LBs
Outside LBs | Safeties
| Cornerbacks

The Class Is ... not great up top, but deep. Compared to last year’s crop of safeties, this year’s group is the 1983 quarterback class. There might not be anyone worthy of a first round pick, but there are at least 15 starters here and some strong developmental prospects.

The Best Value Pick Will Be ... David Bruton, Notre Dame

Most Underrated ... Michael Hamlin, Clemson

Most Overrated ... William Moore, Missouri

The Deep, Deep Sleeper Is ... Bryan Williams, Akron

Rankings of the 2010 Top Prospects
- Possible 1st Rounders
- Possible 2nd Rounders
- Possible 3rd Rounders
- Possible 4th Rounders
- Possible 5th Rounders
- Possible 6th Rounders
- Possible 7th Rounders & Free Agents
- Quarterbacks

- Running Backs
- Wide Receivers
- Tight Ends
- Offensive Tackles 
- Offensive Guards
- Centers
- Defensive Ends
- Defensive Tackles 
- Outside LBs
- Inside LBs
- Safeties
- Cornerbacks
- Punters & Kickers 


1. Patrick Chung, Oregon (SS)  5-11, 212
He’s not going to be a highlight reel playmaker, but he’ll be a rock-solid, ultra-reliable rock in the secondary for a long, long time. Smart, tough, and instinctive, he’s able to read plays a half second before they happen and he’s always around the ball. While he’s built for stopping the run and being used as a strong safety, he has just enough range to play free safety. Known for being a good, sound football player, he showed he could be a workout warrior, too, by running a 4.49 and lifting 225 pounds a lineman-like 25 times at the Combine. There’s no down side outside of his lack of pizzazz.
CFN Projection: Second Round

2. Rashad Johnson, Alabama (FS) 5-11, 195
A pure football player with uncanny instincts and tremendous smarts. He’s always around the ball seemingly knowing where it’s going before the offense does, and he always comes up with the big play when he has the shot. With good range and excellent ball skills, he’s great at picking off passes and coming up clutch when he has to. Size will be an issue. He’s skinny and is built more like a corner than an intimidating safety, and he’s not going to intimidate anyone with his tackling skills. If nothing else, he’ll be an elite special teamer and should put up great numbers in nickel and dime packages.
CFN Projection: Second Round

3. Louis Delmas, Western Michigan (FS)  5-11, 202
For good and bad, he’s a major-league hitter, often going for the kill shot and missing when he should simply be wrapping up. However, he’s an intimidating force who’ll spend plenty of time featured on the Jacked Up highlight reel. He’ll do whatever is needed against the run, but he has to get stronger after only coming up with 12 reps on the bench at the Combine. Given time, he could be the leader and the sheriff of the secondary, and he should be a fan favorite as long as he can stay on the field. With the way he plays, he might have a short shelf life.
CFN Projection: Second Round

4. Michael Hamlin, Clemson (S)  6-2, 214
Built like a free safety he’s better suited to strong safety because of his tackling ability. A good worker, high-character producer who doesn’t miss many stops and doesn’t make a slew of mistakes. Not quite fast enough to be a big-time free safety, he’ll need to bulk up a bit on his long, thin frame to be better against the run, but he’s not bad as is. Even so, he can play anywhere needed and isn’t a liability against the pass. Plug him into the secondary and don’t worry about him for the next several years.
CFN Projection: Third Round

5. Sean Smith, Utah (FS/CB) 6-3, 210 (Jr.)
A freakishly good all-around defender, Smith can be used as a very tall, very aggressive corner, or he could grow into an elite free safety. He moves like a much smaller player with 4.5 speed and decent quickness, and he’ll have no problems holding his own with bigger receivers once he gets a little bit stronger. When he puts on the extra bulk, and he will, he’ll be a terror of a safety. He’s not fluid enough to be a regular at corner, even though that’s where he’ll be tried out at first, but don’t be shocked if he’s asked to switch positions early on. He could even become a wide receiver if he’s willing to put in the time to use his combination of speed and size to create major mismatches.
CFN Projection: Second Round

6. Darcel McBath, Texas Tech (FS) 6-1, 200
He’s just a nice all-around football player with good size, decent athleticism, and good ball skills. He’s not going to blow anyone up and he’s a competent tackler, if not a great one, but he’s great when the ball is in the air and will find a spot immediately on special teams. A former corner, he moves like one and could put up big-time interception numbers in the right package. A self-starter and a hard worker, he’ll make himself a long-time pro.
CFN Projection: Third Round

7. William Moore, Missouri (SS) 6-1, 220
After his junior year he looked like he’d be a sure-thing, superstar Pro Bowl performer the second he decided to go pro. He came back for his senior year and wasn’t the same playmaker. On sheer skills and physical ability he’s the best safety in the draft. He’s tough, a good tackler, and fast, but he could stand to get a bit stronger after only coming up with 16 reps on the bench at the Combine. Did he get by on his physical ability as a junior and was he exposed a bit as a senior? Not necessarily, but that’s the big question about his instincts. There’s no questioning his work ethic or his character, and he’ll be a leader in the locker room, but there might be limitations on how much he ends up producing if he’s asked to do more than stop the run.
CFN Projection: Second Round

8. David Bruton, Notre Dame (FS) 6-2, 220
If it’s possible to be a star for Notre Dame and be unappreciated, Bruton accomplished the feat. Very big and very fast, running a 4.4 at the Combine and leaping 41.5” in the vertical jump, he’s a special athlete who also produced on the field. He was all over the place, looking like a man among boys in the Irish back seven. He needs technique work and he needs to anticipate plays better after relying purely on his athleticism at Notre Dame, but there’s tremendous upside if he has his mechanics broken down and built back up again.
CFN Projection: Fourth Round

9. Otis Wiley, Michigan State (FS)  6-2, 210
Put him at strong safety and he’ll be a disaster. Put him at free safety and he could be a Pro Bowl performer with a little bit of time. Great in run support and tough enough to be like an extra linebacker, he sniffs out running plays and always makes the stop. However, he’s not known for being a tough player and has had injury issues. With his size and his range, he could be all over the field making plays if he’s given the chance, but he’ll likely be used early on in nickel and dime packages. If he can stay healthy, he could be a late steal.
CFN Projection: Fifth Round

10. Chip Vaughn, Wake Forest (FS/SS)  6-1, 220
Very big and very fast, he’s strong enough to play strong safety, lifting 225 pounds 21 times at the Combine, and speedy enough to play free safety, running a 4.42, he has the raw skills. What he doesn’t have is good tackling ability and has gotten by mostly by outrunning everyone else. A former wide receiver, he doesn’t always play up to his athleticism and he has questionable instincts. However, he made a lot of tackles and has grown into a hot prospect who will likely be coached into his athleticism. Smart enough to learn how to improve, the upside is limitless.
CFN Projection: Third Round

11. Brandon Underwood, Cincinnati (FS) 6-1, 198
Part corner and part safety, he has good enough speed to play any position in the secondary and has tremendous upside. He’s not a finished product and could end up being far better after spending a year or two as a nickel and dime defender. The instincts aren’t quite there, he needs to hit the weights hard, and he’s not natural in man coverage against the better receivers, but he should make a team on his versatility alone and he can see time as a special teamer.  
CFN Projection: Fifth Round 

12. Courtney Greene, Rutgers (SS) 6-1, 210  
A hot prospect as a junior and an almost certain first day pick, he decided to come back for his senior year with mediocre results. He was hardly bad, but he was inconsistent and the buzz cooled down after a fantastic third year as the starter. A good athlete who moves well and is good in the weight room, he has the basic skills and could be molded into a good starter, but he misses too many tackles and he’s not great against the pass. He’ll be a fan favorite because of his hitting ability, he’ll have plenty of ooooooh shots, but he’ll miss some routine plays trying to blow someone up.
CFN Projection: Fifth Round

13. Glover Quin, New Mexico (FS) 5-11, 205

With excellent speed and good strength, he pushed up 22 reps on the bench at the Combine, he can play corner if needed and will likely spend time being moved around at all the safety spots. He’s a good, sound football player with high character and good all-around skills, but he had a hard time staying healthy at the collegiate level and will always be dinged up in the NFL. While he might not be a star, his versatility will, at the very least, make him an invaluable backup who can be used in a variety of ways.  
CFN Projection: Fifth Round


14. Curtis Taylor, LSU (FS)  6-2, 208
The epitome of the Looks Like Tarzan, Plays Like Jane prospect. Out of central casting, he has the body, the size, and the look of a prototype safety, but he doesn’t hit and he’s not nearly as good an athlete as he sometimes appears to be. He ran a glacier slow 4.64 at the Combine and only came up with 13 reps on the bench, but he can jump out of the stadium and can cut on a dime. Staying healthy has been a problem and he makes too many mistakes, but he could be a superstar special teamer and he’ll be versatile enough to see time as a backup at both safety spots.
CFN Projection: Sixth Round

15. C.J. Spillman, Marshall (FS)  6-0, 195
Fast, fast, fast. He makes up for a lack of bulk with blazing 4.45 speed and 41.5” vertical leaping ability. He’s not going to tackle anyone and he has a problem staying healthy, but he’s a willing run supporter who’ll give it a shot when he has to step up and make a stop. As athletic as he is, he doesn’t always play like it and will get beaten against the pass. His money will be made early on as a special teamer. He’ll be a star gunner.
CFN Projection: Fifth Round

16. Emmanuel Cook, South Carolina (FS) 5-10, 205 (Jr.)
Very athletic with good quickness and nice range, he has the basic skills to be an NFL free safety. A more than willing tackler, he’ll do whatever is necessary to get into the mix to bring a player down and he doesn’t miss any stops. Unfortunately, he’s not a strong safety and he’s a liability against the pass. He doesn’t make things happen when the ball is in the air and struggled to stay with the most marginal of receivers. If he’s used as a run stopper, he’ll fight his way onto a team, but he’ll strictly be a situational defender who could be picked apart in passing situations.
CFN Projection: Fifth Round

17. Kevin Ellison, USC (SS) 6-1, 225
Projected by some as a possible outside linebacker because of his speed, or lack of it, he’ll have to try to find a role early on. A great leader who’s well respected as an ultra-intense, ultra-reliable defender, he works harder than everyone else and will do whatever is needed to improve. Witness his Combine performance on the bench with a ridiculous 32 reps. He’ll make a whale of a coach someday, but he doesn’t have the speed to be even remotely considered at free safety and he’ll be limited as a strong safety. A knee problem doesn’t help the cause. He’ll make a team on character and will be a tough cut, but he just might have the intangibles to stick.
CFN Projection: Sixth Round

18. Derek Pegues, Mississippi State (FS)  5-9, 195
A superior all-around playmaker for the Bulldogs, he was a great kick returner and was deadly when he picked off passes. There are a variety of off-the-field issues which will make him undraftable on some boards, but the bigger issue is a lack of raw speed, running a slow 4.63 at the Combine. However, he’s lightning quick on the field and he put up a freakish-for-his-size 23 reps on the bench. He could be moved to corner in a pinch, but he’ll mostly be a special teamer and a nickel and dime defender.
CFN Projection: Free Agent

19. Lendy Holmes, Oklahoma (FS) 6-0, 205
Part corner and part safety, he’s too slow to be considered as a man corner at an NFL level and he’s not quite physical enough to be a star at safety. He made a lot of tackles for the Sooners and he was a nice piece of a good defense, but he was flanked by a slew of great athletes and didn’t have to do everything by himself. A good football player who plays better than he works out, his versatility could make him an intriguing prospect and a good backup worth the developmental time.
CFN Projection: Free Agent

20. Troy Nolan, Arizona State (S)  6-1, 210
Too slow to be a starter at free safety and too weak to be a strong safety, he only came up with 12 reps on the bench at the Combine, he has to try to find a role somewhere. Despite his lack of raw skills, he makes plays and is purely a football player who gets the job done. He plays more athletic than he is. A good college player, he simply doesn’t have the skills to do much in the NFL if he doesn’t show he can make big plays early on in camp.
CFN Projection: Seventh Round

21 . Marcus McClinton, Kentucky (FS) 6-0, 2108
He needs to get stronger and he’ll need to prove he can hold up through bangs and bruises, but he should be worth the developmental time. An excellent athlete who ran well and jumped better at the Combine, he has good raw skills and could become a major producer in nickel and dime packages early on. He’ll make it, and he could be a steal, if a coach cozies up to him and sees the long view. He’ll be a tough cut and could end up bouncing around a bit before he finds the right fit.
CFN Projection: Free Agent

22. Reshard Langford, Vanderbilt (SS) 6-1, 210
Extremely productive and very smart, he doesn’t make mistakes, is rarely out of position, and he makes every play that comes his way. While he has everything you’d want in a defensive back from the neck up, he’s not fast enough and not athletic enough to be a regular in an NFL secondary. Not fast, he has to gamble a bit to overcome his lack of athleticism and doesn’t have much in the way of range. He could be a star on special teams and he’ll be loved by a coaching staff.
CFN Projection: Seventh Round

23. Tremaine Goddard, North Carolina (SS) 5-9, 190
If he was about two inches taller and about ten pounds heavier, he’d be an interesting developmental draft pick who’d be taken around the fourth round. The former corner moves well and has great upside, but he’s a mediocre tackler and isn’t strong enough to be a regular at strong safety. He could project as a free safety if he can prove he can play faster than his timed speed, but he’ll most likely try to build himself into a strong safety and a nickel back.
CFN Projection: Free Agent

24. Jamarca Sanford, Ole Miss (SS) 5-10, 215 
With a good blend of strength and speed, he has the raw athleticism to become a major factor in a secondary if he’s in the right situation. Not big enough to be a regular in run support, and not polished enough in pass coverage, he’s a tweener who might end up making a team as a nickel and dime back. While he had some problems off the field, he was a leader on it making things happen all over the place as an ultra-aggressive, try-hard playmaker. However, he’ll have to shine on special teams to stick.
CFN Projection: Seventh Round

Keith Fitzhugh, Mississippi State (SS) 5-10, 210
A great hitter who isn’t afraid to mix it up, he plays much bigger than his size and brings it like an extra linebacker. He’s not athletic enough to be considered at free safety and he thinks he’s better than he is, but he’ll need that attitude to stand out in a camp. He’s not going to back down from anyone and he could make a lot of noise with a few monster hits as a special teamer and a backup safety during the preseason. He might not have the skills to be a regular defensive back, but he could be the last player to make the team if he can find a role on special teams.
CFN Projection: Free Agent


26. Al Afalava, Oregon State (SS) 5-10, 210
27. Ryan Walters, Colorado (FS) 5-11, 205
28. Anthony Scirrotto, Penn State (SS) 6-0, 200
29. Terence Moore, Troy (SS) 6-2, 218
30. Bryan Williams, Akron (SS) 5-11, 195
31. Jason Venson, UCF (FS) 5-10, 210
32. Will Dunbar, UAB (FS) 6-0, 195
33. Colt Anderson, Montana (FS) 5-10, 195
34. Mesphin Forrester, Washington (SS) 6-2, 200
35. Tyrell Herbert, Toledo (FS) 6-0, 200