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The NFL is hungry for talented safeties. Last year provided a handful of intriguing safeties, three of them being first round picks. Unfortunately for the league, this year’s class does not provide the same dynamic. Though, what if a “super safety” could be built out of the safeties from this year’s class?
Range: Gerod Holliman, Louisville
Playing safety revolves around being able to cover a lot of ground in a timely manner. Holliman flies around the field. As a deep defender, Holliman can show authority over a large chunk of the field and force quarterbacks to be quick and accurate. If they aren’t, there is a good chance Holliman is going to be there before the ball is. Though, it may be the intermediate area where Holliman is most lethal. His ability to get to top speed and close on the ball is absurd, allowing him to give the illusion that the receiver is open when he is not. Holliman picked off a number of passes this way and will continue to do so in the NFL.
Tackling: Landon Collins, Alabama
Most of the other safeties in this class have some sort of tackling deficiency, but Collins is about as textbook as one can get in that area. Especially in between the “wide-9″ box, Collins does a wonderful job of positioning himself, getting low and driving through the ball carriers hip. In space, Collins has the strength to get away with arm tackles more than most other safeties. For the most part, if Collins gets a piece of the ball carrier, he is going down.
Quickness/Change of Direction: Chris Hackett, TCU
This trait is most useful for safeties in a “robber” role, or most any role aside from playing single-high. Hackett can move along the line of scrimmage very well with how quickly he can move and reset. If a runner is coming at him in open space, Hackett’s short area burst allows him to keep himself in front of the ball carrier. When a play flips on him (i.e. a misdirection run), Hackett can flip his hips with ease and get moving in the other direction. In pass defense as the “robber” or curl/flat defender, Hackett’s quickness in closing up passing lanes or cutting off throws is going to make him a feared pass defender.
IQ/Recognition: Landon Collins, Alabama
There are a handful of instances where it appears Collins knows what is going to happen before it does. He has shown impressive anticipation of the snap when playing downhill, as well as an awareness of where the quarterback is going to go with the ball based on his eyes and movement. As soon as Collins has a sense of what is about to happen, he pounces. Granted, his athleticism doesn’t allow him to capitalize on this as often as he could, but the amount of times Collins is able to see something and move is impressive.
Versatility: Derron Smith, Fresno State
Is Smith the best at any one ability/trait? No, but there isn’t anything he can’t do. Smith can play as a single-high just as well as he can play down near the box and tackle running backs. Whereas most every other safety in this class would need a specific role to succeed, Smith could play in a number of roles and be a quality player. With the quality of safety play in the NFL, a lot of teams run with a rotational safety concept where neither safety plays too predominantly in one role or the other. Smith is a perfect fit for a defense like this because he can be just as effective in either spot. Smith is not going to wow anyone, but he is proficient in most every area and will prove to be a quality player in any role.