Courtesy of Justin Rasile
1) Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, Alabama Crimson Tide
Career Stats: 99 Tackles, 10 Passes Defended, 6 Interceptions
Height: 6'1 Weight: 208 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.58 Seconds
Vertical: 33 Inches
This safety can flat out tackle. He has a mean streak and he knows how to control that rage that builds inside of him and tackle whoever has the ball. He has a certain POP that happens when he tackles. Dix has some serious strength and can tackle any running back in the NFL without any problems. With the prototypical size that NFL teams look for in a safety, he can run with the best of them and is also a very football smart player. With that said, it is very rare when he does not know what he is doing on the field, which should translate to him picking up an NFL playbook fairly quickly and him getting on the field as fast as possible. He had a two game suspension for accepting a loan from an Alabama coaching staff member. That is not something that bothers me because he could have done way worse things while at Alabama. He is a football player through and through.
2) Calvin Pryor, Louisville Cardinals
Career Stats: 218 Tackles, 18 Passes Defended, 7 Interceptions
Height: 5'11 Weight: 207 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.58 Seconds
Vertical: 34.5 Inches
He made one of the greatest plays that I saw from this college season when he intercepted Blake Bortles in the back of the endzone, while still maintaining the balance to keep his feet in and catch the ball all in one fluid motion. He was Bortles’ worst nightmare on the field that day as Pryor was all over the field making plays. He will come up and make that booming hit to pop the ball out of the ball carriers hands, which was a tendency of Charlie Strong’s players at Louisville. His stats are pretty impressive as well, 7 interceptions and 9 forced fumbles to go along with his 218 tackles in a career lasting 38 games. Despite making those big hits, he needs to wrap up more consistently because once you get into the NFL, ball carriers don’t always go down after that first thump. Another issue I see with his game is going along with the big hits, he seems to aim for that head and neck area. He is going to need to get coached up in that area because teams cannot afford those 15 yard unnecessary roughness penalties that are so common nowadays.
3) Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois Huskies
Career Stats: 319 Tackles, 30 Passes Defended, 10 Interceptions
Height: 5'11 Weight: 193 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: DNP
This kid has a knack for finding the ball. Whether it be on special teams and blocking punts (which he has four of) or as a safety as noted by his four interceptions and countless passes defensed. Ward will not let his target come down with the ball. While on the bit smaller-ish side for a safety, he can also deliver that big blow to completely throw the ball carrier off his rhythm and knock the ball loose. The best game to watch Ward showcase his talent is when his Northern Illinois team played against Florida State in the 2012 Orange Bowl (pre Jamesis Winston) but it was still against a very capable E.J. Manuel. One of the best things that I have noticed with Ward was on nearly every tackle he makes, he goes for the legs and usually wraps them up. That is great to see in a safety. As a free safety, you are the last line of defense, so you better make that tackle or that ball carrier will run over you and score a touchdown. We need more of these sure fired tacklers in the league that don’t just go for the big hit. He can blitz when needed. Ward seems like a legitimate safety that just needs to get bigger so he can deal with the grind of playing in the NFL.
4) Dion Bailey, USC Trojans
Career Stats: 223 Tackles, 19 Passes Defended, 11 Interceptions
Height: 6'0 Weight: 201 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.66 Seconds
Vertical: 34 Inches
He looks like a linebacker. Dare I say shades of Taylor Mays? Not necessarily but Bailey is a decent sized strong safety that has way better hands than one would assume at the position he plays. He makes freaky athletic moves all over the field and this puts him in some great positions to make a play on the ball. He was originally a linebacker when he played with USC but his ability to drop back and make plays made it a pretty easy coaches call with what to do with him. He still has more to learn about being a safety but he is athletic enough that he should transition to the NFL fluidly. One of the knocks I’ve seen on him is his speed and it didn’t help that he ran a 4.66 forty yard dash. But once again, if you are coached up right, you don’t need to run a blazing fast forty to be a productive football player.
5) Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State Seminoles
Career Stats: 197 Tackles, 21 Passes Defended, 8 Interceptions
Height: 5'8 Weight: 184 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.55 Seconds
Vertical: 37.5 Inches
Ever look at players and wonder, what if they were taller? This is what I think when I see Joyner play. He plays big, despite his 5’8” frame but playing big can only do so much. He has some small arms too as noted by when he goes to make a tackle and the ball carrier just bounces out of the tackle because Joyner’s arms are not long enough to completely wrap the ball carrier up. He never did miss a game in his Seminole career but will he be able to keep that up with his small frame in the NFL? He could be a pretty good nickel corner in the NFL if he is willing to transition to safety. But also, if he is stuck in at the nickel position, the defensive coordinator can find an array of ways to get him to blitz. He has quick feet and can quickly turn the corner to find the quarterback in the backfield. Plus, with his short stature, it will be harder for those 6’7” tackles to reach down and get a hand on him. The team that drafts Joyner will have a fun time finding different packages to fit him in.