1) Landon Collins, Alabama Crimson Tide
Height: 6’ Weight: 228 pounds
40 Yard Dash: 4.53
Vertical Jump: 35 inches
Career Stats: 190 tackles, 5 interceptions, 13 pass break ups
If there was one safety in this draft that I would have faith in to play both the free and strong safety positions, it would be this guy. Collins is a strong, thick man that tackles well and is not afraid to stick his nose into a crowd to try and make a play. He carries his weight well and this is part of the reason I could see Collins moving around the field a lot covering running backs and tight ends and then dropping back and playing free safety. I love versatile players and Collins is definitely one of those players. In addition to tackling well, the former Alabama Crimson Tide reads plays quickly and then reacts fast to make a play. It’s a thing of beauty when you watch a ball carrier that is wrapped up by a player and then you see Collins come in and try to punch the ball out to cause a fumble. While tackling a player that is bigger than him, he knows just how to bring the player down. Whether it be going for the legs or finding different ways to torque his body in a way that will bring down the ball carrier, just like a wrestler. This is in part to him using his hands well to fight off blockers and grab any part of the jersey or shoulder pads to bring down a player. Since he is of a good build, 6’ and 230 pounds, he will be able to cover any player on the field. If I were to compare his on the field play, not taking into account his measurables, I would compare Collins to Earl Thomas. Let me explain. Both players fly around the field. They diagnose and break down plays fast and when it’s time to make a hit they find an extra gear and drive through the ball carrier. Making plays is something both these guys do very well. Collins has an extra twenty pounds on Thomas but that doesn’t mean he plays that much slower. Thomas may have had a better 40 yard dash but Collins had the better vertical jump. Landon Collins could definitely improve upon his catching ability because he makes the hard catches look easy but the easy catches occasionally get dropped. But I cannot hate on a player who is selfish enough to contribute on special teams. If I were a team with a hole at either free or strong safety, I wouldn’t hesitate twice to take this beast.
2) Jaquiski Tartt, Samford Bulldogs
Height: 6’1 Weight: 221
40 Yard Dash: 4.53
Vertical Jump: 33 inches
Career Stats: 277 tackles, 6 interceptions, 20 pass break ups
Furman, Citadel, West Carolina, Concordia. Those are some of the teams that Samford University played in the 2014 football season. Not quite the competition that teams want to see a potential NFL draft pick playing. Every person that scouts the NFL draft always finds that lower division player that they fall in love with. Tartt is that player for me. I love watching the kid from Samford break on the ball once a play develops. His instincts are fantastic and he is fun to watch. He was like a man amongst boys while at the Football Championship Series because he looked and played like a linebacker. Tackling is definitely his strength as he flies towards the ball and attacks the lower body hard and aggressively. I firmly believe that if he played the way he played at a big time school, we would be talking about the former Samford Bulldog as a first round pick. But it could be an issue making a jump from the level of competition that Samford plays to playing with the best players on the planet. Either way, I’ll be rooting for this kid.
3) Damarious Randall, Arizona State Sun Devils
Height: 5’11 Weight: 196 pounds
40 Yard Dash: 4.46
Vertical Jump: 38 inches
Career Stats: 177 tackles, 6 interceptions, 12 pass break ups
While I may not be the biggest fan of Randall because of his size, I understand that he may turn out to be a very good player. It is true that the former Arizona State Sun Devil is undersized at 5’11 and 196 pounds but he makes up for it in effort. Even if a ball carrier believes that he has a lane to the endzone and is about to score a touchdown, Randall comes out of nowhere to make a play and stop the back from scoring. It is those kinds of plays that you want to see from a young safety still learning the position. His conversion from corner and receiver to free safety have helped him develop significantly because the free safety position is a borderline wide receiver with the ability to tackle. Randall does a good job of sitting in centerfield (which is the position he played when he played baseball) and reading the eyes of the quarterback. He takes good angles to ball carriers and towards thrown balls. Randall needs to get bigger and stronger because he has issues tackling. He wraps up and does all the technique right, but he is not strong enough to finish the tackle. That is not a good trait for the last line of defense to have. You cannot get carried an extra couple of yards in a game of inches. Although, when the ball is in the air, Randall is a natural. He reads the quarterbacks eyes and plucks the ball out of the air and usually takes the ball far in the other direction, as noted by his 29 yards per interception return. His quickness, good feet, and natural coverage ability will take him far in this game; I just hope his lack of strength doesn’t carry him the other way.
4) Anthony Harris, Virginia Cavaliers
Height: 6’1 Weight: 183 pounds
40 Yard Dash: 4.56
Vertical Jump: N/A
Career Stats: 289 tackles, 11 interceptions, 20 pass break ups
One of the worst calls I have ever seen in a college game is when Anthony Harris was ejected from the game against Miami in 2013. He was ejected for targeting quarterback Stephen Morris’s head. The issue was that Harris started his tackle at the same time Morris started his slide. I hate how glorified quarterbacks are in this game. It is taking the nastiness and grit away from the game we love, but back to scouting Harris. He is a heat seeking missile when he sees the ball. He sits back and reads the quarterback’s eyes well and then breaks hard and fast to make a play on the ball. On occasion, Harris will bite too hard on a play action but he has enough athletic ability and balance to regain his composure and puts himself back in good position to make a play. When Harris is asked to play centerfield, he will go up and get the ball. The ballhawking ability is a necessity for free safeties and is something that the former Virigina player does very well. When going to tackle a ball carrier, he chatters his feet down and stands the player up with some aggression and unlike Damarious Randall, Harris can actually take down ball carriers. You would like to see more consistent pop from this kid but you take what he offers. He had a solid amount of interceptions his junior year when he grabbed 8 and teams quickly took notice which explains his drop off in picks this past year but he did record 108 tackles. All in all, Harris may be the most complete safety in this year’s draft as he has the ability to play overtop a slot receiver, play centerfield, or come up into the box and make a tackle.
5) Gerod Holliman, Louisville Cardinals
Height: 6’ Weight: 218 pounds
40 Yard Dash: 4.65
Vertical Jump: 27 inches
Career Stats: 47 tackles, 14 interceptions, 6 pass break ups
There are two parts to Holliman’s game. The air part and the ground part. When the ball is in the air the former Louisville Cardinal knows what to do and does it pretty damn well. Although, when a ball carrier is rushing at him, he freezes. I’m not sure if it is because he doesn’t like contact so he shies away from it or he is afraid to get hurt. Whatever the reason, shying away from contact is bad for a free safety but it is not the end of the world. He lacks explosion on contact and takes some REALLY bad angles to at ball carriers. Many draft experts have put a lot of time and effort into breaking down Holliman’s tape considering his was regarded as the best free safety coming out this year with his 14 interceptions. But what people fail to realize is that he is not Earl Thomas. He is a long and lean football player that has a knack for picking the ball off. His main issue is tackling. It’s one thing if you don’t wrap up when you tackle, but it’s another if you’re unwilling to make a hit. That’s not a good quality for a defensive player to have. A free safety is the last line of defense so it’s essential that your free safety makes the tackle. Teams have realized how vital free safety is, but it is hard to find an athletic “wide receiver” that can also come up and make the tackle when needed. Players quickly fail at this position because they need to be a sure tackler, read the defense, and understand everybody’s job. I could very easily see this kid out of the league in two years. I don’t think he has the cojones or the will to take this game seriously. So it will be up to Holliman if he wants to man up and start making some hits or he will not have a job for very long.