Thursday, April 14, 2016

2016 Safety Rankings

by Justin Rasile

1) Jalen Ramsey, Florida State Seminoles
Career Stats: 181 Tackles, 15.5 TFL, 5 Sacks, 3 INTs, 5 Forced Fumbles
Height: 6'1          Weight: 209
40 Yard: 4.41 (1.51 10-Yard Split)
Vertical: 41.5 Inches
3 Cone Drill: 6.94 Seconds

Ramsey is one of the best players I’ve ever had the luxury of scouting.  Not many players have the versatility, athleticism, and toughness to be able to match up one on one against any receiver in college and consistently beat them.  The Florida State prospect is instinctual as he has a knack for finding the ball and always finds a way to make a play on it.  For some reason there is a debate as to what position Ramsey is best suited for.  The answer is obvious: free safety.  The adaptable defensive back would be above average at cornerback but at free safety he would become a special player.  His ability to blitz off the edge and cover tight ends is exceptional.  Then add in his ability to roam centerfield and you have the makings of a true superstar.  The former Seminole has a knack for making plays, despite only have three career interceptions (although that number is skewed because he switched to corner in 2015 and teams stayed away from him).  One of the only real knocks against Ramsey is that he can sometimes open his hips a little too late and trail the receiver but this kid can make up for it as he has the height and athleticism combination (41.5 inch vertical) to handle any player.  Jalen Ramsey will be a special player.

2) Karl Joseph, West Virginia Mountaineers
Career Stats: 274 Tackles, 16 TFL, 2 Sacks, 9 INTs, 5 Forced Fumbles
Height: 5'9          Weight: 205
40 Yard: DNP
Vertical: DNP
3 Cone Drill: DNP

The lost art of earth shattering tackles is not lost upon Karl Joseph.  He hits like a mack truck despite being on the smaller end in stature and the way he does this is by keeping his body compact and then exploding on the ball carrier.  The former West Virginia player is versatile enough to play strong safety and free safety.  Despite being 5’10 and 205 pounds, he was relatively unscathed until his ACL tear during a practice this past season.  If it weren’t for the knee injury, we would be talking about Joseph as a top 25 pick.  He can straight out fly to the ball and lay the hammer to jar the ball loose from the receiver.  I may be castrated for saying this but Karl Joseph reminds me of Earl Thomas.  Both are on the smaller end but play with a fiery passion and are absolute terrors when heading towards a ball carrier.  Thomas is a flat out playmaker and that is something that I see with Joseph.  I thought that the former Mountaineer played a great game against one of the shiftiest receivers in college football, Sterling Shepard.  He locked Shepard down when he came to his side of the field.  If you give Joseph the range to play a deep high free safety and allow him to be the playmaker that he can be, he will not disappoint.

3) Darian Thompson, Boise State Broncos
Career Stats: 209 Tackles, 15 TFL, 1 Sack, 17 INTs, 2 Forced Fumbles
Height: 6'2          Weight: 208
40 Yard: 4.69 (1.66 10-Yard Split)
Vertical: 32.5 Inches
3 Cone Drill: 7.26 Seconds

Thompson is a very interesting player.  He is of that long and lengthy stature at 6’2 and 208 pounds but despite being on that weaker end for defensive backs (12 bench press reps) he still had 209 career tackles.  His 2015 season was going to be his best year until a concussion forced him to sit out his final two games but in that season he had five picks with 8.5 tackles for a loss.  That is a great combination for him to show that he can drop back deep and read the quarterback but then also come up and make the sure tackle in the backfield.  His range is above average as he can be a true one man deep free safety that can cover from end line to end line.   Thompson has very good hands for a defensive back as noted by his 17 career interceptions but he is much more than that.  He is a decent blitzer and a willing run stopper.  He does have a tendency to not wrap up but instead dive at the receiver’s legs.  That obviously will not go over well with NFL coaches because guys at the next level can break or avoid those weak tackles.  The Boise State alum has some lapses in coverage as he allows receivers to get too close to him and then they can run right by him.  Thompson’s 4.69 forty was not what scouts wanted to see because he does get burned by fast receivers.  Luckily for him, he is 6’2 and has some decent jumping ability.

4) Keanu Neal, Florida Gators
Career Stats: 134 Tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 Sacks, 4 INT, 2 Forced Fumbles
Height: 6'0          Weight: 211
40 Yard: 4.62 (1.62 10-Yard Split)
Vertical: 38 Inches
3 Cone Drill: 7.09 Seconds

A key part of that vaunted Florida Gators secondary was Keanu Neal.  Neal was the thunder to Hargreaves lightning as he constantly brought the pain of big hits.  Neal is also not afraid to come up and challenge bigger runner backs as he has faced off against two of the best running backs the SEC has ever seen in Derrick Henry and Leonard Fournette, as well as having a very nice game against Dalvin Cook.  The former Florida Gator is definitely more suited to playing a strong safety position although he did spend some time playing free safety.  He is not a liability at all in coverage but it would be wise to keep him closer to the line to challenge running backs and tight ends.  He has had some minor injuries that have forced him off the gridiron but once he starts hitting those NFL weight rooms, Neal will put on some more weight to be able to handle the rigors of everyday football physicality.  Neal did have the pleasure of being a part of a great secondary with a pretty good pass rush so some of his flaws may have been masked but I feel pretty good in saying the Florida Gator will be a very good safety in this league.

5) Vonn Bell, Ohio State Buckeyes
Career Stats: 175 Tackles, 4 TFL, 1 Sack, 9 INTs, 0 Forced Fumbles
Height: 5'11          Weight: 199
40 Yard: DNP
Vertical: DNP
3 Cone Drill: DNP

To be perfectly honest, I am not the biggest fan of Vonn Bell.  I do however see what is making some NFL scouts drool all over him while watching his 2014 tape.  He, just like every single top safety in this draft, has the versatility to play either strong or free safety but Bell would be best in a defense that rotates the safeties all over the field.  Then you can use the versatility of Bell since he won’t be able to roam an entire centerfield by himself.  My biggest concern with him is his physicality.  The National Football League is a man’s game, just ask Gerod Holliman, so it is definitely a justifiable worry when you watch him jog to a play and then side step defenders instead of getting into the pile and trying to make a play.  More so in his last year, he was hesitant in coming up and making tackles and getting “dirty”.  That could have just been him playing to not get hurt but that is a horrible mindset going into the draft process and I am sure coaches and scouts will take note of that.  He won’t be that special player that Jalen Ramsey or Karl Joseph can be but he can definitely be a solid player if used correctly.

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