Safety is a bit of a curious position for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While the team still has Corey Lynch and Sean Jones, Cody Grimm is returning from injuries and there is a bit of uncertainty as to the status and reliability of Tanard Jackson. While quite gifted, Jackson is coming off a season-long ban (will be unavailable the first two weeks of 2011 as well) and finds himself just one strike away from being banned from the NFL indefinitely.
The Bucs should probably be looking for a safety to come in and compete with Grimm and Jones in training camp. Even if Tanard Jackson is part of next year’s plans he’s certainly not going to be ready to go the first month of the season and the Bucs will need more than three healthy bodies back there. I see the Bucs spending a pick possibly as early as the 2nd round on a safety. This draft class doesn’t contain any elite talents at safety like last year (Eric Berry, Earl Thomas) but there is good value starting around the time the Bucs pick in the second round and continuing on through the middle rounds. The Bucs should be able to find their man somewhere between rounds two and four.
Here are the top Safeties in 2011 NFL Draft:
1.) Rahim Moore, UCLA - Moore is an impressive specimen, the first true freshman starter for the Bruins since 2001. Moore is a classic ball-hawking safety with the ability to play good zone coverage and above average man. Is a high effort kind of player but needs to work on field-discipline (has a tendency to run himself out of plays) and his tackling. Was voted captain as a junior, a very high-character young man with good intelligence and instincts. He’s the type of player you want to bring into your locker-room. Doesn’t possess the kind of high-end athleticism of the top safeties from last years class but could still develop into a very good safety in the right situation. Moore would be a good pick for the Bucs if he falls to them in the 2nd round, though he would be a reach at 20.
2.) Quinton Carter, Oklahoma - Fast, athletic safety that played top collegiate competition while at Oklahoma. Has some of the best instincts in the draft, very quick to react and is typically right the first time. Carter plays the game with very good physicality, is a force when he needs to come up and play the run and has enough speed to keep himself in most pass coverage. He does have a tendency to be a bit too aggressive from time to time and that will hurt him in the NFL. Had issues with injuries early in his career at OU. Very smart kid who is a team leader and already has his own non-profit group geared at helping children in Las Vegas, Nevada. Another good candidate for the Buccaneers in round two or three.
3.) DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson - McDaniel is a solid all-around safety but lacks the top-tier athleticism to be an elite NFL safety. He has good coverage skills but tends to be a bit stiff in the hips, something he gets around by being good at diagnosing a play and reading the passer. As a former linebacker he’s well-suited to offer run support and does a lot of the physical things other safeties don’t do well. A very good tackler who can lay down the big hit, McDaniel will be better off in a defense where he plays closer to the line as his lack of top-end speed could be a liability on the deep pattern.
4.) Tyler Sash, Iowa - Sash would be a good fit for the Tampa defense because he played in a lot of two deep sets in college. He’s a physical safety who plays very well in run support but still has the athleticism to cover as well. Sash, would be a good fit in the third or possibly even fourth round for Tampa. He is a high-motor, bright kid with good instincts and leadership skills. He’s not an elite athlete but gets the most out of his ability and provides a great vocal presence on the field and in the locker-room. He’s a fiery team-leader, something the Bucs need badly.
5.) Chris Conte, Cal - Conte is a corner turned safety that still plays the position a little too much like a corner. He is still developing his instincts at safety and will misread a play from time to time and find himself flat-footed and out of position. He has more than enough athleticism and should excel in coverage, but is never going to be a ball-hawk. He had just two interceptions in college despite playing behind an aggressive pass rush. He is a talented tackler, a good quality in a safety, but probably won’t be the type of developmental player the Bucs are looking for right now unless they plan on adding him purely for depth.
Best of the Rest:
6.) Ahmad Black, Florida - Talented safety with a big-program pedigree that comes with size concerns. At just 5’9, Black lacks the athleticism to play corner but may not be durable to play safety in the NFL.
7.) Robert Sands, West Virginia - Sands is a fairly talented corner who needs to work on his quickness and tackling form before he’s going to be ready to compete for an NFL starting job.
8.) Da’Norris Searcy, North Carolina - Not quite a true free safety or strong safety, Searcy will be successful somewhere because of his athleticism and work ethic.
9.) Chris Culliver, South Carolina - Flashed plenty of potential but is inconsistent and needs to prove he’s capable of playing at a high level on a regular basis.
10.) Jaiquawn Jarrett, Temple - Intelligent, hard-working player that could develop into a talented safety. Will contribute on special teams.