With only two of either variety currently signed to the roster, it would appear that the safety position is most direly in need of address in this year's draft. And, while I could definitely see the relative newcomer, Reggie Nelson, penciled in to start at free safety- backed up by a later round pick up or by Brandon Ghee, the same cannot be said for either Chris Crocker or the strong safety position in general. Now, there is talk- without seeming confirmation in either direction, of Patrick Peterson being better suited to the life of an NFL safety and, while that may or may not be true or even feasible, he'd more than likely be a free safety and not strong given his ballskills, speed, and some hesitation to play the run aggressive enough. Personally, I think Peterson is a corner through and through and the prototype of what all cornerbacks will have to be with the advent of the new small forward/wide receiver. So, we'll ignore the LSU phenom for our purposes here and get to the bringers of the wood. In this year's class of strong safeties, only two have really distinguished themselves...
5deandremcdaniel (via raindogzilla1)
A smart, instinctive safety prospect who simply possesses that sixth sense to quickly decipher information and put himself around the football. Does a nice job not only reading the quarterback, but feels routes develop around him extremely well and has the type of fluidity to cleanly get out of his breaks and range on the throw. Possesses good ball skills in the secondary and knows how to go up, maintain concentration and come down with the tough grab...Diagnoses the run very well from the deep half. Does a nice job reading his keys, staying patient and quickly attacking the line of scrimmage. Exhibits the ability to slip blocks well, even inside the box, and can generate some power on contact when asked to tackle downhill. Breaks down well in the open field and is a secure wrap-up guy. However, will occasionally overrun some plays in both the run and pass game, but for the most part is a solid open-field tackler.
McDaniel does come with a little baggage. After a seriously rough upbringing- his mother has been arrested some 50 times, DeAndre was charged with aggravated assault in an incident involving an ex-girlfriend. However, through intervention and counseling, something clicked for him. By all accounts, he's become over the subsequent three years a model student athlete, team captain, and a vocal team leader. He spends a lot of his own time reviewing film and made the All-ACC Academic Honor Roll in 2009-10.
Draft Stock: Anywhere from early 2nd to late 3rd and, despite our need for a good OG, I'd draft him at #35 without a second thought.
11ahmadblack (via raindogzilla1)
Ahmad Black Florida 5'-9" 185lbs.: By all rights, Ahmad Black shouldn't be in this conversation. On the surface, he's just all wrong. But despite the physical stature that screams nickel corner and the straight-line speed- a 4.82 in his first Combine 40, that just screams, period, Ahmad Black is a baller, plain and simple. According to NFL Draftscout/CBS Sports:
Read & React: Has very good instincts for the position. Reads the eyes of the quarterback and has good route-recognition skills. Good agility and straight-line speed for the position. Was recruited as a cornerback and only asked to move to safety at Florida to take advantage of his instincts, reliable open-field tackling and ball skills...
Zone Coverage: Has a smooth, low backpedal and typically maintains cushion before he is forced to change direction. Demonstrates the fluid hips and quick feet to turn and run efficiently without losing ground. Alert zone defender with good route recognition. Reads the eyes of the quarterback and gets good breaks on the ball...
Run Support: While not as big as scouts would like, shows good physicality and toughness in taking on and discarding blocks from receivers. Good agility to elude and balance to avoid cut blocks. Willing to crash down in the box and makes plays near the line of scrimmage. Squirts through gaps and is a generally a reliable open-field tackler.
Tackling: Provides surprising pop for his size. Very good agility to break down in space and make the secure stop. Doesn't shy away from contact with big ballcarriers. Can resort to duck-and-swipe tackles against bigger men, but wraps his arms securely around their legs to knock them over efficiently.
In short- haha, get it, in short?, Ahmad Black is a guy that plays bigger than his size would indicate and tends to come up bigger as the level of competition rises. A playmaker, another team captain, and, seemingly, the kind of guy that you want on your team. At his size, one worry might be the cautionary tale of Bob Sanders, to wit, a body not holding up to NFL-level punishment but Black seems to play a little headier and a little less kamekazi.
Draft Stock: Is falling since his poor performance in the Combine 40 but, like Joe Haden did last year, he has a chance to make up for it at his Pro Day. Mid-3rd to late 4th- and I've seen him mocked several times all the way to the 5th. I'd be comfortable taking him with our 4th round pick.
BrianRolle-1 (via raindogzilla1)
Brian Rolle Ohio State 5'-11" 230lbs.: Here's a little bit of a curve ball. Brian Rolle is a linebacker. Well, yes and no. He is- or was, a MLB and a pretty good one for the Buckeyes but, like Casey Matthews, he's probably not big enough to play the position at this level. However, Rolle is a smash-mouth run defender with well-developed coverage skills as far as running backs and tight ends go, and, with a 40 time that's dipped below 4.5, he has the speed, at least in theory to assume the other responsibilities of a strong safety. Now, for a lot of teams, Brian Rolle probably wouldn't be a fit for their strong safety position but, with Mike Zimmer's penchant for aggressive run-stoppers back there, Rolle might actually be suited for it. I mean, really, this guy can hit like Roy Williams without even breaking a sweat and could he really be more of a liability in coverage than Roy? Considering the late fifth would be pushing it for his probable draft stock, we could pick up Brian Rolle in the sixth with no skin off our teeth. Probably be a psycho on special teams as well.
Obviously, there are other strong safeties available; Tyler Sash from Iowa, Joe Lefeged from Rutgers, Da"Norris Searcy from North Carolina, Dejon Gomes from Nebraska, Shiloh Keo from Idaho, and Jeron Johnson from Boise State, just to name a few but none of them have really seem to have what we need, which is the ability to, if not start from day one, at least bring the potential to do so sooner rather than later. Also, I had assumed, due to his sheer size, that WVU's Robert Sands was projected to be a strong safety but apparently not. Does that mean he couldn't play the position? I really couldn't say.
As of right now and in my not so humble opinion, DeAndre McDaniel is who we want about a round-and-a-half more than we do Ahmad Black, who we wouldn't regret having either. Brian Rolle? What can I say, I'm a Buckeye homer and a tinkerer by nature. Anyway, just some food for thought and a break from bemoaning our clusterf*** of a quarterback situation. That is all.